Retrieving question

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doctorbrady
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Retrieving question

Post by doctorbrady » Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:50 pm

Hey all,
I am new to the site. I am looking for some advice. I have a 5 month old wachtelhund (German spaniel). I know...a what :?: :?: :?: . It is a versatile dog. I primarily got him for blood tracking, though they are also great flusher/retrievers and small game (rabbit) dogs.
He has been progressing very well. Since he was 3 months old he has been sitting at heal until released on thrown bumpers. He retrieves to hand, and will "come" and "sit" to the whistle, even at a distance. I can even stop him on the retrieve and sit him at a distance, while he holds the bumper or bird. I have been quite pleased with his progress. Now for the problem...
Over the last week or two, I have noticed that he ducks his head once he returns with the bumper. He will not drop it nor chew it, but he lowers his head rather than placing it in my hand. I know that this is a purposeful, distraction just like looking around when he gets bored of following commands. He is otherwise very well behaved, though, and I am convinced that he knows who the alpha is in our relationship.
I have tried holding my hand out while and making him continue to hold the bumper, but this doesn't seem to do it. I have also been lifting his chin prior to giving the "drop" command which has seemed to help a little. Have any of you experienced this and overcome this with your own dogs?
Thanks,
Brady

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daniel77
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by daniel77 » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:23 pm

You say he is lowering his head. Is he doing this in a cowering manner, or just trying to avoid giving up his bumper? You man just need to back off a bit and let him have some fun for a while. What is his tail doing?
Two cannibals were eating a clown. One looks up at the other and says, "Does this taste funny to you?"

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crackerd
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by crackerd » Thu Feb 18, 2010 2:51 pm

Sounds like you're doing great things with this pup, advancing him. A wachtel would be a terrific breed to work with, too. Do you plan on using it as a nonslip retriever, i.e., sitting at your side till sent for a duck or goose?

If so, at 5 months, you can start teaching the dog to curl around to your side when delivering game--or a bumper. His head may go down as avoidance, but you can get around that--hundreds if not thousands of handlers have had to do so in training a retriever to deliver to hand. Alpha status really doesn't figure into it, avoidance does--what's in the dog's mouth at this age and stage belongs to the dog, or so it thinks.

Again, you can work through this quickly. Only hitch is a wachtel's a little smaller than most of those hundreds and thousands of other retrievers. But not so small as its cousin below, which is looking out at the next retrieve to be made and thus is eager to hand off the duck in her mouth. So if the dog's sitting thusly at your side and facing out

Image

you reach around it and with a cupped hand take the bird from the dog at the same time you're giving the release command ("Out" "Drop" "Give"--which ever you choose). Do it on the apposite side, that's apposite with an "a"--if the dog's sitting on your left, reach your left arm over and around the dog; if it's on your right, use your right arm and hand. Make sure the dog's giving you the bird (not giving you the finger :wink: ) rather than your taking it from the dog.

Most of them--retrievers, spaniels--do so willingly but the German breeds can be a little stickier with game. And that includes wachtels from what I've heard. But when (if) you force fetch the dog, the cooperation will be enhanced. Glad to hear you're going great guns with a breed that's a worker in a lot of ways.

Anyhow, it's a lot more fun to see them hauling something that they may struggle to hold or hold up
Image
rather than their ducking down to avoid your taking it from them.

MG

doctorbrady
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by doctorbrady » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:59 pm

Thanks for the replies. To answer the first, I am pretty sure he is not cowering, but rather avoiding the inevitability of giving up the bumper. I do retrieve 1/2 to 1/3 of the bumpers myself, so that he knows that they aren't his, but mine. He never drops his head when I toss a tennis ball, but I generally don't make him heal and hold prior to tossing it. I do this occasionally as simple "play time." It's only with the bumper or pigeons that he ducks his head.
In response to the second,
I have noticed that when I heal him at my side, facing the same direction as me, that he tends to hold his head up better to release the bumper, but haven't worked much on it yet.
I am not much of a duck hunter, but I like the "nonslip" retrieve. I will use it when dove hunting mostly, and the rare waterfowl hunt. He also will sit while I squirrel hunt with my boys, and retrieve squirrels. He even runs rabbits now, and does his best at getting them back. It is funny to watch him try to pick them up with the loose skin :D .
This may sound like a lot of stuff to ask of a pup, but the breed is quite capable of all of this. Funny thing is that I got him primarily as a blood tracker, but he is already EXCELLING at that with minimal input from me.

