Chief's Nubbin' Ridge Runner
- Nubbin' -
Nubbin' has sired / grandsired many outstanding companion hunting bird dogs as well as numerous field (hunting) titled Champion dogs)
Easy to understand Bird dog training for DIY bird dog / gun dog / pointing dog trainers. 'How to train your bird dog'. Works for all pointing breeds!
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Last Updated: 07/14/2014
Tips to the Point ™
Free pointing bird dog training tips & Techniques for do it yourself pointing bird dog trainers.
School your own bird dog on: how to whoa, how to heel, how to back / honor, how to retrieve, how to come here, how to sound condition! Video clips & tips in a training manual format. Scroll down for Tips from Dave Jones, professional Brittany pointing dog trainer!
We feed and recommend Pro Plan Adult and Puppy formula's!
We train exclusively with
D.T. Systems Products!
WANT TO EXPLORE OTHER TECHNIQUES FROM OTHER AUTHORS/TRAINERS? Click for Recommended Gundog Training Books and Videos
07/14/2014 02:34 PM
Updated 07/14/2014 02:34 PM
Before clicking links, Where do I start with my pup / dog?
"First, if you have a Pup or Untrained older dog, always start with "8 weeks to 8 months". After your dog 'graduates' from that time frame, you will proceed to yard work which is summarized in the article "Yard Working Summary". The yard working summary is an overview of yard work that I teach in my Phase I program (started dog training) though what is written here is just one approach of many approaches I use based on the personality of the pup." You can actually train your dog to hunt using the following pointing bird dog instructions as a sort of manual along with video tips / clips. You really can teach your dog how to whoa, how to retrieve, how to heel, how to back - honor, how to come here. Be positive and have fun!
WANT TO EXPLORE OTHER TECHNIQUES FROM OTHER AUTHORS/TRAINERS? Click for Recommended Gundog Training Books and Videos
In both of the above mentioned articles you will encounter references and links to other articles. Read those articles as you progress so it all makes sense.
Age 8 weeks to 8 months tm
Brittany pups Age 8 weeks to 8 months tmVideo
Summary of How to teach a bird dog yard / field work
How to teach Whoa!
How to teach heel
Video - pics
Understanding electronic dog training collars stimulation Thresholds, e-collar overstepping™ and impedance phenomenon
Like what you see, 'like it' so others may enjoy it too!
Brittanys 8 weeks to 8 months
Stuff you should have done already
First, the breeder should have done their work with the pups before delivery to the owner. Without digressing too far about the breeder responsibilities, we'll just say here that the breeder should have researched and planned a solid match between sire/dam (not just arbitrarily put two dogs together with no bloodline consideration), socialized the pups, learned their personalities, given vaccinations, done scent imprinting, early 'super dog' stimulation, and tested/enhanced their birdiness with wings and live birds.
More on breeder ethics can be found on our puppy page FAQ's.
Here are a couple pics of our 7 week old pups pointing a wing. Click the photos to enlarge.
Click for a brief movie showing these 2 pups pointing a wing on a string at exactly 7 weeks old (86K)(open with windows media player)
Did you notice that even at this young age they already (naturally) have their tails and heads up (except for looking down at the wing, sight pointing)? Our pups will start chasing wings and sight pointing soon after they start to walk well. If your pup doesn't show signs of birdiness at an early age, however, do not be discouraged as some mature later than others. I will say (with a bit of pride) that it is normal for our pups to start pointing early.
When you receive your new pup, it is your responsibility to develop the pup properly. We feel that the way a pup turns out is 90 percent breeding and 50 percent environment (Yes, I know the math doesn't add up but we are emphasizing the importance of both).
The first thing you should do when you bring pup home is give it tons of unconditional love and don't introduce forced formal bird dog training yet.
I know that I say that "if you have to have a book" try Wolters' Gun Dog, and that Wolters wants you to start them early however, I don't necessarily agree with all of Wolters' time lines and philosophies. It is a very good basic book for beginners and I recommend it because I used it to train my first Brittany decades ago however, please read others too. Some of Wolters suggestions are a bit archaic because it is an old book but then some techniques just don't change and are timeless. The late Wolters wrote his book many years ago and training philosophies have developed a good bit since then. I suspect that if he were alive today, he might just revise a few things.
Wolters recommends picking on the 49th day. Many others believe in this philosophy. While I will submit to this philosophy if adoptive families desire it, I personally believe there is some degree of danger in doing this. First, the seventh week is their 'fear' week. Anything that happens to them that is bad will likely be imprinted on them for life. Also, socialization with the 'pack' is important during that week. We recommend picking up your pup around the 8th week. For those of you who want the pup on the 49th day, go for it, but proceed carefully. If your breeder offers you your pup prior to the 49th day, that's just absurd and unethical (except in some special sort of circumstances of course).
For those of you who must have something engraved in stone in the form of a book or video, beware what authors write in their training books/videos. Just because someone is published does not make it the best way for your puppy, including me! There are authors out there who have less bird dog experience than you but because they are a 'writer' they manage to produce a book. It takes money to produce a book and as many of you know, there are a lot published dog trainers whose primary qualification is having money to produce a book or video.
I prefer my own methods but I understand if you question what you read here on the internet. You do have to be careful. Continue to scroll down to the next part.
Limit 'lessons' to 10 minutes or less
- In the home, teach 'no' and be loving to your pup. Teach it manners. House manners generally won't affect field learning unless you are too harsh. ALL pups must learn their place in your pack! Dogs are not people and retain their wild 'pack order' instincts. If your pup is doing things it shouldn't, it's because you, the pack leader, are allowing it!
- Take your pup afield in cover that is consistent with his size. An 8 to 12 week old pup will enjoy cover that is short and easy to traverse. I like cover that is less than half the pups size with no thorns or other unpleasant obstacles. Let pup explore without your interference (in a safe area). This means keep your mouth closed and whistle in pocket to let pup explore freely.
- Let your pup chase the wing on a string to check birdiness, however, don't expect it teach your pup to point as it only teaches sight pointing. In fact, after your pup gets good at sight point and you continue the 'lessons', most pups will revert and begin chasing again. Why? They have become bored and chasing is fun! I can't tell you the number of folks who call or write and say something like "What is wrong with my pup? It stopped pointing the wing!" LOL, well, like I said, its a game to them. It has nothing to do with using intelligence, nose and predatory skill for a bird that will fly far away from their grasp. It's not about the kill or the taste of a shot game bird. It simply is lacking in everything they will need to become a successful bird dog.
- Let your pup find wild birds if you have some nearby. If not, use some strong flying pigeons hidden in native grasses. A pigeon hobbled with an ordinary garden hose works ok but don't let pup catch it on the ground! Exposure to live birds in a non-threatening way is important. Don't let a live bird peck, flap, or scratch your pup! Please see Bird Intro/Prevent launcher shyness! Don't let your dog become a victim of technology! I also like to put birds in a 'dog proof cage' so that the puppies can play with the birds through the wire cage IN THE YARD, not when hunting. This builds boldness and birdiness. Remember, we're talking about 2 to 3 months of age.
- Encourage retrieving from day 1! My experience has proven that it does NOT harm steadiness training later. But teach it in a nice way! Frozen quail work great. They are fairly small, hard (which discourages chewing), and smell good to pup (put the frozen quail up when it starts to thaw-a good indicator that you have played long enough!). Hard toys that pup can't chew are also good when teaching the retrieve. (See my section on developing the natural retrieve.)
- If you wait to develop the natural retrieve, it might not be there when you're ready so develop the natural retrieve from the very first day! If pup is retrieving, let pup run to it mouth it, then take it from pup NICELY with NO visible/audible concern/anger. Natural retrievers retrieve because it is fun to them. The minute you make it 'not fun' the pup will quit retrieving altogether which means you'll then need to put your pup through a trained retrieve program that can costs hundreds of dollars.
- Water retrieve introduction. Take your puppy to a pond or lake (in the summer when it's hot) and wade out into shallow water (an inch deep or so). Encourage pup to come with you but don't force it. Let pup make a few retrieves on dry land adjacent to the water. If pup is bold about going into the water then introduce water retrieves in shallow water about one inch deep. If pup is timid, try fun activities near the waters edge that the pup normally finds exciting such as a wing on a string. A wing on a string may entice pup to wade into very shallow water. If pup won't go into the water and the water is clean, you may encourage pup to drink from the waters edge instead of from his bowl (some water sources are unsanitary so check with local officials). Also, taking along another dog that enjoys swimming can be helpful. If you bring along another dog that likes the water and retrieving, try to make your pup jealous by playing fetch at the waters edge with the dog that enjoys it. If your pup is already interested in live birds and is bold, you can hobble a quail and place into the water. Just simulate the 'kill' with a toy cap gun if pup is sound conditioned to the toy cap gun. The movement of the quail in the water will often entice the puppy to investigate.
- Show your pup that you're not afraid to go where you expect it to go. Learning through example. Make sure the cover is not too thick for pup. (The cover should be safe, sticker free and not over pups head.) I like the measure of less than 1/2 pups height.
-Show pup how to walk under a strand of barbed wire. Believe it or not, the first barbed wire fence your pup encounters will often be afield on a hunt and he will be reluctant or unsure of how to cross if you have not gone over this.
- Teach come, but do it in a nice way at this age! If you teach it harshly, you may end up with a dog that hunts on top of your feet.
- Introduce pup to ordinary collars by making sure it wears one all the time.
- Tie pup to a safe dog tie out in the shade on a beautiful day with plenty of fresh water and food. Leave pup there for a short period (supervise at a distance using your peripheral vision or hiding and watching*) so that it learns that you have nothing to do with the restraint created by the tie-out. Ignore his wailing and flailing and most important, don't talk to him or look directly at him when he is figuring this out. He must learn to be restrained about the neck and that you are not the 'cause' of his restraint for now. This is important because you will later handle pup on a leash and check cord.
* It has been proven that dogs are associative when the trainer is looking them in the eye, even at a distance. For example: There are 4 folks standing close side-by-side with a tasty treat in their hands. One person is blind folded, one person simply has their eyes closed, one person has their eyes open but are looking away from the dog and the fourth person is looking directly at the dog. The humans say nothing while holding the treat for the dog. The dog almost always takes the treat from the person looking directly at it.
- Tie pup out as above and, after it accepts being tied out (which takes several lessons over several days), have someone toss strong flying pigeons that will fly over pups head from a hidden location. This builds birdiness and helps teach pup to indirectly accept the non-threatening 'checking' sensation (without directly associating it with you). Don't use birds that will fly to the pup and risk being caught! LATER, when you begin his yard work at about 8 months, your pup will benefit because he learned to track flying game birds in the air thus he will naturally look upward on his first flushes afield. A pup not conditioned to track flying birds will often NOT see their first birds found in cover especially if using a remote launcher. Often the launcher is so strong that the birds fly up and are gone before pup can figure out what happened thus leaving the pup staring in the direction of the empty launcher. That's not good. He needs to associate his presence and movement with game escaping.
