|Eventually, you release the gun shy dog to work while the all-age dog and the partially broke dog work in brace. Once again, you repeat the sequence. Lots of hoopla, kick out the bird, and let Pup break to give chase. |
As always you continue to read Pup, to note his aggressiveness, his boldness, his birdiness. When you finally feel his enthusiasm for birds is so great it’ll overcome anything, it’s time to fire the gun: but only while Pup is far distant and in full chase.
If Pup does not stop his chase, turn around, hesitate, or in any way honor the retort of the gun, you’ve just scored a gun dog training breakthrough.
Do this many more days. Always, dog training takes at least twice as long as you feel it does, or it should. That’s the law of the game. The unbreakable law.
Eventually, you’ll whoa the (once) gun shy dog, walk about him in a great circle, kick out the bird, and fire the gun - all right in front of the Pup. Now the dog stands to shot and wing (after you’ve taught him whoa with the whoa post or the bowline knot), and you’ve salvaged a dog for the bird field.
As you work with the gun, give Pup the whole bird to eat. For several weeks thereafter, always let him have the head of the dead bird. No need concerning yourself with Pup becoming a bird eater or hard mouth: we’ll correct that on the magic table.
Now let’s back up.
I’ve written countless places that I do not know how dogs communicate: but they do. Which means all during our training procedure the gun shy dog has been in constant communication with his bracemate, the all-age dog up front, you, the bird, the sky, the wind, the soil, and the gut-burning reality of his own fright. And all other dogs have been in identical communication with the gun shy dog. They know how he feels. And this is important: I’ve had more than one gun shy dog brought to me for cure and learned the handler was gun shy. The dog was cuing off the man. Same with bolting. The pheasant runs, the man lets the dog give chase; then to stay within gun range, the man starts running. Now we have a bolting man.
So we don’t know how dogs communicate, and maybe we never will. But we do know such communication is constantly going on, so we honor this by being as sensitive as we can. You’ll recall my mentioning Mike Gould and his old performer, the Labrador, Web. Mike has what he calls an invisible rubber band. You get this with long relationships-not with pups. It takes years to develop. That was the case with Dan Patch, the greatest pacing horse that ever lived. He never lost a race. A man named Marion Savage was Dan’s final owner, and Marion’s son, Harold, once said, "There was something uncanny, almost supernatural, about their relationship from the moment they met until the end:" It’s imponderable to note the mighty trotter and his owner passed away thirty-two hours apart.
And so it’s been with dogs I’ve owned. I had an English border collie named Banjo; he could be a quarter mile to field, but if I took three steps to my right (or to my left!) that dog, which was running away from me and couldn’t really see what I was doing, would suddenly swerve and go the direction I was stepping. Again, the invisible rubber band.
Well, with the golden triangle of dogs you’ve got invisible rubber bands going in every direction. And they’re all beneficial. I admit, some of my advice may look too simple to be effective. Well, don’t question what I say, just do it. It works. And be ever vigilant to whatever sign you think you can pick up from anyone or all three of the dogs. The result will be breaking a gun shy dog to the gun. Friends, that, along with curing bolting and trailing, is the toughest thing to get done in dogdom.
From Problem Gun Dogs, By Bill Tarrant
Reprinted by permission of Stackpole Books