The Michigan hunt was great. By the end of the week, Nim was pointing those birds 30′ away. We started out bustin ’em and finished up cautious.
Now we are back to training.
For me, training is about reinforcement of known commands and working toward ‘finishing’ the dog so that when in the field hunting we have a dependable Whoa (which translates to stop to flush, honoring, and safety), Here or back (which translates to hunting the ground I want us to cover), force break retrieve (a winter project to ensure reliable retrieves), and just good citizenship around other dogs and hunters.
This level of training is tough. It requires a degree of focus by the handler way beyond the basic obedience training. Success comes when I can anticipate Nim’s behavior, intervene when necessary in that instantaneous moment that provides association between behavior and correction.
I am amazed at the cues the dog offers the handler, once you are tuned in.
I am sure that it wasn’t an easy day for Nim. But, by the end of it, we were definitely making progress.
Next Saturday, pending the outcome of the hurricane, we are guiding in a big quail hunt…one of Nim’s favorite quarry. I will enjoy it because I won’t be shooting, just handling dogs. So I will get to sharpen my focus too, which, come to think of it, may be the most important element in our partnership.
It’s tough when you have a gun dog with more skills than the handler!