- If you have more than one dog, make yourself a 'chain gang' and tie all your dogs to the chain gang so that pup learns checking caused by other dogs. During that time, you should train older more advanced dogs in full view of the chain gang. The chain gang dogs will get excited while watching other dogs get trained. This applies even more 'checking' to the pup as well as getting pup excited through 'transference'. Transference is a very old technique whereby the excitement of one dog excites another. Hounds learn this way when they are put in a pack of experienced dogs that are running a deer. The young hound gets excited by the older experienced hounds.
- If pup is clearly more advanced and mature than most, you MUST resist temptation to use pressure to train. If pup is naturally pointing and sound conditioned, kill some birds over it. Remember what I said above: If pup is retrieving, let pup run to it mouth it, then take it from pup NICELY with NO visible/audible concern/anger. Natural retrievers retrieve because it is fun to them. The minute you make it 'not fun' the pup will quit retrieving altogether which means you'll then need to put your pup through a trained retrieve program that can costs hundreds of dollars.
- If pup is very bold and independent, you should hook a short check cord to its collar to drag around so that pup gets use to it (helps in later training). Other pups with short cords are helpful as they will play with each others cord. This helps your pup understand checking in a non-threatening way.
- You may teach sit if you just have to, but do so with NO pressure. Simply using an angry tone or pushing down the hips is force. Teaching sit through force can cause the dog to have training delays when teaching whoa later on. We like to use Bil-Jac or Hollywood Stars brands liver treats when teaching with treats. Folks bring me their older pups for my phase I program who are pleased with their ability to teach sit. The problem is that when they begin to learn whoa they instead sit. Why? Because this is their default submissive posture taught through force. This is frustrating and causes training delays.
- Speaking of sit, teach the puppy tricks with the use of treats too. I believe that it helps to develop your dog's thought processes and makes later training much easier.
- PROPERLY Sound condition the young pup as soon as it is birdy. See my section on sound conditioning.
- Teach 'no' (or 'aaaaa' like the 'a' in tack). This is important. You will have to use some mild force with this command to make pup understand. Don't use too much. I prefer "aaaaat" in a low tone as it is something young pups naturally respond to as it sounds like a low growl. Also, "aaaaat" does not sound like 'whoa' which can also confuse the pup.
USE the "Catch 'em in the act rule" FOR ALL TRAINING WHICH IS: If you can't get to the dog when it is committing the offending act forget it and try to catch pup committing the same offense next time so you can actually make your point. Same thing with praise. You must praise while they are in the act to imprint positive rewards. Vibration collars are PERFECT for this.
Young pups sometimes don't remember what they did after a few seconds so anything more would only serve to confuse them. The key is to catch them in the act to correct!
- Teach the pup that YOU AND YOUR FAMILY are the pack leaders. If your dog is alpha dominant, this may take a little work but it is a must!
- Potty training. We have methods here on our website. See our FAQ's
- Provide chew toys and treats for the teething pup to direct his teething energy at something that's ok to chew. Don't let pup chew things that are inappropriate as it will turn into a bad habit.
- Teach pup not to jump up on you now while it is small. A 40 pound bounding Brittany up against a 25 pound human toddler is not cute. Be consistent, this means everyone in your family.
- Decide now if jumping up on furniture is appropriate or not. Be consistent. It's all of you in the family or none. Example: Dad can't be the enforcer while the kids secretly let the dog up on the furniture. This is true for all types of training in which the dog is expected to obey everyone.
- Teach the kids how to appropriately handle a dog. Kids are not born knowing how to interact dogs and vice versa!
- Never leave a young child unattended with a young pup, too much can go wrong.
- Remember, letting your pup run freely on outdoor jaunts afield is the precursor to the pup learning to hunt boldly and independently. To develop independence, take the pup afield, in good cover as described at the beginning of these tips, and let your pup run freely - Keep your mouth shut and leave your whistle in your pocket (Do this activity in a safe area please and remember, we are currently speaking of pups 8 weeks to 3 months)!
-If you keep talking to pup and encouraging pup to stay close afield, then close is what you'll get when pup is finally trained. If you want this, fine. My feeling is that pup is suppose to save me some walking distance by doing all the running and finding. The closer pup is to you, the more YOU have to walk WITH your bird dog. Of course there are some upland species that demand close dogs such as woodcock and ruffed grouse.
- If pup wants to bust and chase birds at this young age, any kind of birds, keep your mouth shut and let pup do so unless it is a weak pen raised bird that pup can catch. So, no weak birds if you expect the pup to learn it can't ever catch a bird - a very important thing for young pups to learn with regard to steadiness training later on.
- Don't worry about trash birds! Pup will learn soon enough that game birds are what you are after and that you ignore trash birds but give attention to game birds. Continue to scroll down to the next part.
- Reinforce as above and continue with the check cord. I like to let them drag the check cord around (after I know they are bold and birdy as the cord can stifle some very soft dogs). It's better to let multiple pups drag the lead around so they can play with each others lead. This helps immensely later on as they learn about the checking sensation from non-threatening outside sources.
- Let pup run with an experienced bird dog just a bit. Make sure pup is on the check cord so that you can control him if he tries to bust birds that are pointed by the experienced dog. Cons: Pup will NOT learn to hunt from an older trained dog. In fact, it can be bad to let them run with an experienced dog too much because the pup may become dependent upon the other dog to find birds. That's not good. Pup needs to learn to find his own birds. So be careful about running him with trained dogs too much.
- If you think pup is way ahead of the game by now and is clearly more mature than most, you can try basic yard work. If pup is put off by training, STOP and wait a full month more. Shying away is a clear sign that pup is not ready or that you are being too harsh. Many Brittany pups are not ready for basic yard work until 6 to 8 months of age. If pup is ready and if pup is naturally pointing and sound conditioned, kill some birds over it. Let pup run to it mouth it, then slowly/carefully take the bird with NO visible/audible concern/anger. I don't like to start yard work until the dog is clearly birdy and properly introduced to gun fire. I also prefer to have already killed a bird over it if possible (but NOT if it busted the bird without pointing first!). Additionally, I want to see that the dog is bold and explores on its own without me.
- IF your pup is a natural pointer and IF it is hunting season and IF you can get your pup into lots of WILD birds, then go ahead and hunt him on WILD (only!) birds ahead of formal yard work as long as he understands his name and you can safely call him to you if needed. Never shoot a bird that pup busts. Don't even shoot wild flushes this early because the pup could learn to flush and stop to flush like a flushing retriever. If your natural pointer begins to creep and/or bust birds, time to move on to formal yard work. If you do hunt your natural pointer, remember to complete yard work the first summer after shooting wild birds over him!
Continue to scroll down to the next part.
-6 to 8 months, pup is hopefully ready to begin basic yard work and training. If so, see our yard working plan on this page. If not, be patient! If pup seems shy about his lessons, stop and get professional help.
- IF your pup is a natural pointer and IF it is hunting season and IF you can get your pup into lots of WILD birds, then go ahead and hunt him on WILD (only!) birds ahead of formal yard work as long as he understands his name and you can safely call him to you if needed. Never shoot a bird that pup busts. Don't even shoot wild flushes this early because the pup could learn to flush and stop to flush like a flushing retriever. If your natural pointer begins to creep and/or bust birds, time to move on to formal yard work. If you do hunt your natural pointer, remember to complete yard work the first summer after shooting wild birds over him!
- Don't forget the natural retrieve!
-STAY AWAY FROM EARLY USE OF THE E-COLLAR! SOME TRAINERS ADVOCATE EARLY USE. THIS IS NOT NECESSARY WITH MOST BRITTANYS. We do advocate use of positive vibration (read my article on this page) such as D.T. Systems positive vibration.
One last bit of advice. No matter the age of your dog when it starts training for the first time, start at the beginning with the 8 week old puppy exercises! Older dogs will progress faster through the list but you must still start at the beginning for every dog.
This article assumes your pup has graduated from our 8 weeks to 8 months article
Tools: 6 to 8-feet long leash (lead), 20 to 30 feet stiff check cord, an ordinary dog collar, strong flying birds and bird launchers (D.T. systems remote launchers are best), 22 cal. crimps - cap pistol and small gauge shotgun. If uncomfortable with an ordinary leash, you may use the cowboy piggin' string. (made popular by Delmar Smith and his 'wonder lead' which is basically the same thing)
What is yard work? Yard work is the foundation to all bird work in the field! It is elementary school for pointing dogs.
Yard work is where you teach the fundamental field commands only you're doing it at 6 feet in a small controlled area. We call it yard work because we start in the yard. This is something that can be done right at home every evening when you get home from work. Yard work can even be done in the family living room if it’s too dark outside when you get home.
We are often asked "Why yard work" if the dog points/retrieves naturally? Because if there is ever a mistake or concern and you try to correct it, the dog will not know what or why you are correcting it. You can do more harm than good in this situation. Yard work teaches the dog to hone his instincts, to hunt more efficiently, and to hunt to the gun (the handler). Yard work is to dogs what school is to kids. It doesn't necessarily make your dog the best/brightest but, if done properly, gives your dog the chance to be the best that it can be because it lays a foundation to build upon.
The Bible has a story about building upon rock or building upon sand. Solid yard work is building upon rock. It will support and reinforce what you do in the field for the rest of your dogs life.
Regarding Wing on a String and other Techniques found in two books that we recommend:
We do not endorse wing on the string as a training technique. We believe that the Wing on the String teaches sight pointing. Sight pointing is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if pup sees a bird walk out in front of him. The point is (pardon the pun) that smelling the bird is more important and thus we want to cultivate his nose to be the best it can be (within the constraints of his breeding).
This conflicts with Wolters Gun Dog book whose book we recommend (there are several things in Wolters we do not recommend - ask!) We are asked to explain this a lot. Don't be confused. We said we don't use wing on a string to train. We do use wing on a string on very young pups for photo purposes and to check/enhance their birdiness. After a while, the wing/string becomes a game to them and many pups will grow bored of it and revert back to chasing it for fun. No, there's nothing wrong with your pup if you experience wing chasin'.
I used Wolters book many, many years ago and had success with it. It's just one of a couple books we know that will work with Brittanys. We do not wholly endorse all of Wolters (Gun Dog) or Winterhelts (Training and Care of the Versatile Dog) techniques. We are just saying that their techniques work and seem to work well with Brittanys.
Bottom line is this, if you must use a book, read as much as you can from different trainers and decide which method best fits your dog's personality.
Most of all, be consistent and don't flit about jumpin' from technique to technique. Choose a technique and stick with it!
We recommend our techniques over the books and we can only help you if you are using our techniques.
Books / Videos are good for observing different techniques that accomplish the same thing. Tailor the training techniques to the personality of your dog, not vice versa!
Keep also in mind that what I describe here is not the only way to do it and I personally have multiple ways to accomplish any one particular task depending upon the personality of the dog and issues it may have!
