Thursday, February 11, 2010

Changing style

They say that dogs don't have the ability to reason, but there have been times that I question that. Today I was out on a walk and training session with Riley and Dakota. During the hunting season I had noticed that Dakota's honor wasn't as solid as it use to be, so I thought I'd work on that.

Everything fell in place on the first covey point. Riley locked up and Dakota honored about 30 yards back. As I passed in front of Dakota he started creeping. I let him go without any correction. During the season, when he would do this, I would either whoa him or nick him to keep him from breaking. I did today what I should have been doing during the season. Let him break before the correction. I found that he wasn't breaking at all, but relocating. After I was past Dakota he started circling around and than pointed from a different side. I wouldn't allow this if Dakota was a young dog, but he'll be on his twelfth season next year and I think his style has changed some in the last two years due to a young dog coming into our life that is getting all the action. Dakota has always loved retrieving and maybe he's changed so he has a better chance of getting a downed bird. Or maybe he learned this from our many camping trips when Tucker and him would trap a chipmunk in a wood pile or in a log by standing at the opposite sides until the chipmunk would make a mistake. Whatever the reason, Dakota used to honor rock solid but now seems to want to relocate after I pass him and as long as it isn't teaching Riley bad habits I'll let it go.

Also Dakota's point has changed over the years. In his younger years he had a fairly high tail and stood tall. Today his tail his low and he is almost in a sitting position. The intensity is still there. Maybe it's laziness, failing hips, or whatever, I don't know. But I do know that the majority of his points have changed look. I've never been much for style points so it really doesn't matter to me. I just want my dog to point and if it's going to be a low tail point I just want to be sure it isn't because I've done something wrong to intimidate his point. Usually that will show up when a hunter approaches his dog and he starts crouching, being frightened of a correction. That's not the case with Dakota.

Another change in Dakota's style is his range. He used to be a fairly big runner. Big to me is out to 300 yards. Dakota would check in quite often, but if he could see me from 100 yards that was close enough for him. His father, Tucker, would have to make eye contact with me before he would resume hunting. Dakota wasn't quite the athlete his father was and I think he was taking advantage of this by not coming all the way to me to check in. Now Dakota rarely gets more than 150 yards away. He is always making eye contact with me and always watching Riley for birdiness. I think it has a lot to do with his loss of hearing over the years. He has lost some of his confidence and is watching Riley and me for direction. He still finds birds on his own and will chase a cripple to the end of the earth but he has conceded to Riley for the long distance points.

Dakota has been a real trooper. He never had the athletic abilities of his father or the new guy, Riley. But he always found birds. Maybe his changing style is what he has had to do to keep up with the big boys. I wonder how many other dogs have changed their hunting ways without us even noticing and how many times these subtle changes have been advantageous.

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