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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

Self Backing

by Ben O. Williams

Having your dog back or honor another dog’s point is important if you hunt with more than one dog or with other hunters and their dogs. Most bird dogs have a natural inclination to back that will quickly show itself, especially if a pup is run with a seasoned dog. If a dog points, it can learn to honor. Pointing and honoring really go hand and hand, but they originate from two different senses. Pointing is done mostly by scent (although some dogs learn to sight point) and is more instinctive than honoring, which is done by sight. The best way to help a dog develop its instinct to back is to expose it to other dogs on point.

The more exposure the better.
A dog that usually hunts alone will quickly learn to self-back when given the opportunity to hunt with other pointing dogs. Some dogs almost never have the chance to hunt with another dog, so don’t expect them to honor right away. Dogs that have hunted alone for years may never back another dog. But remember that dogs that do not hunt often with other dogs have already established a dominance order with their masters, and it’s important for

them to please their owners. Jealousy plays an important part in a dog wanting to please.

If you are hunting with someone and this happens, you can try several different things: separate and hunt different areas, take turns hunting each dog, or just let your hunting partner’s dog steal your dog’s point. When I hunt my dogs with other dogs that do not back and steal points, I don’t get uptight about it. Hunting with dogs is supposed to be fun, not a competition, and there is no need for a confrontation.

I have lots of dogs, and every one of them will back. That’s not to say that one or two of my dogs won’t steal a point. It’s fine with me if they move a short distance beyond the lead dog, as long as they don’t flush the birds. Most of my dogs that do creep are actually older and more experienced. Pups and younger dogs are more apt to hang back because they are unsure of where the birds are on the ground. Older dogs learn exactly where the birds are, even if they are moving. They learn to relocate their points accordingly, which often makes it look like they are stealing a point when they are actually skillfully working moving birds.

Don't discipline a dog that has not hunted with others for stealing a point. Give the dogs time and they will work it out themselves.
Photo by: Author
I have an experienced dog by the name of Clyde who challenges his peers for the number-two position when backing a point, although this is not out of dominance. I’m sure of this because Clyde is the least dominant dog in my kennels. It is just where he likes to be.

Do I discipline my dogs when they do steal a point? Yes, but only after the birds have flushed. I call the dog over and verbally scold him, and he knows exactly why he is being disciplined.

In a hunting situation, yelling to discipline a dog for not backing or for creeping can scare the birds. If a dog breaks on me and does not back, I let him go the first time. On the next point, I call the dog over and put a lead on him, walking toward the point while softly sweet-talking him, "eeezy, eeezy, eeezy."

They soon understand what I am telling them. It’s in my voice. They listen, react, and stop, watching the lead dog point.

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