Tuesday, June 30, 2015

*Not the barber

Anticipation, especially when given too much time to simmer, often allows expectations to grow a bit beyond the practical limit. It's hard to temper expectations with a pup anyway, so I'm giving myself a pass. We're just glad he's finally here.

The first two weeks have been an orange and white tornado. Yes, he tries to chew everything. No, he hasn't shown an uncanny pointing instinct, steady to flush, at ten weeks of age. While housetraining is a daily effort, it is still mostly in the dream stages. He's a puppy.

Curious, confident, not the least bit timid, all good traits in a bird dog. There are a few overachievers in the pedigree as well, which never hurts. The cards are stacked in his favor and my job, at least for the next few months, is to not screw it up. I can't possibly give him more potential than he has, but through lack of patience and other blockheadedness I can certainly take it away.

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to watch the lights come on a little bit at a time. Simple things like learning where the food and water bowls are and what his crate is for and the harder stuff like that name we keep calling him and what "here" means. It's like watching a time lapse of kids growing up. In the end, there are more similarities than differences.

This is Floyd.

Yes, I'm taking a leak all over the leash

Still not sure how all this works together.

Two speeds: on and off


Just about everything is a chew toy

Give it a few more months

Monday, June 22, 2015

Marking time

Unless you're a Druid the summer solstice probably passes without fanfare. Most people are looking toward July 4th or simply trying to survive an early heat wave and the point in time (12:38pm Eastern Daylight today, for those keeping score) when the North Pole hits maximum tilt toward the Sun is also known as lunchtime, something far more critical to personal well-being.

Hungry or not, the solstice is mostly just another minute in another day in another month that people rush through on their way to the next minute. Mostly. Scattered across the globe, without organized celebration, a handful of us do feel the subtle shift in planetary axis. Days getting shorter, seasons getting closer.

This photo was taken on December 21st of last year, just before the North Pole began its crawl toward the sun. This pond lies at the bottom of a field that usually holds some late season birds, but not always. It's not too far away now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Getting it right

A week from today I'll make a drive across the state and bring home the newest member of the team. Everyone's excited, eager to meet this little guy and have him as part of the family and I'm slowly checking items off the list to make sure we're good to go. Kennel cleaned, bowls scrubbed, collar and lead where I can find them, pile of rags handy. All stuff I could have knocked out in about an hour if I didn't have 8 weeks to kill.

As I mentioned before, it's been almost 20 years since I had a bird dog pup in the house and the last time around I was cutting (and grinding) my teeth. This time around, with the blessing of 20 years of experience, I'm intent on doing a few things differently and I've been reading and thinking and reading and thinking some more about how best to approach this project.

More and more I keep coming back to one overarching theme: It's not what I do that's important, it's what I don't do.  As in don't go after him when you want him to come. Don't talk incessantly when trying to teach him a one-word command. Don't scold him for the puddle on the floor when you forgot to let him out. Don't feed him from the table if you don't want him to beg. The list is close to endless and its length underscores how much easier it is to just do a few things right.

So I'll focus on basics like talking less and showing more, being consistent, not rushing the progress, using the occasional backslide as a hint and not a reason for punishment, giving affection only as a reward. Yes, the last one will be a challenge. I'm unabashedly affectionate with all dogs, my own especially. Might not get that one right.

Probably the biggest training aid is not something I've found in any book or article. It's my age. I'm just a helluva lot more patient now than I was the last time around and I'm convinced that patience is one of the most, if not THE most important aspect in raising a pup. In spite of what you read and see about 3 month old pups being broke to wing and shot, it takes time to make a good bird dog. As in years. It's only a race if you make it one.

One last don't: Don't over-think the process. People get so worked up over getting it right that they try too hard and manage to get it perfectly wrong. It's a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.