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crackerd
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by crackerd » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:18 pm

You're doing fine and not overdoing anything--you're giving the pup a chance to inhabit its own skin as a working gundog through natural abilities. That's flushing, retrieving, tracking. Now train the dog--train it that is if you want to really bring on the natural ability. A little secret: Steadiness to flush is a lot more easily accomplished for a spaniel if it gets trained as a nonslip retriever. "Sit means sit" is the retriever's dictum and it's in a word (or three) obedience uber alle. All my spaniels have been steadied, and gone on to master hunter titles or beyond, through having trained them as retrievers. Since the wachtel is by German reckoning both spaniel and retriever, you should tap into that training. And you should start by having a helper throw the bird or bumper for the dog at a distance, instead of tossing it yourself, so you can focus on the dog at your side and make sure he doesn't go until you send him.

MG

doctorbrady
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by doctorbrady » Thu Feb 18, 2010 4:33 pm

Crackered,
He's already got the non-slip retrieving down. He will RARELY take off early if something loud distracts him. He released to gunfire the first time that I had my son fire, but has held steady since then. He also took off yesterday when my cell phone started ringing, but that was partly because I got distracted and didn't stop him in time. 90+ percent of the time he will hold very well. In training, I will have him hold varying times from a few seconds to a couple of minutes before "releasing" him with a command.
I am very interested in getting him to "sit to flush" but haven't had a helper to assist me. I've got some pigeons located for training, and am planning on using some tethered or clipped wing birds for this. I have read that giving a whistle "sit" command every time he gets a bird up will teach this quickly, but haven't used it yet. I am wondering if he will sit with the excitement of the bird flushing. This is my first time training a bird dog, so I can use all the GOOD advice I can get. So far, I've been very happy with Caliber's progress.

FLocker
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by FLocker » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:53 am

Your wachtelhund is approaching a level of finish that i've never heard of from a 5 month old dog. Congrats!

doctorbrady
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Re: Retrieving question

Post by doctorbrady » Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:37 pm

Flocker,
I appreciate the encouragement. Since this is the first "bird dog" that I have ever trained, I was not exactly sure what to expect or when. I didn't know if I was on track, behind, or ahead of the game. I heard that wachtels were bright dogs, and that has proven to be true. The funny thing is that if you had seen this pup a month ago, he would have knocked your socks off. Literally, he would heal and watch the thrown bumper and SIT for 2-3 minutes at a time until I verbally released him. He would then follow basic hand direction towards the bumper (which I typically threw into the woods). During his retrieve to whistle he would stop on a "sit" whistle and wait for another "here" whistle. He did it flawlessly over and over. A month later, he is ducking his head a little, and is a little more resistant to sitting quickly at a distance. But overall, he is still doing a bang up job. Part of the problem is that I haven't worked him much on a check cord, just because I haven't had to. I probably need to incorporate this a little more when working with him. The other problem is that he has "bunny on the brain." Ever since I took him rabbit hunting last weekend (he retrieves those too, but it's comical), he wants to sniff rabbit trails all over my yard. This is a distraction, but not one I really want to break entirely as I will probably rabbit hunt with him more than I bird hunt. It is fun having him do all the "neat stuff," though.
I've talked to some other wachtel owner/trainers, as well. They have suggested that I take a couple of weeks off from retrieving, and then start back. I don't have any problem with that...but he might. He is constantly bringing me things in his mouth to throw for him.

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