Of course our techniques on this page work well as this is what we use! Our techniques will provide you with the necessary info to make a dog steady to wing and shot. You can stop where you want depending on whether you want 'steady until wing' or steady to wing or 'steady to wing & shot'.
BTW, steady to wing and shot has always implied that the bird was killed and the dog stood there as it should, What's ridiculous is to slay a perfect time honored traditional phrase by adding that the dog is steady to wing, shot & 'fall', well of course, you shot it and wanted him to not move didn't you? LOL. If the dog didn't stand steady to the 'fall' then it is not steady to wing and shot. Field trialers are the source of this additional term 'fall' because traditional field trials do not use shotguns (they use cap guns) and actually kill a bird thus many trial dogs look steady to wing and shot because the birds are never killed. Kill a bird for that sort of dog and it jumps on the shot bird proving its incomplete training.
The terms can be confusing but keep it simple in your mind that a dog steady to 'wing & shot' is steady to everything which includes your buddies untrained dog running circles around yours while it's at point! :- o Most hunters could care less about their dog being steady to wing and shot. Most want a dog that is simply steady until wing (flush) or steady to wing (flush).
When the pup is ready (8 months or later is our preference) we begin simple yard work. A "ready" dog is one that is birdy, maybe likes to play fetch, and takes his runs in the woods/fields in earnest and with inherent desire to find something. The only commands we teach prior to yard work is the dogs' name, 'aaaaa' (pronounced like the 'a' in the word 'tack') -means 'no!', and the command 'down' or 'off' to teach pup to not jump up on anyone. We also introduce the pup to the word 'dead' when playing fetch with him. Maybe we've taught some tricks. We have done all that my article "8 weeks to 8 months" suggests and more.
When I say 8 months or later, I am not implying that you should do nothing with your pup with regard to bird training (see our plan for 8 weeks to 8 months!). If you have access to wild game birds or strong flying pigeons, use them! Our pups are usually sight pointing wing on a string at 5 to 6 weeks of age (for photos and to check birdiness) and puppy pointing hidden birds shortly thereafter. Remember this, if your pup was bred to run big and you want it to hunt big, then place as few restrictions on it if possible early in its life except for pack order rules at home.
Keep in mind as well that the age groups I suggest are not carved in stone. Dogs mature at different times just as children do. Begin when your dog is ready, no sooner.
Some Brittany pups mature later and that's ok. I've seen late bloomers end up being terrific dogs.
We start our pups on native and planted birds with no restrictions. All birds used must be strong flyers in order to get away from a chasing pup. With no yard work, pup usually starts "flash pointing" on its own, and if the instinct is strong, may even stand on point until flush and beyond. This is a good time to sound condition pup if it is actively chasing / naturally pointing birds (See my training tips on sound conditioning).
If pup does naturally stand point and is sound conditioned, kill a few birds over it but don't try to issue commands as he hasn't learned any yet! Once we've established the pup's desire for birds we move to yard work. Remember, After sound conditioning and when the pup is ‘flash’ pointing, we kill a few birds over it even though it is not trained. We do this to increase his level of excitement when he sees you coming to train each day and to keep him in birds early in training. We want pup to be eager to train. If pup won't stand point naturally and wants to chase, don't worry - you can still sound condition him. Don't EVER kill a bird over pup or ANY dog if he busted it and / or is chasing it.
The Yard Work
Dogs learn in steps / levels / layers / increments (or whatever word). Each new step builds on the step you are leaving. You must overlap or blend the previously learned step with the next new step and it must be a logical progression.
You will build upon what was previously learned with each new lesson thus creating a solid foundation that consists of a complex set of commands that the dog understands. A dog taught in a logical fashion is a happy dog. They will look forward to each lesson because everything you are doing is understood by both you and the dog!
You wouldn't take a pup out into the pasture and while it is running freely command 'whoa' without ever having shown the dog what whoa is on a leash would you? There must be steps leading up to that. Blending each new step with the previous step helps the dog to understand what is expected (tired of me saying that?). Always start and end your lesson positive with something you know the pup knows! 10 to 15 minutes tops in the beginning.
I like to use a six to eight-foot leather lead to begin to teach the dog "heel". This is the first layer or step that we will build upon (or you can teach come on the lead before heel on the lead - whichever you prefer). Heel is easily taught with little or no pressure and is a controlling command that will not interfere with the dogs range if done right! Heel comes in handy / crosses over in later yard work. Heel is like the foundation to a house. If it’s good, everything else that follows will be easier to teach.
Heel does this: 1. teaches pup to carry his head up to smell and find birds, 2. give you control without taking the fire out of him or sacrificing range, 3. help you later with the natural retrieve, 4. gives your pup the foundation step for all commands that follow, including any tricks you may want to teach.
When your lesson is over, release the dog from heel with a gentle tap on his head with a simultaneous and quick double whistle blast. This teaches your dog to 'release' and 'go' which will be important later on in the field. All this is done in the yard away from birds.
When the pup understands and performs heel (heeling properly in the yard with complete slack in the lead) we give it a few planted birds in launchers in the field (Don't forget to desensitize the pup to flushes as described in my article to prevent launcher shyness).
We heel young pup to the launcher for his first bird or two, perpendicular to the downwind scent cone. A scent cone is like an invisible ice cream shaped cone that contains the scent of the bird as it wafts away from the bird (the point of the cone) in the wind to you (the big end of the cone). We heel the first time or two so that when pup smells scent, pup is smelling with his HEAD UP and will turn its head into the wind letting you know he has it. If pup does not stop on his own, we do not restrain it, instead putting the bird up to make pup think he accidentally flushed it himself. In fact, on the first couple of birds, I will replant them in the same place just to bold him up and give him a chance to anticipate the find. After that, I move them around a good bit to keep 'em guessing!
I have found that finding its first planted bird head up is absolutely KEY to helping him figure out that he can find more birds with his head up in the air rather than down on the ground smelling tracks. This is very important because almost all pups want to smell the ground. Why? Because there's all kind of interesting scent down there however, that is not the way to quickly and efficiently find birds. We are helping him figure this out on his own. My philosophy in training is this "put your bird dog in a position to succeed, not one that allows failure".
After 2 or 3 times, many pups will point intensely from the heel position with no prompting and will hold till flight. Remember that our intention was to let him figure out that he can best find birds head up. After he discovers birds, he will not want to heel! At this point in his training, it is ok to let him pull the leash in front of you to help build his desire to find the birds. Once he is puppy pointing, we kill a few birds (assuming he is sound conditioned, if not, do it now)…we’re building on desire. (See teaching heel).
You might think you need to whoa your pup in this exercise but refrain from doing it. We want him to understand that he cannot catch the bird. Also, giving your pup birds from an early age (even at 8 weeks!) in training help to keep your pup excited. Sometimes many repetitions are required before pup begins to understand his movement causes the bird to flush wildly. Pigeons that come back to the loft are essential for this exercise.
Now we move on to the 'whoa' command at heel in the yard. We sometimes use the barrel turned on its side to teach whoa before teaching it on the lead. The Barrel technique is found in the tip index. I prefer to teach whoa on the leash (lead). You can use a verbal, non-verbal, and a whistle command for whoa (or any other command) if you wish. Just use all three every time you ask him to whoa then eventually use each one independently until he understands that all three mean the same thing. Personally, I use the hand signal (traffic cop stop sign, hand open, palm towards dog) and the verbal command. I don't teach a whistle signal for whoa in the beginning. If you want a whistle signal, simply add it as described earlier in this paragraph (use a DISTINCT and UNUSUAL whistle sound for whoa so that no one else ends up with accidental control of your dog unless you always hunt alone).
At this point in the plan, We have taught him to release, come, heel and whoa, reinforced whoa from the barrel, plus taught him to keep his head up at heel and whoa. We always release pup from whoa with a tap on the head and a simultaneous double whistle (or gunshot for those who want steady to wing), I'll explain later.
Once the pup is releasing, coming, heeling, whoaing at heel, and keeping its head up, we start adding additional steps to the whoa training (See teaching whoa).
Next we begin to teach whoa while he is no longer at heel but still on the 6 ft. long lead with pup tugging at you on the lead out front, still in the yard. At the same time, we add quartering (moving back and forth like a windshield wiper out front of you) on the lead and coming to his name when called, still in the yard. This is part of the blending of steps or layering process. He learned whoa standing next to you at heel, now he is learning whoa out front which is very different from the pups perspective. Every new step is built upon the previous one.
Teaching to Quarter is easily done at this time
NOTE: Quartering is taught so that the dog will learn to run to objectives to his left and right. It is not a meaningless windshield wiper motion though it may appear as a long distance windshield wiper motion in featureless flat prairie grasslands. Bird dogs should seek objectives. There are many locations where the land is featureless, no pot holes, no 'edge', no nothing, just a sea of flat open CRP land. In this instance a quartering dog has no objective to run to rather he should cast wide left then cast wide right. (photo below). A dog that runs a straight line in those areas will miss many birds.
Quartering is the act of the dog casting far to the left and right so as to 'sweep' the field and find birds. Some describe it as a windshield wiper motion HOWEVER, that does not mean it is a back and forth action at 25 yards!!!!! If that is all you wanted then all you would need is a close working flushing dog like a lab or cocker!
Quartering behaves in a couple of different ways. If you are hunting in a location with 'objectives', that is, a place with edge cover, scattered mesquites, fence rows, irrigation ditches, etc. your dog should cast to the objectives on the right then cast to the objectives on the left. The dog has time to do this if foot handling. If pushing the dog from an ATV / horse / jeep, the dog will have less time to run to objectives left and right which may mean a second pass through that area.
Not every hunting place has objectives like the mid-west, east coasters, and westerners are use to. There are plenty of places from Texas to Montana and the Dakota's that have featureless CRP. Here's a photo of just one place. The birds are not in any one specific location and there is no similarity from one clump of grass to the next as to where they will be:
Also, not every hunt needs quartering. One example is a ruffed grouse or woodcock hunt. In that style of hunting the dog needs to be quiet and close.
Ok, Teaching your dog to Quarter: Give the one word command you want to use to turn pup (we use ‘hup’ or 'yah' though retriever trialers use 'hup' for sit ). You can use whatever word you wish if this bothers you. Simultaneously with the corresponding whistle command, walk the desired direction yourself, arm outstretched with your hand signal pointing the direction you're heading. Don't tug, check him*, and be sure to keep pup in front, stopping if you have to. Soon pup will learn that the word and whistle command means change directions. Once he understands both, you will want to give the verbal/whistle command separate so that he knows each mean the same.
You may have to *check pup with the lead to get his attention that you are changing directions. Checking is different than pulling or tugging.
*Checking is a sharp but brief jerk / snap of the leash. It sends a signal to the dog that it is being corrected. If you simply tug or pull, the dog will not interpret that as a negative stimulus, rather he will give you a physics lesson by giving you an equal opposite reaction by resisting and pulling hard. So remember to check to correct. Never use checking with pronged, choke, spiked collars. We use an ordinary dog collar placed loosely around his neck!
