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August 23, 2013

Outdoors: Training An Upland Bird Dog

I have trained dogs all of my life. Like children, each and every one of them has been different. To get a dog to respond to you, you first have to know what it is you want the dog to do, truly understand the temperament of your dog, and then apply consistent, gentle, firm, and loving training over a long period of time.

Bird dogs, by their nature, want to please their owner. They want to get out of the house or kennel and run and play. If you make this time together fun, they will eagerly await your approach every day. You can use fear to train a dog. You can get a dog to obey, but if you want a dog that has joy in its step when you enter the woods, training with positive re-enforcement is the key.

An upland bird dog puppy will point naturally at about six weeks old or less. Take a bird wing and tie it to a line of about eight feet long. Attach this line to the end of a fishing rod. Put the puppy on the lawn and drop the wing about six feet in front of him. The minute he notices it, give the wing a twitch so the puppy sees the movement. Nine times out of ten he will simply stop and point. Learning moment.

When the puppy points give him praise and soft touches. He learns immediately that you really like his reaction to the stimulus. Do not make him point long, but re-enforce the action every time he does it. With a puppy their attention span can be short. Do not overdue because it will stop being fun. But, present the training opportunity every day.

There are three things you initially want a young hunting dog to do. The first is to stop. The second is to hold. The third is to go away. You will notice I did not mention the words come or retrieve. Those will be worked on later.

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