I keep going through the archives and today I’ll share a story of Tassla’s first flush with you. It was in 2013, when she was roughly 1.5 years old.
Now we have made our first real flush! Some training buddies and I went to Skåne and, under competent and experienced supervision, got to practice in grounds where there were partridges.
This was actually one of the most exciting things I’ve done with Tassla – and it was pretty challenging. I believe that she has pretty good foundation skills, but it still felt like a big step from various creative games resembling a flush to flushing a real bird. I was a little nervous and didn’t really believe that Tassla would sit at the flush (it just seems so unlikely in some way!).
And she didn’t. ☺
“Look at your dog ALL the time” was the advice I got before walking out to my assigned spot and hunt over that area. And I did and learnt that Tassla gets super aroused when she catches scent from birds. She pushes herself towards to the ground and her movements become very intense and jerky and before I knew it, a bird flushed. And a dog. Because oh, the speed in that little dog. She sprinted over the field after the bird – and I sprinted after her.
That was the plan. If she didn’t sit at the flush, I would run after her, bring her back to our starting point and place her in a sit. That was of course a vain thought – I didn’t have a chance to catch up with her and I simply had to wait for her to turn (which she actually did very soon) and come back.
We took a break. Now I knew what she looks like when approaching a bird and the new plan was to stop her earlier to remind her of what she was supposed to do. We refreshed our stop whistle a bit during the break. The training went well, and I rewarded with raw food in a tube.
We then began hunting again and this time I blew a stop quite early on, checking that she was with me. She was. Then we hunted for a new scent. Just seconds before Tassla got wind of the bird, my guide told me to move more in just direction and I briefly turned away from my dog in order to hear what he was saying. As I look back, I see a bird flush… I’m so happy that my reaction time was low! I blew a stop and Tassla stopped short and sat down.
HOORAY!! It felt like winning the lottery or something!☺
Of course, I rewarded her heavily both with praise, food from the tube and some cuddling. Then I let her hunt a couple of more times before recalling her for another break. We took a longer break this time and watched our training buddies work.
I should probably have settled at that. But when you’ve driven far (more than 150 miles one way), you kind of want to work for more than 15 minutes… So, we went back out. And now the most interesting thing happened. Because I realized that with these two short training sessions, something had happened to my dog that made her go through a metamorphosis. Tassla is not a tough dog. She is a little cautious and a bit sensitive, and she’s very attached to her trainer. Or at least, that’s what I thought. I was now made aware that there is a lot more to her than I had ever seen before. Because oh, how interested she got in the birds!
My guide gave her the nickname “The Whisk”, because she whisked herself around in the classic spaniel pattern, kind of spinning in circles with a lovely energy. She moved through thickets and over logs and stones without hesitation. And suddenly she started moving wider and wider, and all of a sudden, she was out of control. She seemed to think that this she could do on her own, without me. We didn’t flush anything else, but Tassla tried to run in towards a bird that was perhaps 20 yards away. I had to go and pick up the crazy girl. During the rest of our time out on that field she didn’t get to move more than a couple of yards away from me and I checked the control switch over and over again. I often blew a stop and I also let her have a “breather” every once in a while.
She moved far too wide and her tendency to stick too close of me was gone with the wind. In this way I still managed to get her back in hand. We could continue to hunt together, and she listened quite well to me.
This was very good information about what we need to work on more. We need to go back to the basics. I won’t let her get the chance to run in again. I’m going to be much more careful with this in our everyday life as well. She sometimes bolts after small birds when we are out in the woods and I have noticed it, but I’ve just let it slide. Not clever. But luckily, I’ve got a dog that’s very easy to train, so when I set my mind to something, we always solve it.
With the overdrive she put in during this training, I need to work on the stop signal and steadiness, and I need to kind of keep her in hand more (remind her that we’re working together). I’m definitely going to brainwash her a bit regarding the flush and steadiness, and then we’ll go out and try flushing actual birds again. And when that feels like a sure thing and under control, we can add shots and retrieves. But we’re not there yet! We’ll take one thing at a time and not rush things.
I am really looking forward to this training with my dog that’s all of a sudden put in an extra gear, understanding how much fun birds are! So much fun ahead!