Up until now Kaspar had not had a chance to be alone when hunting. It is a bit of a disadvantage having to stand in the shadow of another dog but at the same time they can learn by watching. It is called observational learning and especially puppies and young dogs learn by watching. But also grown ups do learn doing so. I therefore always turn my dogs away when we are seeing another dog performing in an unwanted manner.
Many handlers tend to watch things go wrong with their dogs are at heal next to them expecting their dog to see everything while not “learning” from it. It is fairly easy to redirect your dog’s attention by calling his name and rewarding the attention with a small treat without having to move your dog and possibly disturbing others. This is a simple example how you can redirect attention. I use a lot of redirecting attention when working my flatcoated retrievers. The breed is known to be a working dog who will hear see and smell every bit of the surroundings, therefore they can easily be distracted or “loose their heads” to what the exact task is. Starting a practice of “leave it for later” is really a big necessity if one wants a reliable gundog.
Kaspar was lucky to have a few retrieves of goose shortly after arrival at the field. I was walking him in heal behind the hunters when the first two geese fell. One still was a bit lively so he needed some encouragement, but brought it well to my hand. I am always a bit nervous when a goose is not dead right away. They are big birds and I do not want suffering to continue. I feel that the craftsmanship of hunting for your dinner table contains the ability to witness the suffering and ending it swiftly is very important. The fact that it touches my heart forces me to have respect and appreciation for nature and living beings. Knowing I having taken a life to have food.. it urges me to live my life to the most. I even feel we should all be able to kill our own food if we wish to eat meat. Otherwise we become nonchalant and easily throwing meat products away without any sense of value.
While walking on Lieuwe who was one of the hunters told me more about nature. There is a bird that is very territorial. It will simply drown all other birds in the water without any hesitation:
I really enjoy being out in Nature and learning from the field. It has an impact on my being and I can intensely enjoy the quietness and vastness presenting itself to me.
After a long sit and wait – a goose was shot and it fell across the water. My hunter said the wings were still healthy so we had to walk 800 m around to find it. While doing so Kaspar was surprised by a hare who took off and he started to chase. I have done a lot – really a lot to train recall with distractions but on a hunting day with high adrenaline a running hare passing at 3 meters distance while on a free search.. I did not expect him to pass the chance. But in the back of my head I forced myself to give it a go. Thinking – “do not avoid your own chance of failure – just go for it”. I grabbed my whistle and he ran 2-3 meters then turned away towards me. Wauw! That was the greatest moment of the day with my Italian. He came back with a big grin and a tongue out. I was of course very proud of him that he let the hare go. The goose turned out to give us a bit of exercise and after 30 minutes we were able to get it. Kaspar had retrieved it after a second shot only seeing the gun’s direction and coming back he hesitated jumping in a steep river. I signed him to stay at the field in the other side – a big goose that has been in dirty water is less hygienic to cut out in parts and very heavy to carry home. So for this moment I made use of the hesitation. If it was a gundog competition it would cost a lot of points. These situations are also why some people do not hunt with their dogs when they want to use them in competitions.. you can easily “spoil” certain pieces of your training.
A big thank you to Lieuwe for inviting me and Kaspar and thank you for letting me take the geese home for my dinner table.