The secret of "Lark"

Text: Torsti Mäkinen, photo: Torsti Mäkinen & Maud Matsson

16/10 2010
At this occasion, october 16 when I took this photo, we were in the deep forest of the northern Jämtland and had a lunch break under some spruce trees. Lärka had got a coat to keep her warm during the break and suddenly when chewing on a sandwich I noticed from her expression that she was not a puppy any more. I grabbed Maud's camera and took a few shots as a reminder of this memorable day. Experience makes the gun-dog and Lärka has already got a lot of social-, environmental- and field experience.

Her real name is Lärka, the word for Lark in Swedish. I have not felt like writing about her until now when she is soon 1 year old. Unlike the late Sunnie, who had the label "Tough Broad" written in steel on her forehead already at her arrival to our house, Lärka has been a bit mysterious to us for a long time. We could not immediately put her in any particular group of mental dog-cases but we had to piece by piece let her characteristics show up as she grew older. Today I think the picture has cleared enough, so much so I dare to make some kind of judgement of her.

Her weakness is her softness. She is very soft, she must be the softest dog that we have had so far. In fact she is so soft so I have not yet dared to start the very demanding fetch training with her. I fear that the slightest mistake from me would spoil things for a long time ahead. In addition her lack of boldness in social situations makes her less entertaining than Foxy, Springer or Sunnie were. They dared to challenge me and from time to time made me laugh my pants of.

Having said that the rest that there is to tell about Lärka is only positive. Her softness makes her very easy to foster, train and handle. This autumn, that is her first, she has been a number of times to the Swedish and Norwegian mountains and there shown both game finding ability, speed and style and stamina. In that respect she is very much like Foxy, that she is related to as can be seen from their pedigrees. She also ranges rather wide, but not as wide as Foxy did and for the time being she chases anything on four legs, just like Foxy did.

16/10 2010
In the heavy terrain in the very old forest of Jämtland with the wet moors shattered all over the terrain she showed excellent stamina for her age. Her ranging in forest is far too wide but then again, as long as she do not understand the interplay between the dog, the bird and the handler/gun, she can not be blamed for that. First she must understand the sequence of happenings that must take place before the bird drops dead from the air, first then we can see if she is a self-hunter or a co-operative bird-dog.

However, a very important difference to Foxy is that when something like a hare has pulled away with Lärka she can be called back with a sharp blow from the whistle, even from a long distance. She most often wears a GPS collar in forest and I have called her back from 400 meters in forest terrain while she has been chasing hare, fox, deer or whatever. It is quite amazing to see on the hand unit how she increases the distance in cover and then always after the first whistle signal stops to listen and after another signal starts to come back to me. Foxy could not have cared less at that early age and did not came back until she was finished with whatever she was doing.

An other thing in common with Foxy is her sociable characteristic. She is very happy with anyone who happens to come her way, may it be man or beast. She can become very lively at times in different situations but if her effort to start some action do not become rewarded in a reasonable time, she just, despite of her young age, lays down and relaxes completely, often to folks great surprise.

Lärka has been very shy to any strange sounds like the vacuum cleaner, power tools and the noise from the diesel engine in my pick-up, but she has by time got used to them all. You may think that this shyness to sounds would also include gunfire. Surprise, surprise! That has never been the case! To our great amazement she became used to gunfire even before we actually started to gun-train her. Not even when the Swedish navy had an exercise on the sea a few hundred meters from our house did she show nothing more than a calm curiosity for the inferior noise they made with their canons and machine guns. We learned a long time ago at the Swedish Dog Training Centre that gun shyness must be separated from any other mental characteristic and Lärka is a living proof of that statement.

18 october 2010
Sitting on the top of a mountain widens your view, even when you are a dog. I have always wondered what goes on in the head of a dog in this situation but I have no certain answer. I like to think that when Foxy looked beyond the snow covered mountains in the horizon she probably said to herself: And all this is mine! And when Springer was flying in a chopper over the mountains and looked out I am sure she said: Wow!

Her most remarkable strength is her very strong will to overcome her own fear. It is like that she knows that she is mentally a small dog with only a tiny portion of courage. It seems like she has decided to not to let that hamper her, but to make a great living anyway and she has shown a strong ability to work on her fears in new situations and wipe away her anxiety in a way that I have not seen in a dog before.....and I have had a closer look on more than a few dogs, believe me!

23 oct 2010
The point is an innate behaviour and is expected from ordinary bird dogs. The best way to train the initial point is to not train it at all, if possible. Since our house is situated in the bush we have a natural source of songbirds most part of the year. The puppy can chase and point them all day long if she wishes and is learning valuable basic things about birds that way. During the years to come Lärka will constantly learn more and more about game birds and when she is around 6 - 7 - 8 years old we might give her the title PH (professional hunter), that we gave Briz for example. Time will tell what happens.

So you learn something new from every dog and Lärka has already taught me a valuable lesson. This coming winter we are expecting a Sunnie 2 and Lärka will then have the company from a younger dog that she so eagerly is waiting for and need. We have by our behaviour tried to strengthen her self-confidence and succeeded with it to some degree. When she gets a puppy to rule over she will feel even greater and grow mentally to become a GRAND dog!

22 october 2010

© Text: Torsti Mäkinen, photo: Torsti Mäkinen & Maud Matsson