The Trials and Tribulations of Two Hunting Dogs
Gretchen Irion wrote this wonderful little article on January 9, 1996 for inclusion in the Vizsla Club of Northern California newsletter. With permission we reprint it here.
When I open the door to enter my home, I am always greeted by two short hared golden rust colored creatures. I can tell how well I rate when Moxie, the youngest and the larger of the two, greets me with multiple stuffed animals in her mouth. Ears back and tail wagging she tentatively approaches me with her copious gift. And, although she is very proud to participate in this ritualized presentation, she really has no intention of actually letting me remove the slimy little beasts from her mouth.. Chica, my bratty little princess, amuses herself by performing an extensive wiggle dance. Her tail wags so hard that her body forms a "U" shape first in one direction then in the other. This undulation is supplemented by front paws in the air in followed by back paws then a circling motion. Needless to say I always feel welcome.
My husband has spent quite a bit of time in the field with the two of them, and I have been privileged to attend on occasion. We have directed a certain amount of intermittent energy into receiving their Junior Hunting titles and are now in the process of training for the Senior Hunting Tests. Although the Junior Hunter title is fairly easy to obtain as is evidenced by the large number of pointers listed as having received it each quarter in the Hunting Test Herald, our achievements were not one hundred percent straight forward.
Chica, who earned her Companion Dog title before she was two, got consistently high scores in trainability, but scored low in hunting. On her first attempt at a leg, she was so busy looking at my husband trying to figure out what she was supposed to do next that she neglected to find a bird. On her second test weekend she was "gung ho" to go out and "just do it". She sniffed around furiously looking for that bird and got a big old nasty barbed foxtail up the nose. Several hundred awchews and dollars later we were ready to try again. Finally at age 2.5 she received three legs in one weekend. The fourth leg was ridiculously easy.
Moxie, my little huntress, thinks of nothing else. My husband and I thought this would make her leaps and bounds easier to hunt with. Not so. It turns out this shy reserved couch potato is a bullheaded terror in the field. We have made some timing and training mistakes with her as well. "Timing mistakes", you may ask "What do you mean"? Well since Moxie comes from an American Field Champion and has so much natural ability, we decided to enter her in a Junior Hunter test before she was one. That weekend my husband reported she had a great time playing with the horses and the other dog and she tried to climb a tree after a bird. After that experience, he felt her point might need some strengthening. We purchased some pen -raised quail, whom after spending several weeks in our garage became about as wild as your typical pet. We had intended to release the birds to freedom as we strengthened the point. Logistical errors somehow taught Moxie that hunting was about as easy as rush and grab. Who needs a gun? The help of a check cord can remedy this problem, however, it does take longer once the rush and grab technique is known. Moxie finally got all four legs before the age of three with high scores in hunting and low scores in pointing.
The senior hunter title is more difficult. Chica, the little princess, simply could not believe that she was expected to pick up that "filthy dead thing with all the feathers". When the bird drooped she dutifully ran over to it and hailed my husband. "Here it is, Brian. It fell over here. Come see". This is the same animal that night after night insists we play fetch with a rawhide in the living room while we are trying to watch a movie. This is also the wonderful obedience dog who retrieves a dumbbell on command. Every time. Perfectly. What then is the problem with the bird? After much deductive reasoning I have decided she dosent like it because it has feathers that stick in her delicate little throat and sometimes make her cough. We are getting over this. Moxie who instinctively points all the time, keeps forgetting to hold that point. I swear she has this tape playing in her head, "Get the bird. Bring it to dad. Get the bird. Bring it to dad. Get the bird...".To interact with her in the field you must first interrupt that tape. This is difficult because the tape is on high volume. "Earth to Moxie. Come in. Moxie, Come in" In dealing with her on a day to day basis, I have to remind myself that her trait of being extremely focused can be a good thing.
Last summer my husband broke down and visited a field trainer. Our girls are capable of learning. What a relief! With any luck they will soon be receiving passing scores in the Senior Hunting Tests. If they don't pass right away, we will not be too disappointed. Once they pass, all these trials and tribulations will be over and we have had so much fun just getting here.