26 April 2009

Gypsy earns her FD title

Gypsy (Ch Szuni's Gypsy Moon CD FDJ) bred and owned by Susan Scobie of British Columbia, is a grand-daughter of my beloved Sasha (BPIG* Am/Can CH Varazs Kiraly Sassy Sasha Am/Can CD, Am/Can CDX, FDJ, RN, RA, RE, RAE, TT, CGC, CGN) and I'm proud to announce that she just completed her Field Dog (FD) hunting title in April.

Susan and Gypsy

25 April 2009

Milo earns CKC RE title!

Milo became the first Varazs-bred dog to earn a CKC Rally Excellent title on Friday April 24 in St. Catharines Ontario. If you've been following my posts, you'll know that the Corrine-Milo team has really been on a roll this year, earning title after title - in fact, this is their 6th in four months! That too is a record. And they also happened to earn several placements as you can see from Milo's 'software' in the photo. As well, they picked up his first RAE leg (Rally Adv-Ex) on Friday of which 9 more are needed. AWESOME work you two! Keep it up!!!

22 April 2009

Cadaver or SAR dog?

Miska should really be a cadaver or SAR (search and rescue) dog because she is always finding body parts in various sizes, shapes, species and in varying states of condition in and around our property and in the woods where I walk her and our other dogs. So far, all parts have been animal (or so I believe and hope), killed mainly by coyotes and the occasional fox.

The past 2 months (only March & April since we returned from Arizona) have been a record for her - a deer leg, various deer bones, 2 wings & thorax of a Canada Goose, deer antlers, a tail hide from a white-tailed deer, and a few unrecognizable body parts, pelts and bones. This stuff used to go into our garbage but now it goes into our municipal 'green' bin, except for the antlers which I gave to Miska's field trainer, Mike Wilshire, to add to his 'rack' collection.

So this morning, I wasn't surprised (although I was a little disturbed) when she brought me something that didn't resemble a body part. This time, it was a live calico coloured pussy cat in her mouth!!! It was thin, wet, and muddy and not looking or smelling very good. We are surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods with no close neighbours so heaven knows how far it had wandered or how long it had been living or lost in the woods.

There were no puncture wounds from Miska's teeth, thank goodness, but there still could have been some internal injuries from her jaws. After all, Miska is a keen hunter and she found this pussy outdoors this morning while accompanied by her 'pack' - our other 3 dogs. And when there is a pack hunting, there is competition so she may not have been as gentle with it as she would have when alone. Anyway, I pried it from Miska's mouth and immediately took it to a vet. There was no collar on it and I don't know if it was microchipped. I couldn't keep a cat. It certainly needed medical attention but it probably will be humanely euthanised because it didn't look well. Sometimes I wish Miska wasn't quite so keen on hunting and finding me bodies or body parts but if she is ever needed as a cadaver or SAR dog, I'm confident she'd do an excellent job!

21 April 2009

Zsofi visits!

Earlier this month, we had the privilege of dog sitting Nova's daughter & Miska's sister, Zsofi (CH Varazs Kiralyi Szofia FDJ NAVHDA NA Prize II), while her human, Jill, went on vacation. It had been a couple of years - at least - since I'd seen Zsofi so I was thrilled to have her visit. And she didn't disappoint. What a beautiful, lovely and sweet Vizsla she is (although I discovered she's a "secret' counter surfer, only doing it when everyone is out of the room).

As she has aged, it's become more evident how much like her dad, Sasha, she is becoming. Zsofi has inherited a gorgeous head (well both her parents have lovely heads), especially those beautiful parallel lines that her dad had, and also the thick hair with a wave, around her neck that Sasha had. Plus her hips came back as "excellent" in a preliminary evaluation (Sasha had OFA excellent rated hips). And some of her behaviours also reminded me of Sasha. From both parents, Zsofi inherited a deep chest and good forechest. Sometimes a breeder doesn't keep the right dog and Zsofi was the one I should have kept for breeding from this litter. Unfortunately for me, she has been spayed.

Anyway, Zsofi enjoyed her stay her with us and I was very sad to see her go home but was grateful and happy to have seen her again. Jill, we can't go so long again for another visit and walk!

Tyro (L) & Zsofi (R)

L-R: Tyro, Zsofi, Diva, Nova (mother of Tyro & Zsofi)

20 April 2009

Darien NY hunt tests

April 18-19, the German Shorthair Club of Western NY once again hosted AKC hunt tests at Darien NY. In some ways, we couldn't have had better weather - no snow and no rain! Temperatures were quite warm on Saturday, with lots of wind - too much really and then dropped quite a bit on Sunday (better for the dogs); the wind was mild on Sunday morning but picked up a lot later in the morning so it felt quite cold but it was sunny. The grounds there are very spacious and in good condition although the cover was very low because all the grass remained flat from the snow cover. Still, I much prefer this venue to many of the ones used in Ontario for field tests.

Miska and Vadasz were both entered in the Sr Hunter level. Tyro and Diva were entered in Jr Hunter. Gary decided to handle his dog Vadasz and so I only had 3 dogs to deal with but I also walked the course when Vadasz went out so I got lots of exercise and also got to listen to the discussions of the judges and the AKC marshall.

I had lots of butterflies as this was my first time handling a dog at the Sr level. Good thing the nerves can't travel down the lead in hunt tests. Miska was going to do whatever she was going to do, and there wasn't much I could about it - or so I thought. But I did learn many things over the two days.

