Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

There's only two weeks left of the pheasant season. The dogs have worked hard, been invaluable, and have enjoyed themselves thoroughly. And I enjoy working with them. In case you wondered, my job, as far as the dogs are concerned, is to drive them to work, carry the birds they find, and dish out big helpings of cooked dinner. I don't like to brag but, yeah, I'm pretty good at it.

If the dogs had opposable thumbs and a driver's license, I would be obsolete.

Before the season started, I worried that I didn't have enough dogs to spread the load on shoot days. I didn't take extra work on other shoots, which I do most years, because I though I would be under-dogged. However, Molly has recovered so well from her knee surgery, she's been able to do a full day's work picking up birds. And she's a pleasure to work.

And I'm very pretty...

Gertie is only a year old, but she's been out in the field a few times this month. It was just to give her some experience, but Gertie impressed me with her confidence and desire to please. She's always looking at me, waiting for the next command-

Next season is going to be wonderful with these two on the team.

The old dogs, Podge and Pip, have been out picking up too. They are past the training stage, and well into the "I know what I'm doing. You just worry about driving and making our dinner, mum." stage. Field trialers (those who train working dogs to compete at a very high standard on simulated game days) claim that after around 6 years, a field trial dog is often retired as it knows its job so well, it stops taking directions from its handler.

What is a drawback in a trialing dog is a blessing in a working dog. Pip and Podge know from experience when a bird is wounded, or where it will be likely to hide. Each has followed enough blood trails to recognise the scent, and remembered pulling birds from the security of thick brush, fallen trees, or even rabbit holes, so that's where they look. They mark falling birds, accurately estimating the distance they need to go before trying to pick up the bird's scent.

They also know they are not as quick as the younger dogs, so each has come up with a solution: Get a head start on your competition -



Podge sits ever further away than Pip does; I'm sure it's because Podge knows she has shorter legs than a retriever.

I'm certainly not going to tell them off for doing their job -

They never complain about my driving or cooking.


Janice Bendixen said...

What a marvelous team indeed! (And that includes the Head Chef and Driver, Jen.) Greetings from the frozen sub-arctic where it's currently -22F in Southcentral Alaska with a forecast for -40F Thursday night. This freeze comes on the heels of 14 inches of fresh snow. But at least it's pretty... Thanks for the wonderful photos of my favorite girl.

Paulette said...

A great post! It is always so rewarding to read about dogs that are fortunate to actually engage in the jobs for which they are bred. I would be interested in knowing more about the field trainer.

me said...

I agree with Paulette...Dogs are happiest when they have a job and it is a pleasure to see them have the opportunity to do their jobs.

Jen Montero said...

Paulette - I've never trained a dog for field trailing, but there are plenty of books and youtube videos explaining the learning chain or showing competitions. I like Dave Lissett (trainer for Duke of Buccleugh), kind humble and gentle with his dogs. His videos are a good starting point if you're interested. Molly & Gertie are both Buccleugh bred ( out of stud dog Pepper) so I'm sure I'm biased. I regularly go to a field trial judge cum trainer to help me develop my skills as a trainer and get the best out of my dogs.

Seester said...

It is crazy to me that Podge is not much bigger than the birds she retrieves.