Thursday, February 16, 2012

Running Hot Deer

I am from The South, and I have what we call "a handle" on my dogs, so I prefer to work off leash. My handle is a verbal one, and it amazes everyone.

But... I am leaning toward advising everyone to start, train and track on leash because if the dog eventually can work off leash, then they can in the end, go either way, but for training purposes, at least in the beginning, you must use a leash at least some of the time. Another thing is, most people have legal restrictions regarding leash laws and most, do not have a verbal handle like I do.

When it comes to trashing breaking or running hot deer, a leash is a must because I can control the dogs range and focus, when they are leashed. And here is one of my pet peeves when I am tracking: I do not like to raise my voice in the woods.

And NO! I don't want my dogs to run hot deer, but if they are not on a leash, and they have a fun dash for a couple hundred meters after jumping a deer,

and then check back with me, I can't fault the dogs, and hold it against them, because I allowed it to happen by not leashing to start with.

My best dogs have always been the ones who have had a lot of time, freedom and space to just go be a dog, on their own off-time, but when I put them on a leash, it means business.

Because a blood dog should almost always be on a leash for most people, I don't advise "training" on hot deer.

Another possible factor is breeding: never, ever let a large hound start running hot deer if you want him to track blood. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER! Or you will be sorry! Now are there exceptions to the rule? Yes, and the size of breed such as Daschund or beagle could be exceptions,

and one other exception may be to ignite a puppy's prey drive in their first year.

On the other hand a cur(which is short range breed)may not be adversely affected by running hot deer for fun time training.

It really depends on the dog, the logistics, and the legalities. MY STRONGEST WORD OF CAUTION: If your dog is interested in running hot deer, and you don't want them to do that, just keep them leashed, and try not to harshly discipline the dog in any way around deer.

I confess: I am a recovering control freak, and I do not like the idea of my working dogs doing anything but what I want them doing.

But with balance in mind, what is more important than training, is for the dog to have freedom, time, space, and just be a dog sometimes.

In that; there will always be the occasional jump and dash on hot deer, but I don't want to make it a negative or positive focus on MY part and influence it one way or the other.

Because I am in training to work off leash, I prefer to not react too quick and wait to see if the dog will correct them self.

Dogs have a huge capacity to store data about the world they smell, and they smell the world in the same way we see the world: It is their primary sensory input. What that means is they analyse and memorize the world via scent data.

I believe being free and off leash as much as possible in the off season is very important, because if dogs are exploring new smells all during the off season, they are familiar with those smells come hunting season, and are thus not distracted. I also believe that a dog needs to train them self in the woods, and learn to control them self as much as possible.

A high prey drive dog is an excellent tracker and it is a challenge to teach them not to chase everything.

But once they are desensitized in the off season to all the smells that they will encounter, then they learn to focus on the one and only track blood.

Sometimes for the sake of balance we actually have to put a blood dog on a healthy deer for an advanced training exercise in the off season. And the point of allowing your dog to run a healthy deer is to allow the dog the opportunity to experience the scent of a running deer in contrast to the scent of a wounded deer. One more thing: the dog also experiences the fact there is no reward for tracking running deer.

The dog can tell if it is a hot, healthy deer or a wounded one by the scent of the track because the inter digital gland produces a different scent in a wounded deer. When tracking blood, I get the feeling the dog knows if it's a mortal wound or not within the first 10-15 minutes, but even if it is not, they press on with that individual track because we are asking them to follow blood, and not track scent.

Given enough time and experience in the off season, blood dogs not only become accustomed to scent, but logistics and equipment too.

As you can see in these photos, where I hunt we have a lot of water. So here in south Louisiana, a blood dog needs to get accustomed to swimming and being in boats.

Because of the short hair and so much water, I found a blaze orange, neoprene, insulated vest with extra floatation for Jessie this past summer.
This was not the first vest he has worn. He also wears a cut vest for hog hunting which is heavier, and also stiffer.

When I first started fitting him with the neoprene, he didn't like the feel of it. The neoprene was snug and it fit him like a latex glove, so it took about 5 or 6 fittings before he settled into it.

The point I want to make here is that owning a top blood trail dog requires year round, off season exercises that should include all of the equipment and logistics of an actual blood trail during hunting season. Some of these drills need to be repeated again and again to get the dog acclamated to the program.

And one thing they will have to deal with during hunting season is live, hot, healthy, running deer. Best if you work out any issues about running deer during the off season if possible. And it is an issue you may need to test again and again, year after year. Sometimes it takes a few years for a dog to realize there is no reward in running deer. It may require 3-4 years before a dog just stands there, off leash and watches a deer run off without giving chase.

If you had hoped to train and ultimately work your dog off leash, you will be dealing with this, one way or the other, sooner or later. The final decision may be that your dog cannot be trusted off leash, and you make the adjustment come hunting season and work him on a leash, until such time that he can be trusted. What most people are going to have difficulty accepting is that purposely running hot deer in the off season, could actually be useful as a training exercise for puppies.

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