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.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Patterning a Grouse Dog

If you watch one of the top grouse field trial dogs in the country run and pay close attention you should notice two things that they all share.  First is they run to the front and secondly they check in with the handler on a fairly regular but not to frequent basis.  That is not to say that they come all the way in and do a couple of loops through the gallery -- what I expect from my dogs and expect to see when I'm judging is a dog that is in touch with the handler.  It might be something that most people would even miss if they weren't looking for it.  The dog can cross at 50 yards or more in front of the handler, judges, and gallery and just turn its head slightly to make sure everyone's where they're supposed to be and then go on without breaking stride.  that's all they need to do.  Getting them to do that is something that seems natural to some dogs but almost always is the result of a conscious plan on the part of the trainer.  Getting them to do this at regular intervals is also something that we work hard on in training.  Tony calls it "putting a clock in their heads," and the younger the dog the shorter the clock times need to be.

Developing the clock and the checking in are worked on at the same time.  If the dog you're working hasn't come to look you up then you have to make it.  If you're yelling all the time the dog has no reason to look you up because it knows exactly where you are.  So, first you have to be relatively quiet and only call on the dog when you need to direct it.  Firstly, if at any time the dog gets behind you, it needs to be immediately corrected first with your voice and if it doesn't break forward with the collar.  In field trials the money's always to the front.  Then if the dog is to the front but is hanging out without checking back you need to reel it in and send it in another direction.  If you are consistent with this you will soon have the dog running what can develop into a good grouse and woodcock trial pattern.  Once the dog has that "clock in its head" and checks in periodically you can start letting it have more freedom. It's when they run this type of pattern to the edge of bell range, check in from a distance, and hit the best spots of cover that you can expect to have a shot in a grouse and/or woodcock trial.

This morning's run with LJ and Little Thuddy was a perfect example of what it takes to get dogs doing this consistently.  Both dogs (LJ since he was born and Little Thuddy at least since the end of April that I can attest to) have learned that they need to look up the handler periodically and then go right back out once they've made contact.  We do this in all types of cover and terrain but as we approach field trial season we try to do it in places that have a set trail that we are going to follow.  Today we ran them along a snow machine trail then up a woods road to a four wheeler trail that cut back to the snow machine trail.  It's a loop that takes a little over an hour.  During the hour both dogs handled well, jumped right in the woods on the opposite side whenever they popped out on the trail in front of us.  Neither dog had a bird for most of the time until we were almost back to the truck when LJ had a find on a woodcock about 75 yards off the trail and then Thuddy had one just up from the trucks.  Neither dog wanted to quit and they went across the road where LJ pointed a second woodcock with The Little Thudster coming in for a back.  It was a perfect workout for these two young dogs as they had to maintain their focus and drive for a long period without finding any birds and then showed that the could still have quality birdwork even beyond the hour that they will have to run in trials as adults.  All the fall derby stakes are 30 minutes.  There has been plenty of times, this summer when we've intentionally put them in places with lots of birds as they still need to gain experience finding them, but workouts like today's are also important in turning them in to competitive cover dogs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Equipment Failures and Rain Delays

Monday Marie's van was making a strange noise so they dropped at the dealers then on the way home amp-meter on Tony's dashboard went to zero and when he got home the truck wouldn't start.  Tony put the truck on the charger and got enough battery to get it started and to the garage on Tuesday morning.  So, I took Marie to work and then picked Tony up at the garage and it was already warming up by the time we got back and ran Jack and Little Thuddy through Red Barn.  In an earlier post I had given the Little Thudster his due when he out birded Jack.  So, this time I want to make it clear that given the choice of youthful enthusiasm or years of experience -- I'll take the experienced dog every time.  The Thudster is going really well handling without much effort and in fact ran the whole hour plus without Tony having to light him up once and is doing really well on his birds.  He had a legitimate stop-to-flush on a grouse and a broke find on a woodcock with Jack backing.  The rest of his bird work was backing drills as he got to back Jack on 5 of his 7 finds.  The little sucker is getting really good at it -- backing on sight and staying put until we get there.

Today we got out and it started raining.  We waited out the first shower and then ran Trip in another new spot with Ginger 3.  Ginger had other things on her mind and wasn't really paying attention which kind of took her out of the mix especially since the DC-30 she was wearing became a 50 - 100 yard device.  Trip had a stop-to-flush on a grouse that came out of a tree and when I sent her on to see if there were any others hanging around three more came out of the trees.  Then we got LJ and Rigby ready to go at a spot just up the road.  It was just sprinkling a little when we cut them loose but within a couple of minutes we could hear thunder and the skies opened.  They went back in the truck and we went for breakfast early.

Now the wear indicators in my front brake pads are starting to chirp and when we pick up Tony's truck this afternoon we're going to have to leave mine.  Maybe I'll get LJ out on the home course if it isn't too hot this afternoon.  We also have some more quail coming to use with a couple of dogs to deal with specific issues.  It seems like it's always something.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Worst Day Ever

Saturday was a typical day in the North Country, We moved bunches of birds with Little Thuddy, Jack, Frankie, Rigby, and LJ.  Eight Grouse and double digit woodcock were found in some of our best covers.  Big Thudd was up to drop Rigby at Camp Stokely and brought the usual great steaks and other fixings.  But Thursday night we had 2.5 inches of rain, then 1.5 inches Friday night and another half last night and that seemed to change things up for our birds.  We went to one cover where we had moved more than a dozen woodcock in one session at other times this summer and LJ and Bertha hunted all the right places and found only one bird.  Then we went to a cover that had 8 birds in when Tony and Dave were out there Friday and Saturday and Dave's dog Ginger (can't those guys come up with new names?  This is the third Ginger out of Tony's breeding) went birdless.  Then we went to a spot we had driven by a few times lately that looked just like some of our best training covers (at least it did from the road).  Here in New Hampshire many of the hillsides are damp with seeps and other wet spots doting the hillsides.  It is around these wet spots that we often find both grouse and woodcock.  The spot we tried yesterday looked like the right age-class with open lanes where the shears and skidders had traveled to harvest the wood, but there was no water despite over 4 inches of rain in the last few days.  Trip and Bee worked this cover over pretty well with Trip finally getting bored and pointing a chipmunk while Bee finally found a grouse a couple hundred yards down the road from the landing we had parked on.  That was it.  Five dogs run and we found 1 woodcock and one grouse.

There is a silver lining.  When the woodcock start moving around in large numbers it means that fall is not far away.