Steadying and Honoring – The Finishing Touches - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Equipment and Facilities
For steadying, you need no additional equipment. However, for honoring, you should have at least one silhouette of a birddog on point. You will use this in combination with your remote release trap to induce your dog to honor as an extension of his stop-to-flush training.

Some dog supply catalogs offer these silhouettes for sale. A couple of companies make electronically operated silhouettes that lie flat on the ground (out of sight) but can be popped up with a remote transmitter. These are ideal, but they are also expensive. If you can afford one, buy it. If not, either buy a plain stake-into-the-ground model or cut one out of a piece of plywood with your trusty jigsaw. Rig it up so you can stick it into the ground easily. Then paint it to represent whatever breed you prefer.

For the final stages of steadying, you also need another steady dog. This is one of those training areas in which a small group is almost essential.

You can start steadying any time after your dog is staunch and reliable at stopping to flush. You can start teaching him to honor as soon as he is steady to wing and shot.

How long does it take? In one sense, it takes the rest of your bird-dog's life, for you will have to give him touch-up training occasionally throughout his active life. However, it shouldn't take too long to do the initial training. I can't give you a precise schedule, for that depends on your dog's temperament, your temperament, the frequency of your sessions, and so on.

Handling Techniques
I cover handling techniques as necessary in each training section below.

If you have done a thorough job of teaching your birddog to stop to flush, steadying him and teaching him to honor are almost trivial. You simply extend his stop-to-flush training to a couple of new situations: when you flush a bird he is pointing, and when another dog points a bird in his view.

Even so, this training does take time. As usual, you train your dog by rote drill, repeated frequently over a period of time in a variety of places.

However, remember that the entire process is conceptually much simpler than, say, dressing yourself in the morning. So hang in there and you will have a beautifully mannered birddog, one your buddies will rave about.

Steadying to Wing and Shot
Because of your stop-to-flush training, your birddog now understands that he should stop in his tracks every time he sees a wild-flushing bird go up in front of him. However, you discontinued pointing work while you taught him this.

Now, in steadying him, you simply teach him that he must also remain in place when a bird goes up in front of him-after he has pointed it. Before you discontinued pointing work while you taught the stop-to-flush, you allowed him to chase pointed birds when you flushed them. Naturally, he still thinks that is okay, so you must convince him otherwise-which you can now do without undue pressure.

I will offer separate instructions here for steadying to wing and shot. The two are identical, except for how you correct your dog when he breaks. Follow whichever applies to your situation, although you should read both.

Without the Electronic Collar: You should make the transfer from stopping to flush to steadiness as obvious to the dog as possible. You can do that more easily with your remote release trap and pigeons on your club's lease than you could with 10,000 acres of prime bird cover at saturation level with wild gamebirds.

Plant a bird (preferably a homer) in your remote release trap. Snap the Flexi-Lead or checkcord onto your birddog's collar, and lead him to the bird from the upwind side, where he cannot scent the bird. Do a normal stop-to-flush. Fine; now put him up while you plant another bird in the trap-without moving the trap. Now use the Flexi-Lead to bring him to the trap from the downwind side, where he can scent the bird. After he points, style him up, praise him and so forth, as you usually do.

Holding the Flexi-Lead or checkcord firmly, walk in front of your dog. Tell him to Whoa, but do it softly. Kick around quite a bit-put on a theatrical performance-as if you were trying to flush a tight-sitting bird. This should tense your dog up to make him at least think about breaking when the bird goes up. Now, release the bird with your remote control. If he remains in place, great! Praise him lavishly.

However, he may break. Fine, let him break! But, when he almost hits the end of the Flexi-Lead, command Whoa!, and brace yourself. When he hits the end of his rope, he will flip over and go splat. Say nothing, but haul him back and Whoa him where he should have remained. Style him up and praise him-that's right, praise him-for a few moments. Now heel him back to your vehicle and put him up while you plant another bird in the trap-again without moving the trap.

Repeat the entire procedure, stop-to-flush and all, right there until he remains in place as the pointed bird flies away. With all the preparation he has had, and with the sudden stop after his initial break, he should figure out what you want very quickly. He will also make the connection between his stop-to-flush training and what you are doing with him now.

In your next session, repeat the entire lesson, but with the release trap in a different location, even in a different field. Keep working this way until your dog remains reliably in place through the flush anywhere. Then you can dispense with the stop-to-flush warm-up.
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