bunn (bunn) wrote,

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Aaaaagh deer!

This morning's walk was through some nice quiet fields that I have permission to use. I was just congratulating myself on how well the hounds have been behaving lately, even though I've fallen out of the habit of always, always carrying treats, when Mollydog went on the alert.

'Ah, a rabbit' I think 'good, that will give them some exercise'. They are both completely hopeless at catching rabbits: the rabbits immediately hop into holes and the dogs then run in huge excited circles in the hope that this will somehow persuade them to come out again.

But no, it was not a rabbit. It was a roe deer. Disaster. For Az is not hopeless at catching roe deer: he is quite good at it. They are about the same size as him, so they can't get away by jumping over things he can't leap or diving down holes - and not quite as fast.

I called back Mollydog (Good dog Mollydog! Who says ex-racing greyhounds can't learn to come when called!) and put her on the lead - I don't know why because she emphatically wasn't the one I was worried about, but I suppose it gave an illusion of control.

Then I went after Az. I don't know if Az was actually trained to hunt, as he was a stray, but if he wasn't then he definitely has a double dose of the instincts that Mollydog is pretty much without. I don't know if that's just the difference of individuals, or if that is his whippet heritage coming out. He is an expert at grabbing and bringing down, and then he holds the poor animal on the floor and waits for the 'hunter' - ie me.

The worst thing this time was that every time the poor deer saw me approaching, she clearly thought I was coming with my other dog to finish her off. Every time I got close enough to grab Az, she made an enormous effort and leapt up and dragged him away with her, dangling from a leg.
I only managed to get hold of him in the end because he brought her down into a clump of bracken, and she couldn't see me running up.

She ran off and had no visible wounds - Az had no blood on his mouth at all either, so with a bit of luck she is just bruised and shocked. And luckily, he was not sliced to pieces by sharp little hooves either.

I must make more of an effort to make sure that the field is clear before Az goes offlead. I do have a muzzle for him, and I suppose that might be an option, but this happens so rarely, it catches me off guard every time. He's OK with pretty much everything else - he's even developed a reasonable understanding of sheep, and that you never, ever, ever. But it's not so hard to train to ignore sheep, cos there are lots of them about and mostly they don't run, so familiarisation on-lead is reasonably easy to do.

Roe deer we only see once in a blue moon, you never know they will be there - and they always run. It's just incredibly hard to see them until they move, by which time it's too late. Though I think they are still easier to see than the red deer - I'll never forget the time that we were in an empty, recently mown, flat field. We were there about 2-3 minutes, running about, then suddenly, right in the middle, a red deer about the size of a pony stands up, having apparently just materialised out of the blue! Luckily, Az doesn't stand a chance with red deer - they are too big and fast. It left the field by leaping an 8 foot hedge, leaving both the dogs standing there with 'how did he do that?' expressions.

I confess I haven't worked so hard training Az as I did with Mollydog, as Mollydog came out of kennels with almost no training, but Az was in a home and generally pretty well behaved already. But I'm not sure that recall from a running deer is even a realistic objective for a keen lurcher. :-(

Edit: have just realised this is a bit unclear about Az for those that don't know him. He was originally found as a stray running along a motorway in very poor condition, having been beaten and very fearful - possibly dumped by his working owners for being bad at rabbits? He was adopted by a couple who taught him his commands and worked on his nervousness. Unfortunately they live in a town and went out to work, and Az just doesn't handle towns or being left very well. So some years later they reluctantly decided he'd be happier elsewhere, and rehomed him to us. Most of the time he is no trouble here!

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