A note from her owner...
Just wanted to give you and TDK Kennel a big "thumbs up" for doing the "Thunder x Juice" pairing for a 4th time; and as a result, allowing Lorna and I the opportunity to get one of the female pups. To say the the communication prior to us making our selection was nothing short of fantastic, is an understatement. Your kennel is definitely top of the line.
And a special thanks goes out for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take pictures of the pups at various stages of growth (weeks 1 thru week 6); and filling us in on each pup's personalities as they developed along that time span. It played a big part in our decision to pick Kenzie, as we only had an evening and following morning to spend time with the litter; before making a selection and heading back to Flagstaff (AZ), which we call home.
We began her training immediately on day 49, the very same day we picked her; starting with "the walk" (see Julie Knutson's book - Training the Pointing Labrador) and introducing a "fun bumper" to her as you suggested. When we arrived home, we added in an occasional hidden pheasant wing to reaffirm that special upland smell (as we don't exactly live in upland bird country in the mountains around Flagstaff - 7000 ft elevation); and at the same time introduced a small quartering drill, where we'd turn 90 degrees to her travel while giving out a single note whistle and subsequent "voice command of "hup".
We did "the walk" religiously through 5 months of age until we paired Kenzie up with our other two adult labs, Sage (flusher) and Dakota (pointer) on one big walk every morning. We used the adult dogs as "live" examples of how to to "sit" (meaning keeping your butt on the ground until commanded to be released) and how to promptly "return" to the handler on command with a 2-note whistle, the tone button on the Tritronic E-Collar or the voice command "come". Using them as live examples - worked like a charm.
We also took her along on our annual pheasant hunts to North Dakota and Nebraska at a young age (3 & 4 months) upon your recommendation; to get her into the upland field, introduce her to travel and to actual upland bird/habitat smells. It's here that we introduced her to pheasants - doing daily "dead bird" drills.
At 4 1/2 months of age we began her actual "live bird" training at your recommendation, testing to see her level of "prey drive" and at the same time trying to bring out the "natural point" in her. To do this, we used 3 live chukars as you suggested and presented each of them to her as singles - while in the field doing quartering type drills. To begin the process, both of the first chukar's primary flight feathers were clipped and the bird was held out of sight while we walked, and then, when the pup was zigging and about to zag, we tossed the bird in front of the pup. It was evident from the very first bird that her prey drive was in high gear; as she chased the chukar down and caught it in no time flat. She was then allowed to parade around (proud as a peacock) for a brief period of time; before given the command to "fetch it up" and turn over the bird, which she promptly did. The process was exactly the same with the 2nd chukar - outside of having just one of the wings primary flight feathers pruned in order to make the chase harder and at the same time increase the intensity of the prey drive reaction. The outcome, exactly the same as the first as she intently chased and caught the bird. The third and final chukar was then introduced without any primary flight feathers being cut and was set lightly in the field. Kenzie was then allowed to use the wind to find the bird's scent cone to track it down. We had hoped for an immediate point, but her prey drive was too intense and she moved in hard and flushed the chukar. She was then allowed to chase the bird she couldn't catch with the goal of teaching her that chasing was futile and a waste of time; that in order to get close and "experience" the bird - she'd have to come to a point, have the bird flushed and then be rewarded with a retrieve.
A week later and almost at 5 months of age, we began more formal bird training at the High Desert Hunt Club for 7 consecutive weekends; where we had access to a a 10 acre maise field with good cover and countless numbers of birds (chukars) at our disposal. Every weekend then, we'd set 2 chukars very lightly (each as a single) over the course of 3 different training sessions (morning/evening/following morning) for a total of 6 birds.
Kenzie was then allowed to use the wind and the birds scent cone to track each bird down while working the maise field. The first chukar resulted in a flush and chase. The second the same, and so on and so on, until bird #19 - when a switch flipped and the light came on and there was THE POINT!
We incorporated a check cord at that stage upon your recommendation - so as not to allow her to catch any more birds; and it worked perfectly, as she quartered the field repeatedly as if it wasn't even attached.
Birds #16 - 24 were done in that fashion and then we incorporated your suggestion of daily "whoa or hold" training drills to firm up the point. I truly believe the drills were a tremendous help as by bird #25; the check cord was put aside and she has been pointing birds without one ever since (32 by count now).
Both my wife and I simply CANNOT wait to get her into the upland field this coming fall and the first scheduled pheasant hunt in North Dakota; as well as the subsequent ones in South Dakota and Nebraska throughout November and December.
Kenzie is definately a "keeper" - as at 6 months of age she: (1) Has the "it factor" - she flat out LIVES to hunt; (2) Quarters a field and listens to commands well; (3) Has a very good nose and knows how to use the wind to track down a bird's scent cone; (4) Comes in to a bird under control - slowing down as she draws closer and comes a point; (5) Can be shot over without any problems; (6) Marks pretty darn good and has not come back without the bird yet; (6) And has retrieved each bird to hand.
The journey so far has been nothing short of awesome and I only expect it to get better and better in the coming years; as we share upland field after upland field, and more and more birds.
To borrow a phrase from the movie "The Last Samurai", Kenzie is...................PERFECT.
Thanks again for making it happen.
Scott and Lorna Rischmueller