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Been a While…

Well now that spring is here, it is time to get Ranger ready for this fall.  For the past many months I have not had the time for much formal training.  We have been mainly walking the feilds letting him learn to search. Spent time gun conditioning.  He is now pretty good on a collar with basic commands, so I can control him in the feild.  His retreiving to hand is getting much better.

Yesterday was his 1st birthday and I’ll try to update more often.

Issue With Search Range

I am having an issue with Ranger’s training.  I am having a hard time getting him to range out away from me when searching.  He keeps wanting to go search behind me or near me.  I keep pushing him to head out ahead of me and he does for a short bit, but then he circles around and end up behind me again.  It is getting very frustrating.  I will be spending time over the Christmas breaking researching training options and working with him on this issue.

Winter Outing

We got up into the mountains this weekend to enjoy the fresh snow and some mountain air.  Ranger was in Heaven.

ranger_snow_woods1

ranger_snow_running

Introduction to Gunfire

This last week I have started to introduce Ranger to gunfire.  I picked up a cheap 22 caliber starter pistol and some low power blanks a while back, waiting for Ranger to get a bit older.  He is now almost 6 months old and it seems like he is ready.

What I have done is take Ranger up into the hills where he can get into some chukar and all sorts of other critters so he is excited and running all over.  When he gets 40 or 50 yards out, I will fire a single shot and watch for a reaction.  I limit myself to about 3 shots per outing.

His reaction is usually to stop, look around to see where the noise came from for about 5 seconds, then his nose is back to ground in search mode.  I am not seeing any negative raction that looks fearful or startled, so I think the introduction is going well.

More Training Toys

I won a $300 gift card to the vendor of my choice recently, so I took the opportunity to pick up a training collar for Ranger.  I decided to go with the Tri-Tronics Sport Combo G3.  It seemed to have a lot of good reviews, had a compact handset, and fit in the budget.  I need to get a bird launcher next.  Why do I not pick any cheap hobbies?

Featherd Rats

So if you have read other posts in my blog, you know that I acquired 5 pigeons and a coop to use in the training of my dog, Ranger.  I would go out each day to feed and water the birds and let them out to exercise.  One day, about a month ago, I found a dead bird in the bottom of the coop and disposed of it.  That night I fell ill with a fever.

For a full week I dealt with a 104 deg. fever until I was finally diagnosed with Psittacosis and asymptomatic pneumonia which I contracted from the birds.  During this week, all but one of my birds died, and I spent 10 days on doxycycline.

This last week, my dog came down with Psittacosis as well, which is very rare for a canine to get it, but within 48 hours of being on doxycycline, he was much better.  It was getting dicey there for a while while he was running a 105.4 deg. fever and we were not sure what was going on.  He is still not 100%, but he can at least go outside and wander around without assistance now and gets better each day.

Needless to say, our training has been set back a full month between the two of us being ill.  I need to decide how to handle the bird situation.  I hope to get Ranger back out in the field this weekend to review some basics assuming his energy and stamina levels are back to normal.  I am just glad to still have a dog at this point.

Three or four times a week I go to the pigeon coop and clean out the food and water.  Each time I take the birds and put them on the outside perch one at a time, to teach them to go through the trap door.  At first, I had to force them through.  Now a few of them go through on thier own, but I have a couple of hold-outs.  Another week and they should be going through as well.  They are about five weeks old now.

Tonight I was out with the pup tossing some canvas dummies, playing a little fetch and I decided to get a quail wing out.  I use these about once a week at most, tied to a fishing pole with monofilament and just try to entice him for a couple of minutes.  I never let him catch the wing.

Tonight he reacted very different.  In the past he was timid towards the wing and then over a five minute period, he would get more and more aggressive in his pursuit of it.  Tonight he was aggressive from the start.  So I decided to take it up a notch and cast the wing 10 or 15 feet into an empty field next to my yard with knee high weeds and grass, into the wind.  He started looking for it and found the scent cone and went right to the wing each time.

But here is what really impressed me.  After a few casts into the field, I went and put the pole and wing away in the garage.  When I came back out, Ranger was nose to the ground, in seach mode, looking for the wing.  I watched him for about two minutes while he searched dilligently for that wing.  I praised him and took him inside a for a treat and some water.  While he searched, it was hard to get his attention, he was on a mission.  This was the first time I have seen him act “birdy” and it was exciting.

Basic Commands

For the last few weeks I have been working on basic commands with Ranger such as sit, come, no, kennel and fetch.  For an 11 week old pup he is doing rather well.

  • Sit – He will sit 90% of the time unless his tail/nub is wagging so hard he can’t.
  • Kennel – This works the majority of the time.  I always give him a small treat whenever I kennel him and he has learned that the kennel in the back of my Jeep usually means we are headed out to a field or lake.  I have caught him sitting at the back of Jeep a few times, then he looks disappointed when I pull the lawnmower out.
  • No – This is a work in progress, but he seems to get it more often than not.  I am trying to get him to respond on the first NO and not have to repeat it.  Once he learns it, I’ll move onto the kids 🙂
  • Come – This one he is doing really well on with me, but he only responds to other people sometimes.  He usually comes to me on the first request, my wife can command him over and over without a response. Sometimes when he is really into something like playing with another dog, I will have to command him more than once, but he almost always comes.  I give him a treat or a heavy dose of praise each time he comes and it is getting better each week.
  • Fetch – I have been using some puppy sized canvas dummies for this.  I throw it 10 yards or so, and say fetch.  I always make him sit before I throw it.  He started out chasing it down, then wandering off.  Then he progressed to picking it up and running around with it.  Now he usually runs it back to me and drops it at my feet, at which time he gets a treat and big tummy rub.  I am not worried about him bringing it to hand at this point, I am just thrilled that %80 of the time it ends up within a foot or two of my feet.  Not bad for 11 weeks old.  We keep the fetch sessions to about ten minutes or less per day.  I try to always stop before he looses interest so he is always wanting more.

I used to watch well trained dogs at outdoor shows and was amazed.  I never thought it was something I could or would ever do.  Even though we are just working on basics, it has been very fun to see the incremental improvements.  I need to remind myself to be patient at times, but we allways try to keep it short and fun.

Birds For Training

Well, I am now the proud owner of 5 homing pigeons and a coop. I knew that I would need birds to make a decent bird dog out of Ranger so I put together what I would consider a minimal setup.  This coop should hold about 6 birds comfortably.  It has a 1 gallon poultry watering device and a feeder that holds about 1 quart of feed.  I still need to put something in there for grit. It is about 4′ wide by 3′ deep and 6′ tall with 6 perches.

The birds I have are 3 weeks old and will not really be able to use them for a month or more.  In my readings, I wanted to start with young birds to develop the best homers.  I have been reading up on the proper way to develop their homing skills as well as basic care and feeding.  I am also spending a lot time reading about ways to introduce your dog to birds.  I do not have a game plan yet, but I am working on it.  Ranger is already fascinated by the birds, as are my boys.

I have also been looking at building a small quail pen so I can train with different birds to keep Ranger on his toes.  I have wild chukars living across the street from me, so I will be taking advantage of that as well.

My wife had no idea what I was getting our family into when I said I wanted a bird dog, but she is being a good sport.