Sometimes it just clicks

23 Jan

I like to think that part of Ilsa’s charm is her quirkiness. Nothing about her seems conventional. As our first vizsla, we didn’t realize this for quite some time, but now we know that teaching her almost anything requires us to venture off the beaten path. Teaching Ilsa to be a bird dog has been no exception.

It’s pretty hard for a vizsla to hunt birds if they’re scared of the gun. Although Ilsa has confidence issues, we actually never expected her to be gun shy. It turns out she did display some signs of being gun shy when we first started working with a starter pistol around her. To get her through the gun, we had to use her enthusiasm for birds by letting her chase them or catch them. By catching 42 to be exact :-o. I know that everyone reading our blog isn’t an upland hunter, but I’m pretty sure most of you realize that catching a bird isn’t exactly what you want a pointing dog to do :lol:.

We’ve done quite a bit of gun work around Ilsa and Gumbo now without any issues, and we are again focused on learning to scent birds and point them. Gumbo has always shown a nice point when he catches scent of a bird. Ilsa, on the other hand, LOVES to bust in on birds without holding a point. We knew that by letting her catch so many birds, we could fuel her desire to bust in on birds even more. But yesterday, she showed wonderful signs of pointing as soon as she caught scent of a bird rather than trying to take it out. Yesterday’s weather conditions were not ideal for scenting birds. There wasn’t much wind, so even with Ilsa working the field, it was difficult to catch scent unless she was pretty close to the bird. But she was pointing or working cautiously throughout the field.

It was amazing to see things click inside her mind. It was as if she was saying, “I’m no longer going to run around like a wild banshee looking for birds, so let’s work together and find them!!!!” To help her understand that she can’t just bust in everywhere she thinks there might be a bird, we’re using a remote bird launcher to “flush” the bird as soon as she catches scent. This definitely slows her down and makes her work the field more cautiously. She even had a few false points where she thought she had a bird, but there wasn’t actually one there. Rather than making Ilsa think that we knew where the birds were better than she did, Susan would kick around in the brush to act like she was trying to flush the bird, and I would throw a pigeon from my bird bag to make her think she was in fact pointing a bird. We’re doing it this way because we want her to be confident with herself while she’s in the field. When she hits point, we want her to be 110% committed to it. As we worked yesterday, you could see it all start to click in her mind. It was really a beautiful thing to watch.

I think her success in training yesterday actually started much earlier in the week. On our walks, we have been doing simple things from rally-o like walking in heel at slow, normal, and fast paces. Ilsa has been excelling at this and other games on our walks, and the confidence in her eyes seems to be growing. Plus, she just seems to be enjoying herself more. I really think that confidence translated into the bird field. Ultimately, one of the main reasons we like working with birds is because Ilsa and Gumbo enjoy it so much, and we want to take the confidence they learn in the field back to their lives at home too.

In case you are wondering how Gumbo’s training is progressing, he is also doing extremely well, but I chose to leave out the details of yesterday’s training because it wasn’t quite as pretty as Ilsa’s performance. Let’s just say I was left flat on my face with a nasty check cord burn on my hands. (I handle Gumbo and Susan handles Ilsa.) For those of you keeping score at home – Girls 1, Boys 0 :-P. Don’t worry though – there’s always next time :-D.


5 Responses to “Sometimes it just clicks”

  1. Anna January 23, 2012 at 7:09 AM #

    Sounds like your girl is making great progress. I was about to suggest launchers/foot traps for her creeping but it looks like you already took that step. We did a little of that with Luna early on as she liked to creep in and catch the birds too. watching her hunt is one of my favorite things, she loves it SOOOO much… and because she got bird crazy before we did the starter guns she now hears fireworks and gun blasts and goes nuts as she thinks it means there are birds out there somewhere. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think any bird dog I have in the future I will at least try and start on birds to build that drive so I can incorporate the noise so we will eliminate the possible problem loud noises can bring. Training a bird dog takes lots of birds (which apparently you have found out pretty early) but somehow the pockets seem just deep enough to find a way to afford them. If it makes you feel any better, I still have a scar from a rope burn from when Luna was a puppy running with a long line.

  2. 2browndawgs January 23, 2012 at 7:48 AM #

    Sounds like a good training day. Even the bad is good if you are out working the dogs. 🙂


  1. A major milestone « A Tail of Two Vizslas - January 27, 2012

    […] off Ilsa’s success in the bird field last weekend, I thought we’d give a walk in the park a try once again. Normally, Ilsa would put the brakes […]

  2. Practice makes perfect (well, almost) « A Tail of Two Vizslas - February 27, 2012

    […] We already knew Gumbo still needs work with fast flushes after pointing using the remote launcher just like we did with Ilsa. This was a valuable thing to learn in this setting, and we were very pleased with the overall […]

  3. Practice makes perfect (well, almost) « A Tail of Two Vizslas - February 27, 2012

    […] We already knew Gumbo still needs work with fast flushes after pointing using the remote launcher just like we did with Ilsa. This was a valuable thing to learn in this setting, and we were very pleased with the overall […]

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