If you have to check him, and most do, simultaneously give the command to change direction and soon he will change immediately when you speak the verbal command because he does not want to be checked. You should raise the arm on the side of your body that you intend pup to go. Reaching across your chest to indicate a direction can confuse the pup. Later, this translates to him looking when commanded afield so that he goes where you point with your outstretched arm. Eventually he'll be so acclimated to your body language that you won't even have to raise a hand to indicate direction, rather he will key off of the direction you are facing. If you hunt from a horse, jeep, atv, etc, he will begin to key off the direction your mode of transportation is pointed.
An alternative Quartering training method is this and I really like this one as it is one I often use:
Plant a couple pigeons in hidden remote DT systems launchers about 50 to 75 yards apart in natural objectives. On a long check cord, let him run to the end and lead him _away_ but near the first birds scent cone. Then give him the quartering command/whistle (hup) while walking towards the scent cone with outstretched arm pointing towards the birds scent cone. If he disobeys, simply take him into the scent cone. He will point/flush (depending on training), you fire the blank gun/kill the bird if he points it. If he's not pointing yet, simply let him see the flushing bird and get excited. He will want to go after that bird but instead take him towards the opposite launcher and repeat the sequence. Repeat this sequence several times over several lessons and he will quarter with you as he now thinks you are the almighty BIRD god. He will WANT to quarter/come with you whenever you ask.
Later in his training, you can use the method to teach the dog that you have discovered birds on your own and can simply call in him by saying "birds in here" or whatever term/signal you wish to use. Yes, its the dogs job but there ARE times afield when your dog is one direction and you see and/or hear wild birds the other direction.
NOTE on Quartering Pattern: It should be a 'forward' running figure 8 not a backwards figure 8. If the dog is turning into you when turning to go back across the field to make his figure eight, that is wrong and inefficient as he is covering ground he already hunted. We want the dog turning forward, out and away from the handler when making his figure eight. Be sure to do enough quartering repetitions so as to brain wash your pup in yard work on this expected pattern. When you go to the field on a check cord, you will need to reinforce the learned pattern at a great distance. Your dog should be turning forward between the imaginary clock hands of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is not to say that your pup should not independently seek objectives when hunting, this is to establish an efficient hunting pattern in the absence of objectives. What is an objective? It is a place that potentially holds birds such as brush, trees, plum thickets, hedge rows, etc. A smart dog will recognize those sorts of cover as potential bird holding areas and 'seek' them out by running on the downwind side to quickly and efficiently find birds.
Now we have arrived at the point in the yard work where you have accomplished this with your pup:
In the yard, he releases, whoa's, quarters, and comes to you at the big distance of 6 whole feet. If your dog isn't perfect at 6 feet, why would you expect him to be perfect at 300 feet? Remember, steps. We will incrementally work him farther out with each successful lesson. Your dog now carries his head up and is almost perfect at each command. He should be heeling off the lead at this point as well. He quarters in a 'forward 8' pattern and is kept between 10 and 2 on his forward pattern.
Now that we have completed our yard work on the lead, we move on to the check cord (20 to 30 feet long). We do this because as stated above, we are incrementally asking him to obey the commands farther out. We go through the same commands while you hold the check cord in your hand. We repeat his commands at this longer distance until he is perfect. Remember to keep the end of the check cord in your hand at all times so that if there is any disobedience, he can't run from you when you move to correct him.
Once he is performing all his commands on the check cord in your hand, we move on.
We begin to drill pup on his new commands on the check cord but this time he will drag it and we will no longer hold it in our hand. I recommend an enclosed area (like a small fenced back yard). Go through the same drills, repeating over and over until he is perfect. Now he's doing it at any distance in the small enclosed area of your back yard! See, we are working him out away from us and he is learning to do it at any distance but he's not quite there yet!
Why do I have him drag the check cord? Because it is a physical reminder of what he has learned and won't be confused. If he disobeys you he will remember when you pick up the end of the cord and correct him. In that instant you are going back one step to teach the new step. See the overlapping?
If pup is doing everything well dragging the check cord in an enclosed area, then take the check cord completely off and repeat your commands (remember, we are still doing YARD WORK in the SAME YARD). It is essential that you stay in the same YARD where he has learned everything so far.
If all goes well it's time to move afield. Always back up one level if pup falters. Correct behavior through repetition. This teaches pup to do what / when asked without even thinking.
When you change locations, he will act like he doesn't understand or want to listen. This is because dogs are physically oriented. They figure the rules in your backyard are not the same out in a big open field. So we start out in our new training location, I and mean EVERY new training location, by doing yard work on a leash.
So afield (our new training location), We go through the whole routine on the lead briefly, then the check cord, then dragging check cord, then no check cord. If the repetition is there and you've not rushed pup, you can whoa or turn pup with a single command at any distance pup can hear you off the check cord completely. If pups messes up at any level in the training, back up one step. Guess what? We didn't use an e-collar, whoa board, whoa post, studded collar, etc.! Whoo-Hoo!!!
Folks, this takes time, patience, and an even temper. Sessions are never more than 10-15 minutes, 2 to 3 well spaced times a day is optimum or 2 to 3 times per week minimum. Always start and end positive like doing something you know he can do well, even if it means backing up one level.
I like 10 minutes twice a day and, if the dog had a particularly tough session, I will only train that dog once that day and maybe even skip training the next day, replacing it with additional fun time on the 'off day'. Also, if you are blending / layering (adding a new step) and pup does it well at say, 6 minutes, then stop and praise! He learns that by doing what you ask there is a reward! Sometimes pup can be confused if you keep drilling the same thing into their head in the same lesson. So remember, brevity sometimes has more gravity! Also, have fun time on birds in between days/lessons. This is where you let him find birds that will fly away (not be caught). This pleases your pup and keeps his fires lit. Don't be a drill sergeant!
Eventually, you will put him on birds afield after he has learned and performs perfectly all of his commands, especially 'whoa'.
We want him to be successful on his first birds after many weeks of yard work so we will temporarily hook the check cord up. Now you will release him while holding the end of the check cord in your hand. Let him pull you hard about the field until he finds the bird and establishes point on his own. If he doesn't point, launch the bird, put him back where he first smelled it, whoa him, walk out front where the bird got up, pretend to flush, go back to him and take him away. If he does it right you will launch the bird and fire the gun ONLY IF he allows you to walk out front and flush the bird. If he points but breaks before you wish him too, then check him firmly and take him away from the area where the bird flushed. If he is naturally standing steady enough for what you desire out of him, such as until wing or to wing or to shot, great! In that case you would shoot the next bird for him assuming he does that one properly as well. Remember to praise. Do not let him chase at this point and time. Always take him away from the direction the bird flushed towards.
If any of your lessons do not go well, put him back on your six foot long leash (the step prior to the check cord, remember?), do some yard work right there on the spot. Now put him up, put out another bird in another area and work him on the bird with the 6 foot lead. If that goes o.k. then you can go back to the check cord.. If that goes o.k., then you can start releasing him to hunt with pup dragging the check cord. Now if pup does that ok, you can move on to no check cord. If that is ok then all is well. Make sure you are planting your birds in natural objectives if possible but not the same objective every time! YOU DO NOT HAVE to make your dog steady to wing/shot. Read on...
A footnote to all of this is that you must know how steady you want your dog to be during these lessons on birds. If you want your dog to break at the flush, then don't check your dog and let him break at flush. At a minimum, your dog should allow you to walk out front and watch you flush the bird for safety reasons. The reason your dog should allow you to walk out front of him to make the flush yourself is so that even if the dog breaks at flush (steady until flush), he still has to come from behind you which still makes it much safer to shoot the flushing bird.
If I wanted steady to wing, I would teach in this order: 1. check pup if he breaks at the flush and put him back where he was standing (repeat the command to him when doing it). I would repeat on another bird over several lessons if I had to until he stands steady TO the flush which is steady to wing. I would then shoot birds over him as long as he allows your to walk out front and flush the bird without him breaking.
If steady to wing and shot is what I wanted, I would teach as above and begin work on steadiness to shot assuming he is perfectly steady to wing. If he breaks only at shot, I would check him as I did above and repeat. Soon your dog is steady to wing and shot on a leash, then a check cord, then no check cord. See the layering and blending of each step with the other?
A note about steady UNTIL flush, not steady to flush. 'Until flush' means the dog breaks when the bird flushes whether it be a wild flush or you flushed it purposely. That dog always breaks at flush. I recommend 'steady to wing' at a minimum but some young dogs will need an extra year of maturity before you can put that kind of pressure on them.
Some dogs will do better only being required to be steady until flush their first year. After a year of hunting and shooting a lot of birds over your dog it may actually be easier to steady him further which is why folks who want steady to wing and shot actually don't worry about it until about age 2 years.
If in training pup gets a little soft on point, kill the bird that he points (soft or not) and let pup run to it and mouth it. We recommend killing birds early in training before we have arrived at formal yard and field work. This maintains high drive and intensity and you are less likely to have issues with softness on bird when steadying your prospect.
If pup picks up the bird you have shot, call him to you and tell him gently to come - heel. As he is about to arrive, kneel down and turn away from him while patting your leg with your left hand and repeat the command to heel. Be careful to not look him in the eye just yet but to watch him from your peripheral vision. Sometimes a pup that makes eye contact will stop short and drop the bird. If done right, He should come along side of you without thinking as heel is automatic for him, if you did your yard work properly.
Take the bird after a minute or two (NOT right away) while you gently stroke him from shoulder to flank so that he can associate the pleasure of having the bird in his mouth with your tactile and verbal praise. Remember, pup only retrieves because he enjoys it, not because you told him so keep it pleasurable. If you want pup to retrieve because you told him, then later in his life, around age 2, you will want to teach the trained retrieve (force training).
The wing & shot dog (not a young pup) has learned that it is not released from whoa unless you physically release him. The steady to wing dog has learned that a shot must be fired before he can move. To release your steady to wing dog on a non-productive you can command it to move with either a touch, heeling away, and/or double whistle blast however, I strongly recommend touch or heel for the w & s dog. BTW, Most hunters find steady until flush good enough.
Now that pup is steady to the level you selected (until flush, to wing, or to wing/shot), heels, whoa's, quarters, 'comes' on command afield, we fine tune his natural inclination to retrieve. If pup won't retrieve naturally, doesn't like it, then you'll have to perform the trained retrieve or force retrieve.
For developing the natural retrieve, you can visit my tip section covering that. Now we move to 2 other 'new' training locations and repeat. Pup still has it down? Pup is trained to point, comes, whoa's, quarters, heels when you let him out of the dog box, knows that he isn't released until he gets the tap on the head and double whistle blast.
