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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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by Ben O. Williams

Excerpt from:Bird Dog – The Instinctive Training Method
You don’t need to have seasoned dogs in the field to train a pup. If a pup has what it takes, he will learn the ropes himself. The only advantage a pup gains from working with older dogs in the field is that he will follow the other dogs and cover more ground, which accelerates the desire to hunt. A pup on its own is a little more reluctant to cover ground when it first starts, but that changes quickly with more time in the field.

I’m a firm believer in natural field training and in letting the dog use its natural ability to hunt. I once asked my friend, Thomas McGuane, what his secret was in training cutting horses. His reply went something like this: "Ben, I can only train a smart horse because it’s already in him what to do." It’s the same with bird dogs. I don’t train them; I just give them the opportunity to learn.”

A first-year pup will break on birds or chase them, but he soon learns that he can’t catch them and starts to train himself not to do this anymore. These are learning sessions for a young dog. A self-taught dog will point and learn to hold until the bird flushes. We don’t give enough credit to the dog for what he learns on his own.

My Brittany, Hershey, is the best all-around bird finder I have today. He made his first point on a wild rooster pheasant. I had been working dogs on young sharptails in a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) field when Hershey seemed more interested in being alone than being with the other dogs. I heard Hershey’s beeper collar broadcasting in the pointing mode off to my left, but I figured he had just stopped to smell something. I paid little attention to him until an older dog honored his point. This got my attention, and I hurried past the trailing dog and walked up to Hershey. He didn’t move. In the barrow pit next to the dirt road the dried grass was only inches high. I looked up and down the lane and saw nothing. Hershey still didn’t move. I walked down the slope, and a big rooster burst from underfoot.
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