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Piper just returned from her two week stay at Sauvie Island Kennels.  It is an amazing facility and I know Piper is well cared for during her stay but there is no question she was a bit rusty after her stay.  She was there because we took an amazing family vacation to the SE that had us visiting Savannah GA, Micky and the gang in Orlando and Amelia Island FL.  Three great spots with great weather and high humidity!  Needless to say we probably had a better time than Piper.

Training – After picking Piper up from the kennel I decided to treat her to some thawed out chukar I had in the freezer.  The smell of the real thing really get her excited but I have to admit that her marking suffered a bit as a result of her vacation from training.  She eventually found all the marks but it wasn’t the straight line and pick up that I had been used to leading up to our break from training.  I’m guessing that a few more sessions will tighten things back up and we will be once again marching towards the start of the hunting season with plenty of momentum.

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The Reilly Family’s schedule just got a whole lot easier.  Saturday marked the end of Baseball for Conner and last night marked the end of Softball for Sera.  Both kids had great seasons and their teams ended the year in victory.  I hope we can find thing to do to fill all this free time we will have……….Haha, don’t think that will be an issue as the summer is already booked solid.  Anyway, back to Piper.  Despite the busy schedule we have been able to find time to get out training.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been the group training session we got used to but those should start up again soon.  We haven’t been working on anything specific lately other than trying to keep ourselves sharp.  As you will see from the video there are a few things that we need to “sharpen”.  The biggest issue has to do with Piper’s blinds where she has started to pop.  I can keep her going with a quick “back” command and the occasional nick but I really need to work on improving her confidence when she is sent on a long blind.  I think she is starting to doubt that I sent her in the right direction and is turning around to make sure all is well.  With some focused sessions I think we can cure this little issue.  Will update you on our progress in the next post.  Happy training everyone! – Piper

First video is of Piper doing a long single followed by two blinds.

Second video is of Piper doing a double followed by a blind.  Notice her popping twice on the way out…

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Piper and I had the good fortune to be invited back to Deep Canyon Outfitters (http://www.deepcanyonoutfitters.com/) for their end of season Tower Shoot.  This year was an epic shoot with 500 pheasant being released.  Piper and I were responsible for pegs 5 – 8  and based on last year’s flight I was feeling pretty good about our potential for lots of action.  Once the birds started flying my theory proved to be true as the sound of nonstop gun fire filled the Eastern Oregon air.  After about 7-10 minutes of shooting the horn would sound signaling it was time to break open the guns and watch the dogs do their thing.  This pattern was repeated 12 time throughout the morning until all 500 birds took flight.  Piper was joined on this hunt by a Black Lab and an American Cocker.  It was fun to watch how each breed approached their job.  The lab worked like you would expect, retrieving his memory birds first and then picked up the remaining birds with a combination of handling and hunting dead.  The Cocker on the other hand was a bundle of energy that quartered tightly through its designated area in search of its downed birds.  She was a real pleasure to watch because of her never ending enthusiasm and amazing ability to locate her targets.  Finally, Piper’s work could be best described as a combination of both the Lab and the Cocker.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who owns a Boykin because it is this combination of ability, skill and enthusiasm that makes them such a special breed!

Throughout the morning shoot the bird count continued to grow as the gunners did a better than average job of taking these fast flying pheasant out of the air.  I purposely brought along my flush counter to keep track of the number of retrieves and I’m glad I did because it would have been easy to loose track with all the excitement.  When it was all said an done, Piper had retrieved 88 birds and we were still 30 minutes from lunch.   The afternoon called for a scratch hunt but I informed the outfitter that Piper would be sitting that out.  I know if I had asked her to go she would have gladly gone but it was time for me to be a responsible handler and put a limit on her work for the day.  The temperature was now approaching 75 degrees and she had already had a full days work under her belt.  This was not time to get greedy just to put a few more pheasant in the bag.  The scratch hunt went well as Conner and I guided 4 hunters into an additional 15 birds with 12 going into the vest.  In the end, it was a pretty incredible outing that allowed Conner and I to spend some quality time in the great outdoors while also enjoying some great dog work.  For a dad and an amateur dog handler this will be a pretty hard act to follow!

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SportDOG Field Trainer Shock CollarWetlandHunter® 425

Old Reliable – SD-400                                New WetlandHunter 425 !!!!!

