Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
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|When you take your pup for walks in the woods, expose the adolescent to new areas. And don't constantly talk to the pup if you prefer a close worker. Handlers who engage in nonstop encouragement ("Hunt 'em up, find the bird, c'mon boy, come around, over here, where's the bird?") may do so with the intent of keeping the dog close--however, the litany actually enables the dog to range farther out, always knowing the where-abouts of the handler and thus not feeling it necessary to check back. When you do say something, it should have meaning and the dog will respond better. |
A word of caution: You may have heard the advice to occasionally hide on your youngster in the woods. The theory is that because the puppy is not yet secure, it will stay closer to you once it becomes afraid of being alone. Well, it probably will. However, this ploy will not build hunting desire, confidence or trust-rather timidity.
A good alternative is to carry a bird in your coat or game bag. When the pup gets too far, toss the bird out in front of you without the dog seeing it. When the pup returns it will find the bird. After a few repetitions of this game, the pup will start catching on that birds are found closer to you. This positive training technique encourages the dog to check back without undermining confidence or setting up a training "fight."
Effective patterning and use of the wind, will result in more bird finds as well as more desirable range. If you live in an area ribboned with tote roads, plant birds alternately right and left every 20 yards-about 10 or 15 yards into the woods on each side. Then run the pup up the road, into the wind. Encourage the young dog to get into the cover to find each pot of gold. You may have to walk into the cover with the pup on the first few outings, but eventually the dog will learn that by running left and right instead of straight out and back it will find birds. This "windshield-wiper" pattern will result in few holes where a bird might escape detection.
A dog hunting out of range is often out of control. If it is a pointing dog, quite often it will not hold point reliably. If it is a flushing or retrieving dog, odds are it is not steady to flush or shot. If your dog is out of control in the yard, it's unrealistic to think it will be in control in the field. Make control a lifestyle for your dog. Demand the pup waits before you give the release command for it to come out of the kennel. Make the dog whoa, hup or sit before eating dinner. Walk the dog at heel and stop it before releasing it at home and in the field. Often a remedial yard-training session-or five-will do wonders to establish control.
The proper training of a bragging-rights shooting dog begins with good genetics and includes plenty of time and effort. But it will all be worth it when you're holding that first hard-earned bird in one hand and petting your dog with the other.
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