Miska's performance on Saturday wasn't very good. She neither honored nor had a chance to retrieve a shot bird. She did find a bird but flushed and chased it and brought it back to me - a huge no-no. It was an exceptionally long retrieve remarked one of the judges, tongue-in-cheek. Hmmmn, note to self - need more work on her steadiness.

Sunday, Miska was considerably better. She had a beautiful honor from quite a distance away. I was thrilled. I was also able to successfully call her off from chasing a bird that the other dog flushed but which wasn't shot at. Miska also had a fantastic and stylish point that she held for a very long time while I tried to find the bird and flush it. Unfortunately, there was no bird - it was where a bird had been that her bracemate had previously found. I learned I could 'relocate' her to help me find the bird. But it seemed it was the bracemates (usually GSPs) which found the birds first and they (birds) were few and far between.

Anyway, I blew the test for us on the next honor; I allowed Miska to steal the other dog's point. I didn't realize I could command her to whoa before she stopped moving, i.e., when she 'acknowledged' the other dog on point. I understand that acknowledging the other dog is open to some interpretation and disagreement by judges but I'll be better prepared next time and command her to whoa before she can steal the other dog's point. Up to that point, she was still in contention but my error caused her to not pass. Sometimes I need to make mistakes in order to improve and that's one.

Vadasz's performances were somewhat similar although he didn't honor at all, indicating that both dogs need more work on steadiness and honoring. Vadasz apparently also needs more training on his fetching. Gary says he doesn't always bring the bird to hand, choosing to drop it and then go off to hunt for another. I discussed this problem with Gary and asked him how he reinforced the 'hold'. He explained that he uses the command 'hold' and then gives Vadasz a treat when he gives him whatever is in his mouth. I now rail against using verbal commands when a dog is learning a behaviour and even for many behaviours a command is not needed. I did explain, however. that the timing and placement of his food reward was being paired NOT with holding the dumbbell or bird, but with spitting it out. The desired behaviour - holding the object - is not the one being reinforced. Instead, spitting it out/dropping it is being reinforced.

So how does one reward holding something? Give the dog a very small treat while it holds the object in its mouth. Of course, I don't start with a quail or chukkar but with a dowel or dumbbell, something fairly small so there is room to put a treat on the dog's tongue. Nor do I start this with a dog that hasn't first played Susan Garrett's "It's Yer Choice" game because the dog's immediate reaction when smelling or seeing a food treat will be to open its mouth and drop the object. By playing the "It's Yer Choice" game, my dogs have learned that just because food / treats appear, they must continue to work.

This generally got me thinking about different approaches to my dogs' field training, especially with Tyro and Diva as I want them to learn control with birds now rather than trying to undo a lot of undesired behaviours that they may learn such as flushing, chasing and retrieving birds on their own. And I really want to avoid any kind of corrections and use of force in field training which virtually everyone does, just as I do in my other training with my dogs. Miska's biggest challenge is steadiness to wing & shot because her desire to retrieve/fetch is ultra strong (something I've reinforced since her puppyhood). So for her, the steadiness needs to become more rewarding than the retrieving for now and I have to figure out how I can do this at home, possibly with no birds. That's another challenge!

So no qualifying scores in SH for Miska and Vadasz but a whole lot of learning and a little more handling experience was gained by the humans.

As to Tyro and Diva, neither found any birds on Saturday - more dogs failed on Saturday in all classes than passed. Being a very sociable Vizsla, Tyro was a somewhat more interested in playing with his bracements than finding birds, especially on Sunday when his bracement, a very young Vizsla, really wanted to play with Tyro which didn't help at all and then later teased Tyro by bringing over a quail in its mouth to play with.

Diva was much more focused on hunting (she is Miska's daughter after all!) and on Sunday successfully found 2 birds, pointed 1, was shot over and also retrieved 2 quails to my hand, one still alive. Thankfully Diva saved the weekend by being the only dog to return home with a qualifying score and rosette. Way to go Pumpkin-Wumkin!

Diva on point in training

Diva with her qualifying rosette

18 April 2009

Another Excellent rally title for Milo!

Wow, Corrine and Milo earned yet another title on April 19 - their 5th in four months!!!! This one is their CARO (Cdn Assoc. of Rally Obedience) Rally Excellent title and CARO also confers additional awards if the dog's score is above a certain level. In their case, Milo's scores earned him "cum laude" so he gets to add RXCL to his name. Fantastic! So he's now:
Varazs Mokany Ficko FDJ, CGN, SSGDC, SADC, AG.N.J., CL1-R, AG.N., Am/Can CD, Am/Can RN, RA, RXCL.

17 April 2009

Guelph Dog show

Quest and Diva were shown at the Guelph and District Kennel Club's show in Fergus on Friday. April 17. It was Quest's very first show. Also entered were their slightly older (by 2 weeks) 2 half-brothers, Reese and Dexter (they share the same dad, CH Hubertus Quality Control FDJ - "Ozzie"). Quest's human, Gary, had to do a lot of work in the past 2 weeks to get Quest to stack (stand) and I was very pleased that he managed to work a miracle. Quest is still looking very thin from a few minor stomach ailments but he certainly has the potential to be a gorgeous dog. Unfortunately, I had my hands full handling both Quest and Diva so didn't have a spare hand to take photos of everyone. But here's a photo of Quest stacking himself like a German Shepherd.

And the results? Quest took Winners Dog and Best of Winners for 2 points! He was also Best Puppy. Diva was Winners Bitch but she had no competition so didn't take any points. Many thanks to Eileen Wilkes for handling Quest in the Best of Breed competition while I went on Diva.