Now, why the tap and double whistle? The tap/double whistle mean the same thing 'Go'. This helps us teach the dog he is never released from whoa unless we physically release him. The whistle translates to GO and can be used when dealing with a pottering dog or one that drops and rolls in excrement....simply double whistle and it reminds him "oh yeah, GO!" The double whistle blast can also be used in conjunction with 'hup' which means for him to turn (different meaning than for the retriever guys). Some folks use it for 'steady until flush' or 'steady to wing' dogs as a release so they do not have to walk back to their dog to physically release them with a tap.
I do not recommend using the double whistle as a release for first year pups or field trial / hunt test dogs that compete. Why? Because if someone else double whistles it may release your dog when you don't want it to release. First year dogs need the emphasis of not moving unless a bird is flushed and/or shot. If your first year dog goes on point and the birds have run off, you will get lazy and whistle him to relocate. That's ok for an experienced dog but a first year dog may take that as a sign that it is ok to begin self-relocating on his own. Since he is inexperienced, he will undoubtedly push too far forward and end up bumping birds, busting and chasing. Now you're back to square one. Not good...
Folks, you just read a summary of a yard working plan. Key elements of that yard working plan are discussed in different articles on this page such as the following article which addresses HOW to teach command such as 'Whoa'.
This is the often-asked question regarding the training of young gun dogs. There are many different ways to teach whoa and I will say up front, there are more ways to skin the proverbial cat than one can count. My way is certainly not the only way. Different ways fit different dogs. My way seems to fit Brittanys well.
Whoa is taught to help each pup understand to hold his/her point after pup has already established point on his own. We never "whoa" a dog into a point. We teach the dog to naturally go on point by using strong flying quail/pigeons that pup can't catch (see 'heel' and 'yard working plan') or wild birds if the time of the year and wild populations are sufficient.
After setting the dog up in a few training situations that teaches pup that he can't catch the birds, the well bred pup will naturally start pointing on his own. This is when we kill a bird for pup to help develop desire (don't do this unless you have already performed proper sound conditioning). Later, after some considerable training, we will use the calmly stated reminder "whoa" so he can be steadied to wing. For definitions of "steady until flush", "steady to wing", "steady to wing and shot", go to the FAQ section of this Tips page.
We believe that the first commands to teach pup are coming to his name using soft techniques and teaching pup to cease inappropriate activities when told "NO" or "aaaaaa" ('a' as in the work tack or bad). You might want to consider another command other than "NO" because it can confuse pup when you later teach the "WHOA" command. We do not believe that the command "sit" is appropriate at the beginning phases of training since it often times confuses pup when teaching whoa (pup will try to sit when commanded whoa - See “Sit? Not Yet!” On this web page). 'Sit' won't ruin the pup but may cause training delays because you now have to teach the difference between the two. The problem with sit is that when you begin to teach whoa it may become his default posture since whoa is a controlling command and pup will want to sit.
Let's make it clear how important whoa is: Whoa can save a pups life! Pup must learn this command and learn it well. Whoa can keep pup from bolting in front of a car or any other terrible situation you can think of not to mention that it a fundamental yard working command that lays the foundation for the pup when it’s time for field work. A dog taught whoa properly will not creep/bust/chase.
Whoa is not a command you will want to use on birds every time for the rest of pups life, instead, it is a command to help bridge understanding. Pup must learn that it is to stay standing until released. Whoa bridges that gap.
We teach whoa at about the same time that pup has learned "heel" (see my yard working plan). We teach heel first because it is an easy command to teach and it is a very good controlling command that doesn't harm hunting spirit. Heel is the ‘jumping off point’ for all other yard and field work commands that follows (please read the 'heel' section). It ties together the command to whoa as well as keeping the dog’s head up. For a dog to point with style, they need to understand that they should carry themselves in the field with their head up to efficiently find game and to stay steady at whoa when they find game. They also come to understand that when they are released from heel with the double whistle/tap, they are to start running, hunting, and having fun. The heel command does not affect them mentally in the field unless improperly applied.
BEFORE I start with how to teach whoa, keep this in mind, your dog is never allowed to be released from whoa unless you allow it by deciding at the beginning of your training program that he is to either be 'steady to wing & shot ('shot' has always implied kill / fall)', 'steady to wing' or 'steady until flush'. CREEPING WITH YOU AS YOU GO IN TO FLUSH IS UNSAFE!
Decide now that you will teach your dog:
A. To either 1. Break at the flush (steady until flush) or 2. break at the shot (steady to wing) or 3. only break when commanded, even if a kill was made - this is steady to wing and shot.
No matter the level of training, he will heel or be commanded to release with touch and/or whistle to continue hunting should you have a non-productive (no bird was produced or was anything shot at).
No matter what level of steadiness you choose, Steadiness is important!
Keep in mind that even if a dog that is only steady until flush and has a non-productive he will need a release touch or command. I prefer touch.
Once the pup has learned "heel" we add "whoa". When you stop walking and the pup is properly heeled at your side, he will naturally come to a stop as well. We take advantage of that and command in an easy tone "whoooa" every time we stop, that is step 1 of the dog learning whoa! You may stroke him up and talk sweet talk but don't let him move (this is a good time to introduce Positive Vibration - see that article on this page). Do this every time you stop while he is at the heel position. In pups' mind, he will associate stopping with the word "whoa".
The reason we use an easy tone when commanding "whoa" is that when you really need it, like pup bolting across a busy road, you can say it loudly and firmly, which will certainly get pups attention! Also, teaching whoa in a nice way up front teaches him that pleasure is associated with the word, not harshness. If the pup doesn’t stop when you stop, then you will need to lightly check him with the lead, set him back to the position of heel and command whoa – style him up while he is standing there and give him some sweet talk while repeating ‘whoa’. He will associate good things with standing and hearing the ‘whoa’ word so will be more apt to stop and stand the next time you are heeling him and command whoa. View this windows movie clip of a dog that is just learning heel with whoa (250K). (open with windows media player)
We want our dog to stop abruptly when commanded to whoa. This carries over to the field later as your dog will associate whoa with pointing and be more apt to 'slam' on point rather than slow down and finally stop to point. Slowing down when it smells faint amounts of scent then stopping after it has strong scent is actually a form of creeping! We want our dogs to slam on point! SLAMMING ON POINT IS THE HALLMARK FEATURE OF MY PROGRAM! Pointing on first scent is absolutely essential for spooky wild birds!
One way to get your pup to 'slam' to a stop on whoa is to command him to whoa while simultaneously coming to an abrupt stop yourself. Many young pups will be spooked into stopping suddenly at which point you gently style him up and coo the 'whoooa' command in conjunction with sweet talk and stroking. Repeat until you don't have to make abrupt movements to get the pup to stop suddenly. I find that by suddenly placing my lead hand quickly in front of the pups face with palm open toward pup making the traffic cop stop sign also helps him to understand to stop suddenly. You can also suddenly slide your feet when you come to a stop and the noise created by your feet will cause the young dog to be bewildered and stop suddenly. You can also give the dog a sudden 'check' when you come to the sudden stop while simultaneously speaking 'whoa'. Any or all of these combinations will help the dog understand to whoa instantly.
We like to add the "Barrel technique" at the same time that we're adding whoa to the heel command, since it really teaches pup to stand firmly and intensely. The Barrel technique is found in my tips index. It is not necessary but does help those dogs that just don't get it. Some of you may not have good control of your dog with an ordinary lead. If this is true, I recommend Delmar Smith's Wonder Lead which sells for about 20 bucks and comes with instructions. A cheap alternative if in cowboy country is to go to the farm and ranch store and get a two strand piggin' string for about 9 bucks.
Please read our section on 'heel' as it explains how to introduce the pup to birds using heel and how to cultivate the dogs nose properly.
When pup is conditioned enough to heel without you holding onto the lead and pup is whoaing at your side, it's time to start the "walk out front" routine. This is the next step in teaching whoa in your yard work. This is done easily while heeling, commanding whoa, BOTH of you stop suddenly (ensure that he is at whoa), then walking out in front of pup while raising your arm out from your body with your hand in the "stop" position (like a traffic cop signals stop) towards pup (a good photo of this is on our photo page of teaching heel). Pup may be confused and try to walk with you. If he does, say nothing, pick him up, put him back where you originally whoa'ed him, then repeat firmly, "whoa" and speak some of the same sweet talk you used in his earlier training when teaching him to whoa at your side. Now 'walk out front™' again. Soon pup will associate the non-verbal "stop-sign" with the command whoa and knows to stay put. You may also hold the lead in your hand when you walk out front so that if he creeps, you can 'check' him (see checking in my yard working plan) to reinforce the whoa command.
Why is the 'walk out front™' routine important? It is the fundamental building block for a dog that will be steadied until flush or to wing or wing and shot (wing and shot has always implied through the kill / fall of the bird).
How is it a fundamental building block? When the dog goes on point, you want him to stand on point (at whoa) while you walk out in front of him to flush the bird right? If pup won't let you walk out front with him on whoa in the yard, why would you expect him to do it in the field???? Here is an windows movie clip of the walk out front in yard work: Click Here (280K). (open with windows media player)
Once the pup is basically standing at whoa and letting you walk out front, he may challenge you by taking a step or two towards you or away from where he originally was whoa'ed. To stop this, gently check him with the lead that you are holding in your hand while standing out front of him and repeat sharply “Whoa!” then put him back where he was standing. Soon your dog will let you walk out front and he will stand there without moving. Add a degree of difficulty to the command once he is doing this by walking a large circle around him. He may just follow you with his head or he may turn around. If he moves his feet, put him back and repeat as above. Whoa means no foot movement! Later we will refine this by not allowing him to move his head or tail.
We want an absolute whoa! tm My term absolute whoa tm means GIVE NO GROUND! Whoa means whoa, no half steps, nothing!
Let me make one point here: You don't have to use the non-verbal hand signal command but it is heaven sent when in a tense hunting situation. It really works well in Hunt Tests when you are not suppose to do anything other than quietly and gently remind your dog to stay at honor. Often the judges won't even see your subtle reminder and will be amazed at your dogs' great intensity at whoa when honoring.
Keep this in mind: At the beginning of your training program, you must decide that either you will:
A. touch him on the head to release him to continue hunting as in a non-productive / running bird or for the retrieve. This is steady to wing/shot (wing and shot has historically always implied steady through a miss or kill and fall), or
B. allow him to break when the bird is flushed or allow him to break when you shoot a gun (for steady until flush or steady to wing respectively).
Now it's time to teach the 'walking whoa™'. This time we don't stop and say “whoa”. While walking with our dog at heel we command "whoa" calmly while the handler continues to walk (without stopping). The dog will be confused and probably only hesitate instead of whoaing because you usually stop before commanding whoa and he is probably associating whoa more with you stopping than the actual word itself.
