I spend a LOT of time with my dogs–most of my time, really. I work from home, and so Lexi and Sky are my constant companions: A run in early am, in the office together all day, a walk in the PM, repeat.
But not this July and August. Both girls went to Wild Apple Kennel at the end of June for summer training, and they’ll be there through this month.
You’ve heard of Pointing Labs. Well, I my dog Sky could be the foundation for a similar line of hunting dogs: Retrieving Pointers.
Sky’s nuts about anything round and mouth size: Tennis balls, lacrosse balls, slimy round things that may be shrunken heads. She finds these things on our daily walks and if I throw them, she brings them back–whether I want her to or not–over and over and over…and over.
I’ll be taking orders for pups soon. Like Pointing Labs, the prices will be stupid high. And yes, I’m kidding…
Respect, like success, is something you have to earn. The first time I sent my pointer to the trainer, I visited her every weekend. But when I showed up it was play time, not work time. We went for runs, tossed a ball around, and goofed off. I was her buddy, and she treated me like an equal.
This worked for a while. But the first time I took her in the field, the flaws showed right away. Instead of following commands, she did what she wanted. If that meant coming when called, she did it. If it didn’t, I could blow and blow on my whistle. She wasn’t going to listen.
I talked to my trainer about the problem and he explained the issue: she liked me, but didn’t respect me. I had to earn her respect. Once I did, everything changed.
Martha Greenlee noticed a similar lack of respect when e-collars came into use. Read how it showed itself, and learn what she did to correct it:
“There are two basic ways to correct your dog during formal training. One way is with stimulation from the e-collar and the other is using physical correction. Physical correction was the primary form of correction to teach the steadying process until the late 1980s when Tri-tronics came out with a variable intensity e-collar. Unlike the “hot” single button e-collars that were the norm, this new e-collar had low, medium, and high buttons and five intensity levels. For the first time, you could adjust the intensity level of the e-collar to fit the situation and use it around birds without causing blinking problems.
As trainers experimented with these new e-collars, articles began appearing in some of the sporting magazines on how to use them in formal training. I really liked the idea of using a variable intensity e-collar and decided to buy one. At first, it was almost too easy to teach a dog to stand birds and not chase. After I’d taught a couple of dogs to be steady with the e-collar, I realized something was missing in their training and that something was respect. My dogs didn’t respect me. By relying solely on the e-collar and foregoing any type of physical correction, my dogs had learned to respect the birds but not me….”
Many pointing dog breeds have been lost to history. Craig Koshyk thought that the Majorcan Pointer was another one that only lived on today in books and stories. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Below is a bit of what he discovered about the breed.
This excerpt comes from Craig’s book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the most thorough and authoritative work available on the history of continental Europe’s pointing breeds. If you love hunting dogs, it’s a book you have to have.
“Of all the breeds I’ve seen and studied, the Majorcan Pointer came as the biggest surprise. Despite finding a good number of historical references to it in the old literature, I was unable to determine if the Balearic Islands’ native pointing breed was still being bred today. And since Googling its name in English, French and Spanish only turned up the same old quotes from same old books, for a long time I assumed that the breed was extinct.
But only a few weeks before flying to Spain to photograph Burgos Pointers and Pachónes Navarro, I decided to give it one more shot. This time the words I entered into the Google search field were in Catalan, the other official language of the island of Majorca. I typed ca de mostra and ca de caça, then hit return. Less than an hour later I was on the phone to Sheryl Marchand, my very understanding travel agent, telling her that Lisa and I would need to extend the Spanish leg of our trip. Majorca’s native pointing dog was still alive!”
I’m always excited to get updates from the folks at Steady with Style. I’ve learned a lot about dogs and dog training from Martha Greenlee’s posts, and I read every one as soon as I hear about it. This one is essential for anyone who uses a blank pistol.
“How you use a blank gun can help or hurt you in training. Recently, I was training with some amateurs that were fairly new to pointing dogs. They had done a great job introducing gunfire to their dogs, but now their dogs were older. Most were between one and two years old and every time their dogs chased quail, they fired their blank guns. It wasn’t my place to say anything, but I was glad I wouldn’t be teaching these dogs to be steady-to-shot. Their dogs had already made an association with chasing and the blank gun, and once formal training began, they would most likely launch themselves like rockets anytime they heard the sound of the shot.
