Yesterday I loaded Easy, Maven, and Reba up and drove up to northern Wisconsin AGAIN. This was our third time up there this week. We've been going fairly consistently for the last few weeks and twice we ran into a huge covey of Sharptail. I had yet to go out on my own with the dogs so I picked a day and set out to find that huge covey again.
I set out with one specific goal for Maven:
At least one solid wild bird contact.
That's almost always the goal but I wanted to be more deliberate to make progress on a specific issue she is working through currently. She's too sticky. She's "got a lot of point" as they say. She's young (7 months) and still learning so much. She has had a problem discriminating between old scent of where a bird previously had been and actual living, breathing bird scent. She will stop on anything that remotely smells like birds, which, is not the end of the world and hey, at least the girl loves smelling birds. But it's not something I want to see continued. My efforts to fix it have been minimal. It's not something I really need to get involved with. The relationship between a dog and birds is very intimate and it's best to do as little meddling as possible. So, when I identified this pattern of behavior in her of stopping on anything, I really only cared to make sure to watch closely and learn to read the signs that mean "this isn't a real bird." Otherwise I let her experiment on her own. I'd let her work the area around where she stopped and when, after a few moments it became glaringly obvious that there was nothing to be found, I'd call her up.
She's progressed a lot just in the last week alone with me allowing her the time and space to learn the lessons on her own. I watched her stop less and less and the times she did stop she would hold her point for a much shorter time before investigating and moving on on her own. However what she really needed was a real bird contact to help make the contrast she needed to understand clearer.
I marked the spot where we have run into this big covey and walked the dogs straight to that spot. Sure enough, they were there, like they always are. Easy came up on the wrong side of one sitting off by itself away from the main group and it flushed. He stopped and I began to walk in to tap him on. Maven followed out in front of me and stopped hard with a confidence I have yet to see from her, halfway in between Easy and me. She KNEW she had birds. I know how these birds act, they love to hold their position until the very last second and just when you think there's no bird, five or six will pop up from right underneath you! So I really believed her this time. I went in to flush and sure enough they all busted out and she ripped across my path and chased them harder than she's chased before. It finally clicked!
Easy held exactly as he should have until I walked to him and tapped him on. Despite the obvious envy that Maven is still allowed to chase birds, he did his job and he did it well. Having a wild puppy around has done nothing but give him opportunities to learn important lessons that will make him a much stronger dog.
That was all we needed to accomplish. We didn't need another loop to maybe find another bird. Even though the temptation to chase that rush again is always present. We made our way back to the road, dried off, and headed home.
Now we see if this lesson will push Maven on to more understanding of her role in this triangle of human, dog, and bird. I think we're getting somewhere.
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