Think like a dog here, each situation is unique to him and pup is easily confused. Simply stop, say nothing, pick him up, and return him to the approximate spot where you commanded whoa while walking, put him down and say "whoa" firmly. BINGO, he makes a connection! He learned earlier that when you put him back and firmly said "whoa", that he had messed up by not staying at whoa. Now we're making progress. Repeat this exercise several times until he does it perfectly. Perfect means stopping immediately when calmly told whoa and staying there while you are walking. Don't make this too difficult yet. Only walk out front 5 to 6 feet with lead in hand, turn and face him with the stop sign. NEVER SAY WHOA AGAIN when walking out front; in other words, saying it once means stay put! Don’t forget to style him up with sweet talk and such. If your dog is particularly stubborn, you can check him when you command whoa instead of putting him back....so it goes like this on the walking whoa: walk with dog at heel, command 'whoa' but while you still walk. If he doesn't immediately stop on the command 'whoa', immediately check him and repeat the command. You may need to put him back where he was to add emphasis.
Now we start adding greater degrees of difficulty. Try trotting with your dog at heel and commanding whoa. Again, this is different to pup and he will be confused. Check him / put him back as above. Soon pup will SLAM on brakes when commanded whoa (calmly) while running.
Note: If your dog is not slamming to a stop when commanded to whoa, you are not doing the job properly. Go BACK to whoaing at heel and check the dog if it does not stop immediately when commanded to whoa. Immediately means no further movement - stop mid-step - freeze!
Next step is to go back to ordinary yard work except this time; pup is working at leads length IN FRONT of you (a 6 feet long lead is what we use for all yard work when not using the check cord). He is no longer heeling; he's working out front so guess what? He will be confused when you command whoa. Put him back as above. Soon pup will understand to stop immediately at whoa when commanded at leads' length. This is also the time when we start teaching "hup" or "round" or whatever word you want to change the quartering dogs direction afield. That will be a separate lesson that we will post later.
When pup is whoaing immediately at leads' length, we move to the check cord (holding it in our hand). You guessed it, just like above. When pup is doing this well, in an enclosed yard, we let pup drag the check cord and start work on whoa from there. Now we do it in the enclosed yard without a check cord.
This is where I like to make it interesting. Assuming pup is whoaing on command in an enclosed safe area, I like to add distractions to test his steadiness and to improve his staunchness on whoa.
Take a bag full of live pigeons that will come back over and over (to save money!) and have them on standby. Go get your dog and bring him to the enclosed area, carefully so that he does not smell the pigeons (keep him upwind!). Now ask him to whoa. While he is at whoa, retrieve your bird bag full of live pigeons. Just the sight or sound of pigeons in a bird bag may excite him to move off whoa. If it does cause him to move, put him back and command whoa. Go back and get your bird bag. Now, we begin the 'pigeon toss' game. Toss pigeons up into the air so that your dog can see them fly away. Your young dog will undoubtedly break from whoa and try to give chase. Calmly collect your dog and put him back at whoa. Repeat. It make take several lessons before your dog will stand at whoa and let you fly pigeons over his head.
Folks, it is normal for your dog to 'mark' the flight of the pigeons. To 'mark' is to stay in the same spot and spin his body around to watch the bird fly away, that is good. We just don't want him to take a step towards the bird. So if the bird flies over him to his rear, it is normal to spin around and watch, to spin then walk/run towards the bird is not good.
Some field trialers will train the mark out of their dog for appeal to judges. It is not only unnatural but in my estimate, unethical if actually killing the birds. A dog with a proper mark on a wounded bird has a great chance of making the retrieve thus not wasting game. One more area where bird hunting and trialing depart ways.
When pup has that down, we move to the bird field and start from heel, then lead, then check cord, then dragging check cord, then no check cord. Always back up a step if he refuses. Remember that pup will be a little stubborn in the bird field because you have already killed a bird over him with one of his puppy points earlier in his developmental stages. This is good, it's desire! You can also repeat the 'pigeon toss' game in the field as described above.
NEVER WHOA A DOG TO POINT! Your dog must learn to establish his own point (through some help by you). Once he establishes his own point, then - and only then do you command whoa to your young green trained pup (this is a good time to use positive vibration IF you have blended it in earlier as a form of praise). Hopefully this is where the light bulb eventually comes on! If you have taught whoa properly, he will stand there without moving and let you flush and shoot the bird in a safe manner. You may also use the pigeon toss technique in the field to help steady him to wing or wing and shot.
Keep this in mind: your dog is never allowed to be released from whoa unless you: A. heel him away (as in yard work or after steadiness to wing/shot), or B. touch him on the head to release him (to continue hunting or for the retrieve as in wing/shot), or C. shoot a gun for steady to wing, or D. allow him to break at the flush for steadiness. This teaches him later to never move once he is either commanded or self-initiates a whoa. Steadiness is important!
Final words: If you have taken your time, kept lessons to less than 15 minutes (10 minutes preferable), ended each lesson positive, had separate play time each day, and been patient and kept your cool, then pup will whoa on a dime at any distance that pup can hear you. Any refusal where pup does not whoa on the dime, you MUST back up one step, sometimes several steps. Don't rush and remember to love your dog even on bad days. If you're having a "bad hair day" ;-), DON'T TRAIN THAT DAY. This is a 10 to 15 year bond on average, so have fun together!
Teaching heel in yard work for your Gun dog.
The pointing dog should know the command heel. This command is one that is often overlooked but is actually the fundamental building block of later yard work. Other than the dogs' name, and the meaning of no, this is the first command we teach. Follow along with us as we explain step by step how to teach your dog heel. We have some photo's hyperlinked into this text for easy reference. The photos are placed together on another page. It may be easier to read the instructions then go to the photos, which are all in sequence.
We teach heel first because it is an easy command to teach and it is a very good controlling command that doesn't damper hunting spirit. Heel is the ‘jumping off point’ for all other yard and fieldwork commands that follows. It ties together the command to whoa as well as keeping the dog’s head up. It helps with the natural retrieve later as well. For a dog to point with style, they need to understand that they should carry themselves in the field with their head up to efficiently find game and to stay steady at whoa when they find game. They also come to understand that when they are released from heel with the double whistle/tap, they are to start running, hunting, and having fun. The heel command does not affect them mentally in the field unless improperly applied.
Teaching your Gundog to heel is easy. Get a 6 feet long leather lead with a heavy snap. Position his collar with the snap hanging straight down under his chin. Hold the lead as demonstrated in this photo. A little slack in the collar is good. Pat your left leg and walk slowly while circling to your left trying to get him to walk beside your left leg. Click here to view a brief windows movie clip that shows a totally untrained dog begin heeling lessons (115K). Click here for a short windows movie clip of lesson two, the same dog (115K). Keep in mind each lesson is only 10 minutes and separated by several hours - note how the dog is attentively looking at me - you can see the light bulb starting to come on!
If he lags behind or away from you, immediately pat your left leg while saying the heel command. You can crouch slightly while doing this to encourage the dog to come to your side. Remember to keep walking (slowly) while doing this. This is the hardest part of teaching heel. Once you get the dog heeling, the rest comes easy. If he continues to lag behind or away from you, you will have to give a correction but not a painful correction. Do this: With the lead in your left hand, correct him by firmly bumping the snap on the lead straight up (photo) with your left hand while saying the heel command and then patting your left leg (see checking in our 'yard work plan'). Don't bump him too hard or you will put him off his training. Only give the correction with a verbal "heel". The only other time we use this correction method is when he is heeling but has his nose on the ground sniffing. We don't ever want our pointing dog with his nose on the ground. He finds birds best with his nose up, right? This is where we start the fundamentals of keeping the dogs' head up. After much repetition, he doesn't even think about walking with his head down. This translates later to the bird field when hunting birds.
Our properly heeling dog walks at our left side, his head beside our left leg, and head up (head up because that's how we want him to hunt) with slack in the lead. Observe this photo of Chief heeling while he is dragging the lead (dragging the lead comes later in training as the dog progresses). He should not be fighting you to go his own way.
Now to get him to stay close to you while initially learning to heel, always make left turns/circles. We do this so that he gets use to his head being close to your leg. After several lessons of this, you can start making right turns. Eventually, he should be walking beside you no matter what direction you walk. Patting your leg and saying heel helps a lot when teaching this command. At first, you'll feel a little awkward on how to hold the lead. Here's a tip: To pat your left leg with you left hand you must shift the lead over to your right hand.
If he starts to get ahead of you while heeling, hold the lead in your left hand while taking the rest of the lead in your right hand. Do a little overhand flip of the lead with your right hand so that the end of the lead passes in front of the nose. Say heel when you do this. Doing this teaches him to not walk ahead of you. It takes a little practice to learn to flip the lead, but you'll get it. Don't flip it hard and don't strike your dog, ever. We only want his attention to remind him he is too far ahead (photo). AND/OR, you can use your right foot to correct him. Since he is on the left, simply cross your right foot in front of your left leg and let it bump him in the nose while commanding 'heel'.
If your dog is simply too much for you to handle and you don't have the ability to utilize our method of teaching heel the way we describe, consider Delmar Smith's 'Wonder Lead'. It's a good tool for teaching heel. Please, only use it if you can't accomplish teaching heel the way we describe. Delmar's lead comes with an instruction page and can be purchased from most bird dog supply stores on the internet. Here's one: http://gundogsupply.com
Once pup is heeling properly, put him on birds. Heel him perpendicular to the down wind scent cone (see scent cone in 'yard working plan') so that when he smells the bird you will know because he will turn his head into the scent cone and alert you to his recognition of scent. If he tries to lunge at the bird, simply release it to fly away (remote controlled bird launchers work well). Soon he will learn to point his quarry so to not scare it away. When this happens, kill some birds over his point to encourage this behavior.
An important thing to remember here is that when heeling him in on a bird, be pleasant and make it fun. Also, you are cultivating his nose at this time. You are teaching him to stop and hold point (ON HIS OWN) with the smallest amount of scent possible. Do this by crossing perpendicular far down wind and keep crossing the down wind scent cone 5 to 10 yards closer each time. Carefully study your pups head and nostrils so that you can tell when he has scent. I like to flush the bird immediately on his first scent so as to cement in his mind how spooky birds can be -this helps develop his instinct to freeze and point so as to not scare the bird. Also, try to use a white pigeon if possible to enhance puppies' visibility. Sometimes remote launchers flush the bird so forcefully that the bird is ejected 10 feet in the air so rapidly that the pup hears the flush but never sees the bird. Another option if you don't have a white bird, is to tie a string and hose to the birds leg so as to weigh it down some...this will cause the bird to only fly a short distance thus allowing pup time to see what it is that he smelled. Be careful to not cause your pup to be 'launcher shy'. Launcher shyness is often caused by a launcher that is too loud or if pup gets too close to the launcher when you launch it. Your pups FIRST FLUSHES should be natural, WITHOUT A LAUNCHER.
Now you will tie in the command to 'whoa' once pup understands that he can't catch the bird and naturally self-initiates his own point, then and only then do we command whoa. We NEVER whoa pup onto point. He must figure out on his own that he can't catch the birds. There are techniques to help you help him understand that he cannot catch the bird. If what I have written here is not working, write me.