A blank gun is different than a shotgun. Dogs understand the shotgun. They see it, hear it and watch the bird fall to the ground. The blank gun isn’t as simple for your dog to grasp. The shot can mean a number of different things depending on what associations he makes with the sound. Here are a few examples of how to think about the blank gun…”
When it comes to their dogs, people love believe the craziest stories. And when it comes to Vizslas, these stories get pretty crazy. Some include bits about how the breed appears in ancient European rock paintings and others say these dogs have been pure bred for the last 1,000+ years. One tale even has them as the favorite hunting dog of medieval Magyar barons and warlords.
But as romantic as many of these tales are, there’s no real evidence to confirm them as true. Craig Koshyk points this out in his excellent book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals. You can some of the truth about Vizslas here on Craig’s excellent Pointing Dog Blog. While their true story is far from the romance that some people would like to read, it’s still fascinating and worth learning about.
The story of pointing dogs is full of half truths, distortions, and outright lies. Craig Koshyk has dedicated thousands of hours separating fact from fiction, and he put it all together in his excellent book Pointing Dogs: Volume One, The Continentals.
Here’s the intro:
“The French revolution began in 1789. When it was Over 11 years later, Napoleon was in power and nearly every aspect of French life, including hunting and dog breeding, had changed forever. Some of the changes were positive. The revolution had given the average French citizen the right to hunt. But for the dogs kept in the kennels of aristocrats, the revolution spelled disaster. Many were slaughtered outright and others were stolen, but most were simply released to roam the countryside….”
If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Craig Koshyk’s book Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. Here’s a review of it that I wrote a little while ago. It was published in July/August 2012 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine:
I’m selfish with my time, and the older I grow the worse I get. This makes me reluctant to pick up most new books I come across. I wonder if they’ll be worth the time they’ll take to read.
Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals by Craig Koshyk is a big book with a big title, and at first this title worried me. It sounds a lot like the other breed bibles out there. Fortunately, Koshyk’s bookisn’t anything like them. Part history lesson, part guide, and part love letter, Pointing Dogs is one of the finest books about hunting dogs that I’ve ever read.
Passion is what makes Pointing Dogs so worthwhile. Early on in the book Koshyk writes “We will always love our pointing dogs, and through them, forever seek a closer connection to the natural world,” and “Hunting over them (pointing dogs) is about pleasing the senses and soothing the soul.” Koshyk loves bird dogs and bird hunting, and his ardor makes this work glows. What follows in the book is as much a tribute to pointing dogs as it is a tribute to all the ways they enrich our lives.
Accuracy is an crucial part of this tribute. Instead of just recycling old breed standards and previously published information (much of which is incorrect), Koshyk spent twelve years doing original research for this book. Crisscrossing Europe with a notebook, camera and credit card, he talked to breeders, attended field trials, and hunted behind the breeds in his book.
Today, Koshyk is probably the only person in the world to have seen every one of the continental pointing breeds in action, in their native lands. This gives Pointing Dogs an impressive authority. When Koshyk writes that the Pachon Navorro (nicknamed the Double-Nosed Spanish Pointer) “…showed a good degree of desire, hunting hard despite the thick, thorny cover,” you know he didn’t just read that on the Web or in some out-of-date field guide. He actually traveled to Guadalajara, Spain, and saw Pachon Navorros in the field. This commitment comes through on every one Pointing Dogs, and it’s a big part of what make the book so special.
The three-hundred-and-sixty-five pages in Pointing Dogs go over a lot. To keep the book readable, Koshyk breaks it into six sections. First is “Pointing Dogs,” which covers the origins and history of these animals. The next two sections – “South and West” and “North and East” – detail current Continental breeds. Next there’s “Outliers,” which is about pointers at the edges of Europe, and then “Lost and Forgotten” discusses extinct breeds. At the end is “Appendices,” which includes everything from how to select a breed and dog to comparisons in sizes, gaits, populations, and more.
In all, Pointing Dogs covers 52 breeds from Europe and into Turkey and Russia. Koshyk writes about each dog’s history, form, function, and character. He also details the pointer’s selection & breeding prospects, and gives his opinion of each dog’s hunting ability.
