Train, prevent, interrupt.
It’s a good motto that I like to bring into my training. I train to teach the dog what I want him to do; I prevent the dog from making mistakes or rehearsing behaviors that are counterproductive to what I want; I make sure to interrupt the dog if something still goes wrong.
So, this time Quling was wearing a harness and a longline, because we really needed to interrupt the behavior (running after the sound of a bird or at the flush).
He pulls the longline taut three times in this session. Twice he breaks slowly and the longline runs under my foot or in my hand (one of them is repetition three in the video). One of the times – 2.30 into the video – the longline is tight, but not even then with a jerk. Unfortunately, I really think he knows when the longline is on since he’s been wearing it so much. However, I would still call this lesson a success. We are making progress even if we have a couple of smaller attempts to bolt in the middle. At the end he is very tired and almost a little bit shut down. He manages to keep himself together despite of this. Several times he also stops without me blowing the stop whistle, which is what I want most of course. I think he becomes a little bit subdued by the longline, but I’m not sure. He won’t lose his desire to hunt easily, so I’m not really concerned about that.
There is no point in training with pigeons with some dogs. They figure out the game straight away and know that all they have to do is sit down. Its’s difficult to get them to hunt and then pretend that the bird flushed because they moved around in that area. As an example, Tassla knows what this training is about from the get-go. I never need to blow the whistle and she instantly sits down. But when we get out into the fields with wild birds and scent in the grass, the experience is much more intense, and she can be more difficult to get to stop.
Quling hasn’t figured it out yet, and when he does, we need to get more creative. Hopefully he’ll be ready for proper hunting and for flushing birds or rabbits at that stage. Now we mostly walk to get some movement from him and then we release a pigeon when we think it will be possible to stop him.
I feel that the hard part about the early flush training is having some sort of control over the birds or rabbits (above all, knowing where they are), so the flush can go as well as possible. If you’re working with punishment it might not be as important, because if the dog breaks, you can correct that behavior immediately. But I need to focus on getting good repetitions so that the dog succeeds and can be rewarded.
At a later stage, the retrieve or getting to continue hunting, will be rewards for stopping. But at this point I think I benefit from the reward history that Quling and I have together. He has received a lot of rewards that has made him happy and he recognizes the situation when I reward – even if the greatest reward of all would have been to get to run after the bird. On several occasions, I have thought about rewarding by me with a pigeon, so that Quling gets what an enormous resource I can be – I might even have the birds! But I have forgotten every single time. I’ll try to remember to try it next time I have a chance.
In the end he’s really not paying attention and doesn’t listen to my turn whistles or my recalls. He’s tired, but also seems a bit caught up by all the scent on the ground. I think he’s conflicted since he can’t run off in the way he would have liked to. I think it was too early to let him cover ground and do anything that resembled hunting. He still needs to do one thing at a time.
Video showing our training:
PS: This training was done before April 15th. Until April 15 it’s allowed to train dogs that aren’t supposed to run after game (in Sweden). After April 15, it’s not allowed. DS