Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service

Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service
The 2007 Grand National Grouse Champion, Winner 2008 Northern New England Woodcock Championship, Winner 2010 Lake States Grouse Championship, Runner-up 2011 Northeast Grouse and Woodcock Championship, Winner 2011 International Amateur Woodcock Championship, Winner 2012 Southern New England Woodcock Championship

Wild Apple Kennel Training Blog

This blog will try to present a running account of the training and field trialing season for the pointers of Wild Apple Kennel. NOW ACCEPTING BOOKINGS FOR THE 2015 GROUSE AND WOODCOCK SEASON WITH WILD APPLE KENNEL GUIDE SERVICE! PHONE NUMBERS 603-449-3419 OR CELL 603-381-8763.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Someone on one of the messageboards was asking about a puppy that was running off, and I thought this article from the Fall 2010 issue of Field Trial Magazine might be helpful

In the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” Muhammad Ali covered up along the ropes until George Forman punched himself out, then Ali went on to win the fight. In this version of “rope-a-dope” this summer, we had a dilemma with Mariah, a black and white pointer puppy. She just didn’t want to listen. When I did the traditional checkcording in the yard, she would run to the end of the rope until stopped by a shoulder-shocking jolt then run in another direction to be brought up short again. The addition of a traditional spike collar brought a certain amount of control to the situation and she began listening to me. I thought we were making progress and had run her a couple of times in places where she could keep track of me if she was so inclined.

Then we ran her with an older dog in our wild bird training area. She stayed with us and I got to see her point and hold briefly on the first woodcock that she had ever come across. Shortly thereafter the older dog had a find and we called Mariah in. She locked up and I was able to get to her and hold her steady for the flush. I let her chase the bird, as we usually do with puppies, and then the wheels came off. She didn’t run away but she ran wherever she wanted with no regard for me at all. At one point I caught up with her and found her playing in the brook like an otter. She ran up and down the middle of the brook, went to the far bank looking at me when I called and then went back to playing in the water. At the time, she was wearing a shock collar that I was reluctant to use while she was in the water or on the far bank.

To paraphrase Tom Landry, the long time coach of the Dallas Cowboys who was talking about not having his quarterbacks throw many passes, there are three things that can happen when you shock a dog and two of them are bad. The dog can stop where it is afraid to move for fear of being hit again, bolt away from the stimulation in a direction away from you, or, the desired outcome, come to you. When Mariah finally gave up being an otter and came over onto my side of the brook, I pushed the button and called her again. She chose the first option and just stood there. I walked over to her, and she wagged her whole body like she had been lost and was glad I had turned up. I made a fuss over her and then we headed out towards the truck. She stayed with me for about a minute before she was once again off exploring the world in directions that did not coincide with where we needed to go. I stopped her two more times with the collar and walked over and got her going in the right direction again before I finally raised the white flag and hooked the lead on her. She happily bounced along at the end of the lead sending shockwaves up my arm to my shoulder completely unfazed by our “training session.”

It had been a long time since I had worked with a puppy that had not been whelped at the kennel and walked regularly. The puppies we raise are socialized and have a strong human bond. Mariah was whelped elsewhere and had not had the same level of early foundation work. In addition, she is one of those strong willed dogs that wants to assert her independence. When I got back to the truck Tony Bly, who I have trained with regularly for over 20 years, was waiting for me and offered a solution which involved a shock collar, a lead, two lengths of checkcord tied together, and the ball of the trailer hitch on the back of my truck. I walked out to the end of the ropes while Tony wrapped the lead around the hitch and held Mariah as well as the transmitter for the e-collar. When I was ready, I called Mariah, then Tony let go of the lead and pushed the button, and I reeled her in to me as fast as I could. When Mariah got to me, Tony released the button, and I made a big fuss over her. We repeated the process a couple more times and she was soon running to me faster than I could pull in the rope. By the second day of this, Mariah was coming to me from the tailgate with no stimulation or only a quick tap to keep her on a direct course.

From there we moved to letting her run dragging a single checkcord. She was fine on the road but when she got into the cover and couldn’t see me she took off on her own and stopped when stimulated. We then found a big field that had recently been mowed and have been working her there. Except for getting distracted by little white moths, this works well. The next step was to put her back in the woods where she has to keep track of me with her ears more than her eyes.

When we started running Mariah in the woods again we worked her in the field for a few minutes just in case we needed to refresh her memory, but the earlier lessons so far have stuck. One important step in the process is that I make sure I call her in and get my hands on her two or three times during each relatively short session. This accomplishes two objectives: first it reinforces the imaginary rope that now runs between us, and it teaches her that coming to me doesn’t mean the end of freedom. This will be especially important as we start getting her back into wild birds – that’s usually when the wheels come off – especially when they start dropping from the sky in October.

Between now and then the major objective will be to keep her under control while giving her more freedom to run. There is no doubt that she can and will run but whether she stays in the woods with me or moves on to be run from horseback the dog must be under control. You need to be able to subtly steer a dog in a field trial so you can get to known or likely looking bird spots. You also have to keep them to the front and show them to the judges at the right time and places. You can’t do this if the dog has not submitted to your will. That’s the bottom line. They have to submit – when you call on them they have to respond. Not when they get around to it – but right then like an invisible string is attached. Don’t confuse this with a mechanical dog the hangs around and keeps the windshield clean between 10 and 2.

A dog that will perform at the level we have our sights on for Mariah needs to fill up the country, but it has to be the country that you’re in and not the country on the other side of the swamp or four sections away across the prairie. The winning dogs run big with speed and style but everywhere you go they are the ones that work with their handlers not against them. If you have a young dog that has not submitted to you and is independent and wild with no regard for where you are, it may just be time to step back like Ali did and rope-a-dope.

George Tracy Endorsement

This will appear in the Editor's Column of Field Trial Magazine's Summer Issue and it may not get to some of you before you vote so I thought I'd post it here.

Hopefully this issue will reach you before you’ve gotten around to voting for Bird Dog Hall of Fame candidates for this year. In the past I have pretty much stayed out of this process because it literally belongs to the American Field, but this year I want to make sure I go on the record and endorse a candidate.

Almost 16 years ago I made a trip to Glenville, Pennsylvania with the hope of doing an article on George Tracy for the Premier Issue of Field Trial Magazine. Instead of one article, George agreed to do a regular training column that was a mainstay during the early years of FTM. He never got paid for word one and did it to support the magazine and share his wealth of knowledge about bird dogs and field trials with our readers.

Over the years, I have made many trips to Glenville and visited with George at trials and at his winter training grounds in Hurtsboro, Alabama. I have even had the chance to follow behind him as a judge a few times. Make no mistake, George Tracy is a fierce competitor who has amassed a record that will be hard for anyone to match, but more important than that are the times he has loaned a horse, helped an amateur with a dog, and willingly shared his experience and knowledge.

Every year in August George and Mary, and now Mike and Jeanette as well, invite their friends and customers to a pig roast in Glenville. Those who gather for the event each year don’t come for the food, they come to pay tribute to a man who has given so much to enrich their experience in our sport. If just those people whose lives George Tracy has touched in becoming one of the greatest bird dog trainers and field trialers of all time vote for him, then he will get in with a huge vote. If everyone who knows the truth of what I’ve written votes for him it would be a fitting and well deserved tribute for the man who epitomizes everything the Hall of Fame represents.