There’s information about dogs we’ve heard about, like German Wirehair Pointers, and about dogs few people have seen, like the Saint-Usage Spaniel. Koshyk judges each breed with an understanding of how different dogs have been bred to hunt in different ways, while still holding to an objective standard of what it takes to be a good gun dog.
The handiest part of the breed reviews is a synopsis called “At A Glance”. It outlines the breed’s Pros and Cons and includes a useful little blurb called the “Risk Profile”. Buying a hunting dog is a gamble, and when you bet on any of the rarer breeds presented in this book, the odds against getting a good one for the field can really grow. The Risk Profile accounts for this phenomenon. It’s good to see that Koshyk is knowledgeable enough about hunting dogs to include this and responsible enough as a writer to report on it.
Beautiful, full-color pictures are another impressive part of Pointing Dogs. Koshyk is just as talented with a camera as he is with a pen, and page after page of his book come to life with photos of the dogs he writes about. This mean Pointing Dogs is rewarding to study and just plain fun to flip through and admire.
Early on in his book Koshyk explains what drove him to put the time, money, and effort into creating Pointing Dogs: Volume One: The Continentals. “If I wanted to read a book that did not exist,” he says, “I’d have to write it myself.” I’m glad he did, and I’m happy to spend time reading it again and again. If you love bird dogs, you will be, too.
If you’re into hunting dogs, you need to buy Craig Koshyk’s excellent book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals. I wrote a glowing review of the book for Shooting Sportsman magazine. It looks like I’m not the only one who loved it, either. More reviews are in and all of us agree that this is a must have book.
Steady with Style is one of my favorite dog-training blogs. Author Martha Greenlee has been working with bird dogs for years, and her experience shows in every one of her posts. This latest one is a good example of what I mean. I went through this same process with Puck. If you have a bird dog, I’m sure you will, too:
“Recently, I was talking to Maurice Lindley about a dog I was teaching to be steady-to-wing-and-shot.
“I think Chalk has turned the corner,” I said.
“What did he do to make you think that,” Maurice asked.
“He’s calmer,” I replied.
“Good,” he said. “A calm dog is what you look for. A fresh-broke dog should go from bug-eyed and intense to calm and composed in the presents of game. If you watch a young dog on point, every fiber and nerve is on high alert and poised to pounce. Then, as more training takes place, you notice the dog’s composure changes when he is pointing. He becomes more confident in his job and confident that you know your job too. The intensity is still there but something has changed. To me the dog just looks different…”
At first glance, the Braque Saint Germain looks like the English Pointer’s Gallic cousin. And you get the same impression after your second and third glance at the breed. There’s a good reason for this: Like many European pointing dogs, the modern Braque Saint Germain has a lot of English Pointer in it.
The Braque Saint Germain’s story is similar to the stories behind many of today’s Continental hunting dogs. There are the hazy early years with links French nobility, then the rumors of greatness and a popularity that leads to the breed’s dilution and decline. Then there’s the collapse brought on by the World Wars and the breed’s resurrection and slow climb into today.
Weimaraners– you either love them or hate them. Even though author Craig Koshyk is stands firmly on the love side, he understands why so many hunters are fed up with this breed. In Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, Koshyk does a great job of telling the Weim’s story and pleading their case.
If you’re interested in these dogs, you should pick up a copy of Koshyk’s book. Just make sure you do it BEFORE you pick a pup.
For more about Weims, check out Craig’s blog here, here, and here.
The English Pointer lays claim to ancestors throughout Europe. Dogs from Spain are said to be the beginning of the breed, and an earlier version of the modern Portugese Pointer probably added a few bricks to the EP’s foundation.
I’m interested in side by sides — that’s pretty obvious. So when I came across the Pachón Navarros, a Spanish pointing dog with a double barrel nose, I was intrigued.
According to Craig Koshyk’s Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the Pachón Navarros trace back to the very first sporting breeds to appear around the Pyrenees Mountains, way back in the 13th century. The dogs almost disappeared in the early 20th century, but today a growing group of hunters and enthusiasts are rebuilding the breed.