At always I learned something new at the field trial this weekend. My dog ran pretty well in his first event taking third place sandwiched between older more experienced dogs already with one title or more. In fact, I would say that for the most part I had a decent handle on him.
It was because of this improving control I went into the Open Gun Dog stakes with added confidence that my hundreds of hours of training would overcome my dog’s trial wise behavior of turning the competition into his time to play off in the woods.
At the breakaway he looked like a pro, working a tree line 150 yards to the right, cutting back to the left another hundred or so yards to work another birdy looking spot and then a long forward run 400 yards in front and over a hill. In hot pursuit I was looking for my dog to pop out somewhere… anywhere. But I did not see him. It was then I saw a flash another three hundred yards up and on a fence line to my left. I thought it was my dog, and that he had missed the course turn. I blew my whistle two times, signaling him to turn.
Next thing I know a hundred yards ahead my dog is running full speed left to right.
The judge says, “pick up your dog.”
“What did he do?” I asked.
“He was on point right there and he bumped the bird, now he is chasing it. Pick up your dog.”
When I got back to camp I retold the story of my woes, and a fellow trailer said, “You never blow your whistle, or hit the e-collar if you cannot see your dog... ever”
For one, first and foremost whistles are used to move dogs. Go forward, turn, and in my case here are just a few of the commands that a dog can learn using a whistle. None of which say stop, so when a dog is on point, even when you don’t know it, then the whistle is telling him to go. If the dog is on point and you don’t see him and you hit the e-collar, then you are correcting good behavior.
Some field trial regulars have told me the whistle should only mean go forward. They say that if it means anything else then someone else’s whistle might call your dog to them, or turn him a direction you don’t want him to go. For me, I still want to be able to turn my dog with a whistle because I think it has a better chance of reaching his ears on those long four and five hundred yard casts. But I can assure you one thing. I will not be blowing it unless I see him from now on... and know it is my dog that I am seeing I might add.