Steadying and Honoring – The Finishing Touches - Page 3

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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The rest should be obvious. Switch from homers to commies. Have your assistant shoot the birds, but keep your dog on the Flexi-Lead. If he remains steady, let him retrieve about half of them. If he breaks, use the Flexi-Lead to keep him from getting to the shot bird.

Don't remove the Flexi-Lead for several sessions after he has convinced you that he no longer needs it, and go back to it immediately any time he breaks.

With an Electronic Collar: Plant a bird (preferably a homer) in your remote release trap. Bring your dog near it on the upwind side where he cannot scent the bird. Release him and do a normal stop-to-flush drill. Now put him up again while you plant another bird in the trap, without moving the trap. Bring your dog near it on the downwind side, where he can scent the bird after running a little distance. Release him to find and point the bird. Style him up and praise him. Walk in front of him, telling him softly to Whoa. Kick around theatrically, pretending to flush the bird. Then release it. If he remains in place, great! Praise him.

If he breaks, do nothing until he has run a short distance. You do not want to zap him too close to where the bird was, at least at first. When he has gone a few yards past the trap, give him a series of momentary stimulations until he slows down and stops-or starts back to you. Take him back to where he should have remained, Whoa him there, and praise him. After a few moments, put him up while you plant another bird in the trap. Repeat the entire lesson, stop-to-flush and all, but start zapping him a bit sooner this time if he breaks. After a few such lessons, he will begin to see the light.

The rest is obvious. Repeat this lesson in each session, changing locations often. When he remains steady reliably, eliminate the preliminary stop-to-flush, switch from homers to commies, have your assistant shoot the birds, and let your dog retrieve about half of them.

Many birddogs have a natural inclination to honor. Others don't. Either way, if you plan to run your dog with another dog, either in hunting or in off-season dog games, you should train your dog to honor or back another dog's point-on sight, without a Whoa command.

You can do this easily by transferring your dog's stop-to-flush training into honoring. However, you should wait until you have also steadied him, so he will remain in place through the flush and retrieve by the other dog. To help him do this, you should give him a quiet Whoa before the flush.

In the initial work described below, you teach your dog to honor your silhouette of a dog on point. In the finishing touches described thereafter, you introduce other (real) dogs to the program.

Initial Work (With or Without an Electronic Collar): The only difference in this work for those with and those without electronic collars lies in how they correct the dog for making mistakes-which should be few here for dogs that are steady to wing and shot.

If you have an electronically operated silhouette, set it up (lying flat) anywhere in your training area. If you have a stake-out silhouette, set it up in a location in which your dog will not see it until he gets quite close to it. In either case, plant a bird (preferably a homer) in your remote release trap immediately in front of your silhouette.

Now snap your Flexi-Lead or checkcord on your dog and lead him around to where you set up your silhouette,-from the upwind direction, where he cannot scent the bird. If you have an electronic silhouette, pop it up and almost immediately release the bird. If you have a stake-out silhouette, release the bird almost as soon as your dog sees the silhouette. Either way, insist that he stop to flush (which he should do without help by now, for crying out loud).

If you have two or three silhouettes and release traps, you can set them all up and lead your dog from one to the other, giving him an honoring lesson at each. If you have only one set-up, you will have to put him up while you move your silhouette and release trap and reload the release trap.

After a few lessons, your dog should stop as soon as he sees the silhouette-because he expects the flush. When he stops this way, praise him to high heaven, for that is what you are trying to teach him. However, don't release the bird immediately when he stops automatically. Wait him out. He will eventually creep forward. Great! Release the bird. He will stop, thinking he somehow caused the flush. After enough lessons like this, he will come to believe that if he moves forward after seeing the silhouette, he will cause the bird to flush.

Gradually increase the distance between your dog and the silhouette, so that he honors from farther and farther away.

Finishing Touches: Your birddog honors the silhouette on sight at any reasonable distance. Now you should bring other dogs into your program so your dog will learn to honor them on sight and so learn to remain in place through the shot(s) and retrieve(s).

Do not ask your dog to honor the points of an unsteady dog, lest the other dog teach your dog (by example) to start breaking again. For this work, you need a fully steadied dog, preferably one with at least some experience in running braces. If you can't find one any other way, contact a pro and pay to train with him.

Start out simply. Get the other dog on point, then lead your dog to a position in which he can see the dog on point but cannot scent the bird. He should stop automatically. If he doesn't, stop him with the lead. Don't proceed until he stops automatically and reliably.

Next, with him honoring (on lead), say Whoa softly. Then have the other handler walk in and flush the bird. Have an assistant shoot it. Keep your dog in place-with the lead if necessary. The other handler should send his dog to retrieve, and you should insist that your dog remain in place. Praise him for doing so, even if you have had to help him remember with the lead.

After that, you should let your dog point and retrieve a bird of his own. In fact, you can rotate dogs between pointing and honoring for the entire session.

The rest should be obvious. Continue working with other dogs in various locations. Discontinue using the lead when your dog convinces you he no longer needs it.

When your dog is steady and honors, you have joined an elite group of trainers. You have a fully-broke birddog, one you can hunt anywhere and take pride in, one that will be the talk of the town in your circle of hunting buddies. Congratulations!
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