Contact Us    Help    Site Map    About Us   

The fickle puppy

My 8 month old male vizsla was coming along very well but has seemed to regress in one area. When he was seven months old I took him on his first dove hunt, he made upwards of twenty retrieves in his first morning and could not have had more drive. We were in a spot where thousands of birds were flying over us and there many hunters and gun shots and confusion to say the least. But he handled it fine and I was estatic with his performance. I then took him pheasant hunting over the next four days all on planted birds. I put on a pheasant hunt at my familys ranch and we planted birds in the morning and evening for four days, he did great. However, in the beginning (first three hunts) he was mellow, by my side, etc...Once he figured out that when we got into the field there were birds awaiting his nose (after the first three hunts) he turned into a complete animal! He hunted furiously, tracking running birds, holding staunch points, etc...It was all I could do to control him, keep him out of my buddies fields, and so on...Then I did not hunt him for a month, and we just started going out when quail season opened. I have hunted him on quail four days and he is nothing like he was on the pheasants the month before. He is hunting, using his nose etc...but he does not seem to have the drive that he had before. He never stops hunting but he hunts at a steady, medium speed for as long as we hunt. I thought that this was just because he was not used to quail so I hunted on pheasants yesterday and got practically the same results.

At the pheasant hunt we were hunting a field that was side-by side- with eight others, all with hunters and dogs in them. The guy next to me had the same whistle command for come and one time he (the guy) blew his whistle and my dog came to me (confused). I go the feeling that he was a little confused with all the commotion. Right off the bat he pointed a cock and I flushed it and shot it and he retrieved it. I thought for sure this would show him what he was there for and be would turn into the "animal" he once was, but he did not "turn on" like on the earlier pheasant hunts.

I raised him on planted pigeons, and he has displayed this kind of behavior before, when he thought for sure that I had just planted the pigeons, he turned into an "animal" and would ravage the field until he found the birds. Other times if I did not go through a certain set of routines that he obviously thought constituted birds in the field then he would display this mellow hunting performance. It almost seems that there is a correlation between the two senarios which may explain his behavior lately.

My questions are: What are the factors that may be causing his split personality? What is the effect, if any, of putting him on several different types of birds within a short period of time? Is this typical behavior for a puppy? What are some techniques that I may use to ensure his energy level and desire are at maximum when I take him into the field? Any other suggestions that you may feel relevant to this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thankyou for your time and consideration.


Dear Jdogg:

First off is sounds like you have a fine pup with lots of potential. But don't forget he's only a pup. The "confusion" you write about is enough to rattle even a well trained veteran. On your pheasant shoot your pup hunted close and apparently under control for the first few hunts. Then on the last day he "hunted furiously" and [this is the key] you had to "control him." When he was hunting close you probably encouraged him to range out and praised him. Then when he got fired up you had to at the very least call him several times to get him in. In his mind he may think he is expected to stay close to you.

Or I could be totally off base and he may just be pacing himself so he can hunt all day.

Here in what I suggest.

  1. Take away as much of the confusion as possible. Hunt him alone or with one friend you can trust not to shoot birds your dog doesn't handle correctly.

  2. Let him hunt. Avoid as many commands as possible.

  3. Don't let him get tired. Even real hard chargers will learn in a hurry to pace themselves. At 8 months I would avoid having him down for more than an hour. By the same token if you are after a "hunts all day with you" type hunting dog you can keep him down a little longer. But I'd still keep it under two hours.

  4. Try to make your hunting and training as consistent as possible. I hope when you said you "didn't hunt him for a month" that did not include no fun runs and yard work. At the very least take him for 15 minute runs two or three times a week.

  5. HAVE FUN WITH HIM! He wont ever be 8 months old again.

Now on to your questions.

I don't think he has a split personality. He is just trying to find out what his personality is.

Puppies are not typical. They all have different inherited and learned characteristics. I suspect that your pup will settle into a range and speed that he is comfortable with. And there is not a lot you can do about it.

Make sure he is healthy, happy and on the best quality dry dog food you can find and he will have lots of energy.

Good luck and good hunting.
Joe Riches

<< Back to Q&A

follow us on: