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Discussion Starter #1
Had some fun today with Finn. We've been working on water confidence and water retrieval slowly since late April, and today we had some bold entries and and retrieves from shore. Prior to this I had been in the water with him, but he was more than ready to put some lessons together.
A nice confident entry.
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A good return.
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He's come a long way in the past two months. We're slowly putting all of the pictures together.
We'll start gun work in August, but for now we'll transition from bumpers to birds and see how he does.
He is not tethered to that orange cord. The cord is hooked to the dummy,so that I could reel it in, if he had blinked it. He did not blink it once.
 

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How do you encourage bold entries? Scout has never been shy about water–I still remember the first time I took her to a pond at 11 weeks and she went right in and retrieved a ball–but she's settled in to a slow, almost cautious entry which is markedly different from her behavior in the field.

I'm sure the personality of the dog plays a role and that I made mistakes in training, but I've been reflecting on how to do better with the next dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I spend a lot of time calling the dogs to me in the water.
I start out with puddles, flooded wetlands, and small streams. The depth of the water is barely up to their hocks, and at deepest touches mid rib. I am actually in the water with them, and they are usually on a leash, or short check cord. I play around, splash a bit, lure them in with a favorite toy. Whatever it takes. Every walk we took over the past few months included walking through water, mud, muck. They get confident pretty fast.
I took Finn on walks in a stream through an inland wetland estuary that kid of "SSSS's" it way through a marsh. In and out, up and down the banks, and straight down the middle of the streams. Again and again, until he had no issues going in and out of water by himself. We have to walk through a flooded section of road,maybe 18" deep and 50' across all the time and he would always wait for me. One day he didn't wait and ripped through.
For the swimming part I wade out into waist deep water and called him to me while he was on a check cord. I use a boat launch nearby because it is a nice, sandy, sloping bottom that inspires confidence in them. I would throw a dummy toward shore, and he would go get it and bring it back to me. I put my hand under his belly and make him engage the hind end.I don't let him out of the water though. His feet are always in water.
Once he gets confident with a few swim strokes, I stand in water he can stand in and thrown the dummy into water that he has to swim a few paddles to get the dummy. From here it progresses to further and further out.
Eventually, that 9 week old puppy that wouldn't step in a puddle in the driveway, is making water retrieves from land as in those pictures. Today he had to swim through lily pads, eel grass and algae to retrieve. It's a gradual progression of exposure.
It was probably months before he actually "swam" on his own.
The next step is to enter the water from a stationary platform, and return to a third spot,then eventually in and out of a boat.
i never, ever, force the dog into the water, and I also never pull them in when they're on the check cord, I just apply enough pressure so that they cannot get out, and it's easier to move toward me. Everything is a very happy sing song command and encouragement. Lots of animation on my part.
The biggest mistakes I've seen with hunting dogs, is folks just throwing them in the water, and pushing their head under water. That's kind of nuts to me. Sink or swim, is not a good philosophy for dogs, even Chessie's.This will most likely destroy any confidence a dog will have with water work.
Some Vizlsa's are just poor swimmers. I had one, that tried his heart out, and had no fear, but he was going to drown trying. He was awful in the water. Big heart, great attitude, willing, but just not suited for it. I used to put kids "water wings" on his belly section so he could play in the water. Still had to watch him like a hawk though.
I don't know how old Scout is, but it never hurts to go back to the beginning. Maybe invest in a floatation jacket for him. But, if he's going in, he's going in.In the end that's what really counts.
 

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Thanks so much! Yeah, she's 7 so I think I'd be pretty hard pressed to change her slow, methodical entries now. I'll certainly aim for more early exposure with future pups. I was in SC her first two years so we had the ocean or potentially gator and snake infested ponds, creeks, and marsh as our options. Not exactly best the conditions. :)

I'm looking forward to following Finn's progress!
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I'm not sure given those conditions, that I wouldn't have actually conditioned for water avoidance. No bird is worth losing your dog to an alligator!!The 'gator can have the birds.
A long time ago in a life far away, I was on a submarine on the Cooper River. The snakes would get in out line lockers and come up onto the hull of the boat under the missile tubes. I do remember those snakes. Thankfully there were none in the water in Scotland when I was over there.
Finn still has a long way to go with respect to the "complete retrieve". He's good at marking, good at retrieving, but returning to hand has been a struggle.
Finn likes to play keep away, which is infuriating! We work on it on the training table, and in the back yard, and it seems to go fairly well, but man was he a little butthead once he got back to shore with that bumper! The new sensation of the water just kind of overloaded his brain. He was on a different planet at times. Everytime a new bumper, object, or scenario, is presented, it's almost like were back at square one.
Finn is by no means perfect, or "pushbutton". He is a very "reactive", stubborn, willful, headstrong, and very forward, 9 month old puppy, and he can get himself into a mental place where he is just not paying any attention whatsoever. His potential though is sky high. We just have some growing up to do. ;)
His field work on birds is really, really pretty, and I'm fairly certain He would pass the AKC JH test right now. He is nowhere near ready for the NAVHDA Natural Abilities Test. I'm also certain the gun will not be an issue, so steady to wing and shot will go well, but until I get this retrieval to hand sorted, he'll be a little "stuck"!
 

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Thx for sharing this. I’ve wondered if it’s worth the trouble to try to develop water skills for my V. Having a,previous dog (Black Lab) who would “scuba dive” to retrieve objects/balls from 5 ft depths as well as dive with relish off Chicago piers into any surf, it’s painful for me to watch the V’s narrow paws trying to propel her in swimming. My German Shepard does better with his broader paws.

Yet I want all my dogs to feel good (and safe) in water. My Vizsla likes water but is somewhat uncomfortable swimming in water up over her belly, so the tips you’ve provided are helpful. At present I‘m still carrying her across very deep streams, not encouraging her to do more than she’s comfortable with. Pic of her cooling in small stream today attached. She enjoyed several shallow streams in the fields today! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Finn has big feet, and you'd be amazed at how wide they are when he he is swimming. Add in the web toes and they're pretty effective paddles. Some V's have "finer" feet, or "hare" feet and that probably inhibits their swimming as their foot just isn't wide enough, even with the webbing.
I've always considered it pretty important that they do swim. I don't really hunt ducks any longer, but I'll do coastal ducks and inland ponds, if a good opportunity presents itself,and the dog has to retrieve in water. I have also had upland birds land in water, and they too have to be retrieved.
It's a very good, safe, exercise for a dog when it's hot and humid out, Asking a dog to run fields is a lot of work for them, and you have to careful in hot humid conditions. Having them retrieve from water keeps them cooler, and there are enough breaks ,that they can recover. They also develop really broad chests and powerful shoulders. Their thigh mass increases and they get pretty "built" from swimming.
From a safety perspective, it's also important. I would never expect a Vizsla to out swim a lab, but if for some accidental reason they end up in the water, they gotta be comfortable enough to either get to shore, or swim to me to get them out.
I think you're probably a lot closer than you think to having her actually swimming and working in the water. You've already overcome the biggest mental obstacle with her, she's in the water on her own. Find a nice sandy bottom pond, and take her for a walk, on a leash, in the water. You get in the deeper water, maybe get a cheap pair of waders, and just walk he parallel to the shore, slowly moving her into deeper water, over time. I bet in less than a week, she'll be swimming with more confidence. Just don't pull her in, and as with a toddler, place your hand under her belly to get her rear end up,and those hind quarters engaged, when she finally begins to have to swim. Just a few strokes to start, and then let her swim to a point she can stand up.
I've looked at the flotation vests for dogs and they look like a worthwhile investment. I'm waiting for Finn to achieve his adult size first, as they are somewhat expensive. At 9 months old, Finn is currently at 48 lbs. and just over 24" to the withers. He'll probably fill out over the next few months and top out close to 60 lbs. He shouldn't get any taller.
Consider a vest for her. Nothing wrong her having a little bit of help. ;)
 

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Thx, for this advice and explanation about the “hare feet“. Mine DOES have those! I didn’t know there were broader,, more webbed ones in the breed. When I picked her up as a pup, I was about 1/2 way home when I noticed her rear paw pads and (like a true newbie) actually called the breeder (sent pic of paws) saying that I thought something was wrong with her feet!!

The breeder explained that‘s how their paws are...super cushy pads but narrow....”hare feet” like you say!

From now on I’m going to be checking out more V‘s paws to see these variations. I like her speed (she
flies in the field) but worry about her swimming. I do have a doggie life vest and will work more on the free-swimming! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Each dog will be different and have different abilities.
I had one Vizsla, Silkcut, that could swim with an otter. That boy's tail and butt was out of the water when he swam, and he had paws as big as the palms of my hand when they opened up. He was the best swimming Vizsla I've ever seen. He could have been trusted in deep water from a boat.
Finn is getting strong in the water. He went after some birds in an inland marsh yesterday. It took me a bit to get him back to shore. He was having a blast! I'm taking him to some ocean tidal marshes, and coves, next week, and we'll see how he handles salt water and tidal changes.
Put the vest on her and let her have fun. There's no point in making any dog struggle unnecessarily. Get in the water with her and some fun yourself. ;)
 
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