After finally getting a few home projects out of the way, we are getting back on-track with training. Both Elsa and Stuka went up to Pine Hill Kennel & Sportsman’s Club for a refresher, but also to figure out our training agenda for the balance of 2009. Stuka was first up on a few planted Chukars in the 20-acre practice field. Portions of the field were recently cut so the grasses weren’t too tall. After easing him into the general area, Stuka stumbled onto the first bird with a sudden flush, and shortly thereafter found the next two. We also focused on retrieve work with an introduction to gunfire. For the retrieving work, we used a Dokken Dead Fowl dummy that more closely replicates the shape, size and weight of a bird.
After a number of retrieves, a starter pistol was introduced at a distance and pointed toward the ground to purposefully muffle the first few reports. After a few throws the pistol was gradually directed upwards to increase the volume. Stuka took note of the noise and subsequent echo in the trees, however kept right on retrieving.
We enjoyed working with the Dokken so much I picked up the pheasant model (pictured at right) at our local Gander Mountain and have begun using it with both dogs. I’m mixing the Dokken trainer with a pheasant-wing-covered canvas dummy to allow Stuka to remain comfortable with the sensation of feathers. I will be taking Stuka to a gun-safe location and will continue with the retrieving work. After a couple of non-gunfire visits, I will re-introduce the noise at low levels and begin increasing the volume.
Beyond these items, Stuka will be given some solo time on any Michigan hunts we plan, in order to give him some time in the field…and he won’t be back to Pine Hill until next year. Elsa will continue focusing on steadiness and honoring, and perhaps in the spring of 2010 we’ll see how she is shaping up for a potential attempt at an AKC title.