$64K Question - George Hickox - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Q: My dog doesn't show much interest in birds or hunting. When I take it to the field, it stays near me and doesn't search. Is there anything I can do to encourage the dog to hunt?

A: A dog learns by association. It needs first to find birds in the field or woods in order to know to hunt for them there. A trainer can jumpstart a dog by letting it see birds fly into a field, so it's a sound investment to purchase 15 to 20 quail purely to be released. With the dog on a leash or check cord, have an assistant lift the lid on a box of birds. The birds will scatter while the dog watches. Then release the dog and, with luck, its predacious instincts will take over and it will begin finding and chasing. After a few such sessions the dog should associate the field with birds and begin searching for game on its own. If not, it may be time to look for another dog.

Q: I read that when training a dog I should use the proper amount of correction if it disobeys a command. How do I determine the proper amount of correction?

A: Reading a dog properly comes more easily to some trainers than others. Experience is a great teacher, and pros are usually accomplished at reading dogs through their body language. This is also one of the main reasons I'm an advocate of training with electronic dog training collars. The trainer can readily determine the proper level of stimulation for the dog (see "Electronic Training," Sept/Oct '97). If the dog absolutely understands the command and doesn't obey, then correction is called for. If the dog persists with disobedience, then too little correction is being administered. It's important to remember, however, to err on the side of caution; too harsh a correction can cause irrevocable training problems.

Q: How do I get my dog to hunt close?

A: Range is a product of genetics and training. Once a dog learns that birds are "out there," it should be searching at every opportunity. After it is showing a desire to search, then it is time to develop the range at which you want the dog to hunt. Take the dog to a birdless field and let it run. When the dog can't see you, plant a bird nearby. Call the dog back. When it gets close it will find the bird. Repeat this drill each time you go afield. In no time the dog will realize that birds are not over the horizon but closer to you.

Q: Which make better gundogs-males or females?

A: A good dog is a good dog and a bad dog is a bad dog. Both males and females that come from strong genetics and are properly trained will bring home the bacon. Males will mark the gas grill and females will come into heat. I think the gender decision is simply a personal choice.

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