I'll try to be short, but got a lot to say so not promising anything. I have a 8.5 mo old pudelpointer and she is absolutely fearless. With her attitude and prey drive through the roof, I felt strongly that she is the kind of dog that can get started early. Went through all the normal gun and bird training and all was looking great. She doesn't show a lot of interest in the training ducks, but I figured things will hopefully be different with the real deal. I took her out in mid September so she could get used to hunting imaginary West TX teal and also get some dove hunting in. All went great day one. No imaginary or real teal showed, but she got some exposure to doves and acted moderately birdy. On morning two something happened and I'm not certain what it was, but she showed signs of being nervous. Maybe it was because we had our backs to a CR that has almost zero traffic, but for whatever reason when I shouldered or swing the scattergun she got nervous. I stopped immediately to not push anything.
Over last next two months I've had a shotgun in the living room. Anytime I'm there I kept it in arm's reach and sometimes would pick it up. She took notice a lot at first and I completely ignored her. Just part of life, no biggie here. When feeding her I have been sitting next to her with it and even slapping the action open and closed and pretending to shoot the two Canvasback mounts on the wall. As of a few weeks ago she completely ignores it. I also ran through the gunshy CD just in case it was sound related, but it was very clear sound is NOT an issue. It is the sight of the gun swinging. Odd for sure, but I did what I thought I needed to do. I was certain at this point that all she needs to do is make the connection that shotgun + boom = dead bird.
My next step as I figured was to get her over birds. Let her flush and have someone 100 yards away or so shoot. Gradually get closer and if all goes well, actually shoot a bird over her flush. That process could take many days depending on how she reacted. Well, I couldn't get my hands on any pen raised quail so I had to go with plan B. Saturday I had my son on one end of the smaller pond and us on way down the bank a 100 yards or so. I got it setup so that he could only shoot straight out or the opposite way from us. The first two groups of dux came in, he shot, and not any response. It peaked her attention, but was obviously not afraid. Each group I would get a little closer. Luckily my normally dead eye son did not have his best shooting day so this dragged out long enough for us to end up 5 yards behind and to the side of him. He then downed a tank turd right in front of us. She went out to check it out, but the switch did not turn on. No biggie in my mind, my entire goal for the weekend was to get her used to the gun. We have time to work on the rest. At this point I'm already very happy!
Next group my son cripples a gadwall and it falls in some brush 75 yards away in some shin high brush. Perfect time to put the nose to use. Gave here the "dead" command, she got to work, and within 15 second had it. We've worked on this, but it was nice to see it in out in the field. On the way back she started getting birdy but I didn't think much of it and didn't pay a lot of attention to it. I'll be darned if she didn't come back with a spoonie my son peppered and neither of us saw drop. At that point I got out my shotgun (didn't load it) just to see how she would react. Paid no attention to it, good deal. On the last volley of the morning my son finally woke up and ended the morning with a triple on wigeon. One was crippled and made to the other side of the pond. I took Rosie over and it ended up in a big briar patch. This is the moment that the switch really turned on. She dove in head first and rooted it out. It made a break back to the pond with her right on its tail. Right as it started to dive, she followed with her head completely under water and came up with it. OK, this whole trip had already WAY exceeded my expectations. Mind you, I was only aiming to get her over the visual gun shyness.
Sunday my brother and a buddy of his came out and we hunted the big pond. He brought his old lab out, which was great, because I know that jealousy is a big motivator. First group of wigeon come in and four go down. She methodically went out and retrieved them all - I was blown away. As the hunt progressed she kept at it and figured it all out, ended with 18 retrieves. There were two times that really stood out. First, there was a crippled redhead drake 15 yards out in front of us that she didn't see go down. I cast her and she followed, but when she got 5' away it caught its second wind and started to haul butt. I wasn't sure what she was going to do... a lot of dogs will give it up and I wasn't going to put any pressure on her. We all sat there and watched her chase it down for 10 minutes. It ended up 135 yards away. I wasn't sure if she was going to be able to get it until I saw her coming back with it in a straight line back to us. On cloud nine! The other was when we went to the other side of a slough to get another cripple and one downed on that side. She found both quickly and we were on out way back when they shot at another group. I watched her looking their direction very intently. Uh oh, is she regressing? Heck no, she ran TOWARDS the shots looking for more work.
What a weekend. It went from gunshy to bonafide duck hound in a little over 24 hours. Life is good!
Since this post she's be on 5 or 6 more hunts including 3 from a couple of different boats and with another dog. She did great on big water and is learning fast. Gotten used to a stand and a vest.
When the dekes hit the water she knows what's going on, although she has to stare 'em down at daylight just to make sure they aren't the real deal. When she hears calling her game face is on. Funny how quick they pick it up.
Yesterday I was on big water and picking up dekes. After a while I noticed the dog next to me wasn't mine. Looked around and she was way out swimming towards a log that looked a lot like a duck.