After a recent visit to the SHOT Show (Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade) in Vegas I decided it was time for a new e-collar.  I stopped by the SportDOG booth to catch up with some friends and to scope out their new products for 2013.  As usual I was impressed with the time and effort taken to really understand and develop product for the hunter/trainer.  There is no question that they spend as many hours in the field as they do in the office, yet another thing I admire about the brand!  Anyway, once I escaped Las Vegas with a few bucks still in my pockets I decided to give them a call and order the new Wetland Hunter 425.  Initially I thought the SD-1825 was the collar for me but after talking to their knowledgeable staff I realized that the SD-425CAMO was a perfect match for my needs.  While the 1 mile range of the SD-1825 would be nice the reality is that if Piper is beyond the 500 yard range of the SD-425CAMO I have a real problem on my hand.  As far as features go the SD-425CAMO is loaded.  Waterproof to 25 feet, expandable to 3 dogs, 7 levels of stimulation in both the medium and high ranges, tone/vibration options and the best feature of all, a 2 hour charge time!  Also for trainers and hunters who run smaller dogs like Piper, you will just love the tiny receiver.  So if you are in the market for a new collar, do yourself a favor and check them out at http://www.sportdog.com/dog-training/e-collars/wetlandhunter, they have a ton of information on the various collars and the website is loaded with great training videos.

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For those of you who have been following Piper’s progress over the past year you’ll remember a previous post highlighting our excitement when we added two Gunner’s Up wingers to our training arsenal.  Well, we just added two more!  By adding the additional wingers it will give me and my training partners the ability to run more complex marks and to run multiple dogs in a row without reloading.  The reloading piece is more of a luxury but the ability to set up triples and diversions on the return will really help to advance the dog and make them more competent companions in the field come next fall.  I for one can’t wait until this weekend when I’ll have a chance to get all four of them into the field at once.  Triples will be on the menu for sure and Piper will likely get a steady diet of them over the next month before we add in additional distractions.  The only question that remains is whether or not I have the ability to take Piper to her full potential because I know I have the hardware.

One VERY happy Boykin Spaniel.

One VERY happy Boykin Spaniel.

http://www.gunnersup.com/default.aspIf you  have been thinking about adding a winger to your collection of training tools I can’t say enough about the reliability and durability of these Gunner’s Up wingers.  Granted, I’m not a professional but my original two have been used and used hard in the field without a single failure.  You’ll also be amazed at the progress you make throwing fewer quality marks with the wingers because you can set up scenarios that are specific to the dogs needs.  Plus wingers never get tired, sick or refuse to go out in bad weather!  

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Piper

Piper

Spring Training NW

Spring Training NW

Lily

Lily

Missy

Missy

Like baseball players reporting to FL and AZ, Piper and her friends officially reported to Spring Training NW.  Our training group consisted of (left to right) Kevin and Lily, Piper and Jack and Missy.  All “browns” but one happens to be the Lab variety.  It was a great start to what should be a great training season.  All the dogs are a bit older and have a seasons worth of real world experience under their belts.  I for one can tell Piper has matured quite a bit and seems to be better able to focus on the task at hand.  She doesn’t seem to be as easily distracted by the geese flying over or the multitude of other sounds that used to result in her miss marking her birds.  So while one day doesn’t make for a successful training season, it does give me hope!

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Piper got her waterfowl career off to a great start this past wednesday with a limit of ducks.  It was a “ducky” day for sure with thick fog and a nice breeze and most importantly ducks in the air.  I had a feeling that it might be a great day when we pushed an estimated 1200 ducks off the club ponds as we walked in.  Even if a small percentage of them wanted to return we were going to be in for a treat.  Not long after we reached legal shooting hours the ducks were buzzing the decoys and shots were being fired.  The first group of 5 ducks offered me a shot at the lead drake and with one shot he was one the water.  Not long after he splashed down Piper hit the water at full speed.  Here first real retrieve on a duck was nearly complete.  She fussed a bit with the big drake at first but a quick “Piper fetch” solved that issue and she scooped him up and returned to her place board.  I enjoyed the moment for a bit and then reached down and  took the bird from her mouth.  I was as excited as Piper, our waterfowl career was officially underway.  The rest of the morning continued about like it started with small groups of mallards and pintails working our spread.  They were a bit more weary than I would have expected for this early in the year but we got plenty of opportunities and before long had our limit.  All in all it was an incredible start to the season and one I won’t soon forget.

There were however a few things we need to tighten up but we should be able to take care of them in short order.  The plan is to be the designated retriever the next time out so I can reinforce steady and concentrate on Piper’s various other duties in the field.  Much like our approach to training, we plan to work hard early so we can enjoy ourselves later.  There is a certain level of confidence that comes with knowing what is expected of one another.  Speaking of what’s expected from one another, Piper has made it very clear that she expects a high level of shooting out of me.  I’m nervous……

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