Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gracie "on Point"

It isn't necessary to teach a "pointing" dog to point. It comes pre-packaged in their genes, an inheritance from wolves, selected for generations in these breeds. Very, very, young pointing puppies will point game. What you teach the dog is to "hold," that is, not to pounce until released on command. Once the hunter is in place, the dog is allowed to flush the birds (or the hunter might), which rise in a heart-rushing flurry, and the hunter takes his shots. This all works beautifully with bobwhite quail, which covey. With other species of upland birds, there is some variation, but that's the principle.

Here, Gracie is learning that no matter how hard she tries, her point and pounce instinct won't yield her the game. A wing is attached to a pole by means of fishing line, then shown to Gracie, who instinctively "points" it, meaning she freezes stock still, all her focus on the prey. As she becomes steadier on the "hold" command, she'll be praised to reinforce it, and the greater part of her pointing education will be in place.

Of course, she also has to learn good manners. She knows most of those already, the no's of the house, to come, sit, etc. She also has some experience with gunshots and reacted well. Now, her big tests will be in the field. I'm not sure my hunter's goals with Gracie, but if he's ambitious, he'll also teach her, along with "hunt 'em up," to quarter and retrieve. She's a wire-haired, so the ability is in her. She only needs guidance.

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