Nothing is more pleasurable than to hunt with a dog that you both learned the basics together! This all relates later to the bird field. Look at this good photo of Chief at whoa. Chief was heeled along side then commanded to whoa, the handler walked out front and gave the non-verbal reminder (hand out front) to stay at whoa. Keep in mind that Chief is fully trained. He will whoa on the dime out hunting if he were asked to. This can save your dogs' life. A bird dog about to rush across a busy road needs to be put under control to save his life!
There are many methods to teach whoa but mine is to start from the standstill position of heel. The dog already knows to stand close beside you at heel, so whoa is a natural command to follow. Now proceed to my section on 'whoa'
Let me know if you need me to clarify anything. The only dumb question is
Just what IS the natural retrieve? It is the instinctual predatory drive that a dog possesses which makes it pursue dead or wounded game for the purpose of consuming. Man has domesticated this instinct to encourage the dog to share its bounty instead of eating it (the dead/wounded game).
This strong instinct that originated from the wild dog is why the dog naturally retrieves. The 'fun' is really the dogs predatory instinct of pursuit and retrieval which we encourage through positive reinforcement. Anything negative breaks the dogs thought process and that his instinct is somehow flawed thus the dog may stop naturally retrieving.
There are differences in various dogs desire. Some dogs are more about finding the next live bird rather than fool around with the retrieve. This sort of dog is all about its natural prey drive to actually find live birds. This dog may may also be tougher to steady on birds! It is more about 'find'. You have to understand this dog finds the challenge to locate birds to be more exciting. Often times, this dog is a great retriever of tennis balls and such but when hunting live birds, the predatory instinct outweighs the instinct retrieve / consume / store. Storing is when a dog buries its food for later consumption.
Then there is the dog that is opposite of above. While it loves to find birds and point, it lives for the retrieve. These sort of dogs have a strong desire to retrieve and usually won't leave a shot bird to find the next bird. Its life is about finding that shot / wounded bird for consumption / storage. Again, we are talking about its primal instincts.
The key is to develop the natural predatory drive to 'gather' its kill for consumption / storage. We need to 'turn on' that instinct at a very early age. I discuss this further on in this article.
Dogs are like us. They want to be taught the easiest way possible. Would you rather something be forced on you or done gently? Dogs have the same response. In the case of the retrieve, we want to gently encourage their natural predatory drive to find, kill, gather.
We play retrieving games with our young pup early on and do it over and over. This is repetition and the foundation of repetitive conditioning.
What is "repetitive conditioning"? If you were ever an athlete, your coach probably taught you about "muscle memory". Well, repetitive conditioning is the same thing. A Baseball player may take 200 swings a day with his coach observing to ensure that he is making the correct swing. That way, when the player steps up to the plate in a game, the player unthinkingly makes the correct swing with the correct posture. Your dog will do the same without thinking how difficult the retrieve may be.
We start our repetition training by reinforcing what your Brittany naturally wants to do at an early age which is to "go get it". We use hard bumpers (added bird scent or wings taped around the bumper helps) and frozen birds initially. This discourages chewing. Also, we never let them play with the bumpers/frozen birds outside of our repetitive conditioning training.
I like to start my Brittanys when they are barely able to walk! With young pups, use light weight objects like a knotted sock.
We have several techniques, here is one: Assuming your Brittany is a house companion as well, do this: When sitting in your easy chair (sitting is a non-threatening posture to the dog), get your dog excited about the bumper/bird by teasing him with it. Then state your command (fetch, dead, get it, etc...) and throw it. If he goes to it, great! If he goes and comes back with it part way, great! Whatever the response, repeat this exercise several times up until about 10 minutes or you get a satisfactory retrieve to your general vicinity/hand. Stop, praise excitedly, use treats and put away the bumpers.
Next day, do the same. Soon your pup will start to love this game. Assuming he is only coming back part way, tie a short lead to his collar. Gently pull him to you after he picks it up (say nothing), take the bumper, say 'dead' and praise excitedly (give a treat). Never more than 10 minutes at a time. It's too easy to get caught up in the excitement, so set an egg timer. Remember, it's always better to end positive at say, 7 minutes than at 10 minutes on a negative response.
Next day, repeat. After several days, he will start to bring it to you in your easy chair. Remember to say 'dead' when playing. Now start teaching "hold", and "give". Gently hold his muzzle upon his immediate arrival, being careful to not pinch the lip between the bumper and teeth. Say "hold", count to yourself 1, 2, 3, 4, then say "give" and take the bumper. Do this every day and remember to end positive. Soon your dog will be playing this game with great excitement. Remember to always put the bumper/bird up after training. The bumper/bird is a "trophy" only to be shared together. This translates later to the bird field.
If your dog wants to play keep away with it, try playing fetch in a confined area like a hallway in your house. Remember to praise when you take the bumper from him.
NOW, it's time to move on
Let's now start all over, but from your easy chair in the back yard. Your favorite drink in hand makes for great refreshment. Don't forget his water bowl. Do every thing as above.
Is he doing it right? Good. Now stand up and start all over again. Your increased height may make him timid, so bend over and pat your leg if necessary or sit on the ground. Doing it right again? GREAT! Now move to the training field. Start all over again. Doing it right? SUPER! Time to kill a bird.
Assuming your dog is sound conditioned (See sound conditioning) it's time to shoot a bird for him. A game bird in a remote control bird launcher gives the best control over this training scenario. Get him to point it (assuming he is already pointing) then put the bird up and let him mouth it when he goes to it. Call him, then praise excitedly upon his arrival. If he doesn't do it perfectly, don't worry. You can tie a lead/check cord to him and gently pull him as described above. Usually it only takes a couple of times for him to understand. NOTE: If you are a bad shot or you can't shoot a gun in your area or you dog is only conditioned to the cap gun then I recommend you "pre-cripple" your bird if using a launcher. You're not actually going to hurt the bird. Take a pair of scissors and trim the primary flight feathers off of one wing. When you launch the bird it will reach its max height caused by the launcher then flutter to the ground. Shoot your cap gun at max height. Dog's are not complex thinkers. They don't realize you didn't actually cripple the bird.
If your dog is picking up the bird but not wanting to return to you with the bird no matter what you do, the problem is with the "come" command. Since we teach heel early in training, the heel command is ingrained into the pups' mind. As soon as the pup picks up the bird, we gently/softly command heel and start to walk away slowly from the dog (in a crouched position helps as it is a non-threatening posture). Most dogs that have learned the heel command well will simply follow along side without thinking (conditioned response from repetitive training!) at which point you bend down and take the bird from the dog while walking. Command "drop", "give" or whatever you like to instruct the dog to let go of the bird as you take it from him. Stop immediately after taking the bird and praise/reward. Do this several times in a row and over a period of days. Soon the pup will learn that not only does he come to the position of heel after picking up a bird but that he will be rewarded for doing so!
Do you see the repetition? Now add your own scenarios to this. Don't forget the water retrieves. Don't forget to have him heel (assuming he knows the command) with the bird before you tell him to "give".
Want to teach him to hunt dead for a blind retrieve? If pup is retrieving well, take a frozen or fresh bird, drag it across your lawn and leave it somewhere hidden. Now bring pup in and tell him 'hunt dead' or 'find it' or 'find dead', whatever command you choose, as it should be a different command than for marked retrieves. Be excited and animated when helping him look for for his first unmarked retrieves.
Marked retrieves are birds that the pup watched go down and he has a general idea. Unmarked (blind) retrieves are those that he did not see fall. I use 'dead' for marked retrieves and 'find dead' for unmarked blind retrieves. Once a dog figures out the difference, you will see your dog get just as excited over blind retrieves as he does marked retrieves.
Now for the dog that is strong on 'find' but weak on retrieve. I try to turn the pups predatory drive 'on' by enticing it with live game that runs away. Like the instinct triggered in Bears when we run from them, we are trying to trigger the predatory instinct in your pup. One way to do it is to trim the primary flight feathers of one wing only on a live game bird. Plant the bird in your launcher or kick cage so it doesn't run off. Bring pup in and let pup establish point. Assuming it is sound conditioned, release the bird and shoot your cap gun. The bird will be unbalanced and flutter to the ground. Allow the pup to pursue for the retrieve. If it does not pursue, take it to the bird and hopefully the bird will begin to run from the dog. We pray at this moment that the pups desire to pursue running prey comes alive. If the dog begins to pursue, let it go and say nothing. Praise pup when he catches it. Do NOT take it away but rather kneel down on pups level and praise / pet him for catching his quarry. Over time you will work with this dog and over time encourage it to bring the bird to you, but not at first! It is a 'retrieve' when the dog picks it up though it may not be to you. We can work on bringing it to you later as described above.
Start pups training as early as
possible, do this often and you will have a dog
that won't even hesitate on the most difficult of retrieves.
Staunching, The Barrel Technique (intensity at whoa)
Here is an old tried and true staunching tip for your Gundog. If your dog looks a little flat on point, try this. Get a 55 gal. Drum. Drive 2 stakes in the ground 2 feet apart. Lay the drum on its side against the stakes. Now place your Brittany on the barrel.
Command 'whoa' gently and allow the barrel to be wobbly. Allow your Brittany to slide off if it does not try to stand still. When your Brittany is doing its best to remain perfectly still, press your leg against the barrel (which presses the barrel against the two stakes) to remove the wobbliness and repeat "whoa". Make sweet talk while styling him/her on point. When your Brittany begins to relax, remove your leg and the wobbliness returns thus making your dog "staunch" again. Repeat as above.
Over time and subsequent lessons, you can be more concerned with minutia such as the dog slowly moving it's head or flagging while at whoa on the barrel. Once the dog understands the concept of the barrel, you can begin to let the barrel wobble with any movement, whether it be a flagging tail or anything else. Soon you can have your dog on the barrel with its head and tail up while it remains perfectly still and staunch.
Combine this with your ordinary yard work and you will be amazed as to how solid your Brittany is at whoa.
Pup ears are very sensitive!
Proper sound conditioning is one of the most overlooked aspects of gun dog training. Everyone seems to get caught up with yard work and pointing while overlooking one of the first things that should be done, Sound conditioning. Do this when it is time for yard work to begin.
Sound conditioning is the process whereby we get pup to associate pleasure with a sharp noise.
There are many methods to sound condition young pup so let's start with a couple of the WORST ways to sound condition. First WORST method is the trip to a firing range to "test" pup out and the Second WORST method is to take pup out somewhere and shoot shotguns / firecrackers nearby for the gun shy "test". Third WORST method is taking pup to a big dove/waterfowl/whatever shoot thinking pup will understand - WRONG! These methods and any other similar method are wrong. These methods create more gun-shy dogs than any other methods we know of. True, some dogs have been "tested" successfully this way, but the majority of dogs, especially the timid ones, will shy from these methods. Why not do it safely?
