During the December break, I took Magnum to my parents’farm just outside Modimolle. My plan was to give him some much-needed time in the veld. However, on the second day of our visit I had to relocate a snake, which made me review my decision. Although it was a harmless brown house snake, the fact that there is an abundance of frogs on the farm forced me to focus rather on the good old Sit/Stay and recall commands, and to get Magnum used to farm animals, teaching him not to chase after them. We shot a couple of pigeons for him to retrieve and made a pigeon pot for the family. I try to raise my boys knowing that it’s not just about pulling the trigger, but that we eat what we shoot and do not take more than we need.
Magnum’s fear of the pigeon trap (see February 2019 edition) is an ongoing problem. However, leaving the trap next to his kennel at night and putting it in the yard every now and then has made a difference, as he no longer shies away from it as much as he did. As a city-dweller training with a pigeon trap is crucial as it creates a controlled environment training with actual birds. Such a single training session delivers many more opportunities to work on your dog’s discipline around birds compared to field work. So, while trying to rid him of this fear is a slow process, it’s one I hope will succeed.
Over the last few weeks, I have tried to familiarize Magnum with the Hold command, to stay put at the Sit command, and wait for Fetch before heading for a retrieve. A mistake I made during his puppy training resulted in his frequently dropping the retrieved dummy about two metres or more from me. I used to reward him with treats when he brought back the dummy, which resulted in his dropping the dummy in expectation of the treat – a simple but telling error on my part. I had to think of a way to rectify this.
Magnum is now just over a year old and I needed to adjust my training regimen to his age – puppy training would no longer work. So, I went back to a controlled environment (my hallway), only this time with a frozen pigeon, not a dummy. I would give him the Sit command, throw the pigeon, and while it was airborne, give a loud clap and then the command to fetch. Initially I had to hold him by the collar (while my son clapped) to get him to wait for the Fetch command before rushing off. As Magnum picked up the bird I gave the Bring command. Crouching and moving backwards I encouraged him with Hold, Hold, and if he tried to drop the bird, I gently pushed up his jaw. Then I’d take the pigeon from him while giving verbal praise. To esnure your dog doesn’t get bored restrict this to two excercises per session.
Another problem is that Magnum sometimes wants to chew on a bird, though he learned that a disapproving loud “Eeurg”from me means I’m not happy with what he is doing. In future I’ll put cable ties, with the ends cut short, around the frozen pigeons; this will encourage him to handle the birds with a softer mouth.
We recently went training outside Middelburg, Mpumalanga, ending off by letting the dogs do some water retrieves with a dummy. Without consciously thinking about the training we’d done at home earlier, I gave Magnum the Sit command, walked a bit ahead and launched the dummy into the dam. Magnum stayed perfectly still, waiting for the Fetch command. Finally, as he mouthed the dummy I yelled Bring. Previously, Magnum would drop the dummy as soon as he was out of the water so he could shake the water off his body. Now, as he came closer, I assumed a crouched position a couple of metres away from the water’s edge and urged him along. He calmly walked right up to me and waited for me to take the dummy from him. A second retrieve resulted in him dropping the dummy within arms reach, notwithstanding loud yelling and a low-flying crop-duster.
It was a rewarding moment, indicating that the work at home was paying off. Thereafter I called it a day and loaded him into his kennel with some kibble.