Do you get brownie points for saying "My dog never had to be sound conditioned!"? No, and every newbie that comes along and fails to properly sound condition their pup is risking messing their dog up by taking risky advice. You've invested time and money in this long term bond so let's start on the right foot. Sound conditioning is preventative medicine. Take a dose and feel better! If you must do it wrong, bring the ruined dog to me. Repairing
Here are a couple ways to sound condition that are tried and true:
1st: Pup must be excited about birds for this method so he needs to be older than 8 weeks old! To get pup excited about birds you must expose pup to game birds, wild or pen raised.
If you have limited space and resources you can do this:
Buy a couple pen raised quail or pigeons from someone. Many thrift papers list them for sale. Take a bird or two and put them in a small flat cage that can't be opened easily by a puppy. Put the birds in the cage and let the pup play with the birds in the cage. Limit play time to a few minutes. As pup matures, he will try to tear the cage open to get to the birds. When this happens, you are ready to continue to the next step.
Get pup excited over a bird while someone simultaneously fires a small caliber cap gun in the distance (100 yards plus away). Pup should be zeroed in on his bird in a trance like / tunnel vision way. We are associating the good of the bird smell and sight with sound. Do this once everyday until pup is not acknowledging the sound of a nearby cap gun. You will work closer and closer over time. Once he is good to go on the cap gun, then repeat the drill with the use of a small gauge shotgun (100 plus yards away). IF YOU HAVE ACCESS to lots of birds, then sound conditioning to game birds is better. Pup learns to associate the pleasure of birds with a sharp noise in the distance. A variation of this method is to trim some primary feathers off of one wing so that it can't fly far, flush the bird, allow pup to chase and when he picks it up in his mouth, fire a cap gun in the distance.
2nd: This method is the one we advise for folks without access to lots of game birds / live in the city to use and will now explain.
Feed time is a pleasurable time for pups, which is why many people use the pot banging technique at feed time. We start our conditioning at feeding time for pup. Pup must be seriously eating, zeroed in on his food, and not just sniffing when we start. This may mean holding pup to one meal a day to ensure that he eats heartily during sound conditioning.
Assuming you are indoors, we start by striking a ladle/spoon against a pan bottom ONE TIME from an adjacent room while pup is eating. Have someone in the same room with pup watching pups' reaction while the noisemaker hides out of sight in the adjacent room. Reactions vary from a startled jump away from the food to barely giving notice. No matter the reaction, do it only once.
Repeat the same sequence the next day at feeding time. You want 2 consecutive tests (this means 2 separate feeding times) in which pup barely gives notice to the noise.
Next we move into the room with pup at the next feeding. Stand across the room from pup and not over his head. Strike the pan bottom ONCE. Do this once per feeding until pup does not give notice.
Now we move to a 99-cent cap pistol. Start in the adjacent room again as you did above following the same sequence. Once you can fire the cap pistol from across the room, and he barely gives notice, then you are ready to move to birds and small gauge shotguns. NOTE: you still have to do it with birds but you will have laid the foundation.
Pup now associates sharp noises with pleasurable events (eating ;-). Pup is already birdy or you wouldn't be starting his training, so give pup some strong flying birds to focus on for completion of his sound conditioning. We are also assuming here that pup had the opportunity to smell and observe strong flying birds with no pressure on an earlier occasion. This is important because you want pup to be very birdy.
There is one more thing you can do if associating sound at feeding time due to limited resources. I like to take a bird or two and put them in a small cage that can't be opened easily by a puppy. Put the birds in the cage and let the pup play with the birds in the cage. As pup matures, he will try to tear the cage open to get to the birds. When this happens, you are ready to continue with more advanced conditioning such as shooting a 22 crimp with pup chasing a pigeon or quail. Do NOT use 22 / 32 cal black powder loads until pup is already conditioned. Black powder loads are very loud!
Hopefully your pup is progressing well in his yard/field working plan. We plant the birds as we would normally do, hidden and in a launcher (NOTE: Please read my tips on preventing launcher shyness - don't let your pup become a victim of technology!). Bring pup in crossing downwind of the birds scent cone, let pup establish point, release the bird (bird launchers are best). Let the pup chase a good distance before firing the small gauge shotgun, however, make sure he is focused on the bird when you fire. To reiterate, don't fire the gun until you get a good puppy point and he is intently watching/chasing the bird as it flies away. Do NOT fire over his head!
Try to kill the first bird pup points with ONE SHOT (or use my wing trimming method). Let him run to the killed bird and mouth it as his reward. Don't let pup eat the bird or we'll start problems. Take the dead bird from him in a cheerful way. It’s not important at this point that the pup be completely solid on point or that he chases some. We are trying to cement the fact that gun fire is fun because it is associated with something great, birds!
An alternative to the above is to cripple a quail by trimming some of the primary flight feathers off of one wing before using it. Then bring in pup and flush the bird. The bird won't be able to fly far thus allowing pup to catch it. At the precise moment he catches it, you may then fire your 22 crimp gun. If that went ok, repeat but use a small gauge shotgun with cheap low load shells. Remember, never fire over pups head and never fire in the direction of pup.
Some folks tie a short piece of rubber hose to the birds leg so it can't fly far. I find that to be very artificial and often is harder on the bird by hurting their leg permanently. Most Brittanys are soft mouthed so there is no need to hurt a bird. Also the string can get tangled up around the dogs mouth / legs. Just isn't worth it.
This process takes about 2 weeks. It works, it's a conservative approach and we've never ruined a dog doing this. We didn't invent this method; in fact, it's a variation on what was learned years ago from a very successful professional. Try to kill the first few birds for him with the first shot each time or handicap the bird if you are not a good shot as I mentioned above. This way he is immediately rewarded. We like to use small gauge shotguns like the 20 or 28 gauge with low brass bird shot. Whatever gun you use, make sure you can hit with it ;-)
Have fun and never forget to make quality playtime each day for the two of you.
Teaching the dog to come to you when called, Several methods
Method 1. We teach the dog his/her name through repetition and rewards. When pup is young, we work on it everyday for just a few minutes from a six-foot lead until he comes immediately. We call the pup like this " Fido, Come". If he does not come to you, gently 'check' him and repeat the command simultaneously. When he comes, praise - reward. Once he is doing it without having to check him, then move to a 20 to 30 feet long check cord and repeat as above. (All initial training is done in an enclosed yard for safety reasons). We praise a lot every time pup comes (even if it's slowly) and about every 2nd or 3rd time we'll give pup a small tasty treat as an additional reward. This really keeps pup sharp and looking for praise/rewards. Remember to check pup with the leash/check cord upward and command "come" when he ignores you, then immediately call him in an easy tone and pull him to you. Praise excitedly and reward when he arrives. Repeat. Keep lessons short-10 minutes. Do this daily.
When he does this without fail, let him drag the check cord on your outdoor
jaunts. If he fails to come when called, run him down (never call him more than
once if you're sure he heard his name/command to come). It's best to use a
30-foot plus check cord for this and be sure to tie a big knot in the very end
(the free end). That way you can just simply run up on him, step on the cord and
the knot will catch on your foot which allows you time to pick it up and reel
him in. Do not praise if you had to run pup down. Take pup to the location
from which you originally called him. Release pup again and repeat
if necessary. Pup must be coming to you reliably while dragging the check cord
before you allow him to run free.
Method 2. Another way is for two people to sit on the ground about 3 feet apart. A
first person calls pups name and immediately gives a small tasty reward. Then
the opposite person does the same. Over a period of days and a couple of weeks,
we increase the distance between the two people. If done correctly and not
rushing, pup will run as fast as he can to get to the
Method 3. Here's one that works well if you can find some safe acreage to take your dog to:
Release the dog as you normally do, when the dog disappears or is reluctant
to return, never repeat the command if you're sure he heard it. Simply sit down
in some good cover (when the dog is out of sight or not responding) but don't
let the dog see where you are. Sit quietly and say nothing. Depending on the
dog, a bit of time will go by and he will realize you are no longer there. He
looks fast and furious for you, maybe passing within feet of you. Soon he
panics. Let him panic for a minute or two (panic symptoms include whining,
howling, running in no specific direction, trying to look harder for you, etc.)
When he is good and worried, Stand up and call him. Say it only one time. If
he's good and scared, he'll run right to you. PRAISE, PRAISE, and REWARD with a
O.K. one more note about coming to the name. We teach our dogs to come to a special command other than his/her name. Example: "Chief, here" or "Chief, come". Why? Because a house companion that you love gets talked about a lot. You know casual conversation where you are saying your dogs' name over and over when you are not really calling him/her to you. Example: "Well you should have seen Chief this morning. Chief wanted to play and I didn't. But Chief persisted and he..........." You get the point, right? Soon, your pet becomes tone deaf to his own name because half of the time that you speak his name you're not really calling him.
We use the the dogs name as an attention getter to be followed by a command. I guess I learned this in my military marching drills. You have the 'preparatory command' followed by the 'command of execution'. So the preparatory command is 'Chief' and the command of execution is 'come' or 'heel' or whatever. It really works and you must be consistent.
Our recommendation is to not use his name in front of him when engaging in casual conversation about him unless you are really calling him or, use our preparatory command sequence. Most people find our method easier.
We admire families who rescue any breed/mixed breed dog. We rescue Brittanys in our area and adopt them out to caring families who know what to expect from Brittanys in general. There are a few things we'd like to offer in the way of advice to the giver or the adopting family.
For the receiving family:
Families giving away a Brittany:
Sometimes you feel that you prepared yourself adequately only to find that the active Brittany needs more exercise than you can offer. Maybe the Brittany has bad habits that your family can't seem to control, or, it came down with a serious health condition you can't afford to treat but you don't have the heart to put the Brittany down to eternal rest. Whatever the cause, you now have a Brittany to give away. Here are some tips:
Sometimes, even with the most careful planning and training, your dog will bump birds and chase. Usually this is secondary to having caught a bird such as a pen-raised quail or putting a young dog on running birds to early in its bird dog development.
Keep in mind, the following 'quick fixes' assume the dog was properly trained to begin with, knows heel, whoa, quartering, etc. The other method that is not discussed here is to go back to yard work and reintroduce the dog to birds in the controlled fashion we describe in our yard working plan.
IF YOUR DOG IS RANGING TOO BIG, TEACH THE DOG TO HUNT CLOSE. There are a couple ways to address busting and chasing.
The low tech way to fix it
The old way that works is to have the dog on a very long check cord. For this scenario, we like a 50 to 100 feet long light weight ski cord. Tie a big knot in the free end. You will need a bird launcher and a quick/nimble partner to help. LIGHT WEIGHT CORD WILL GET TANGLED EASILY SO MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN A TANGLE FREE AREA, OR, USE SHORTER STIFF CHECK CORD MATERIAL.
Here's what to do:
Plant the bird in good cover so that the dog cannot see the launcher. Allow enough time for the scent to build a good scent cone (see yard working plan re: scent cones). Have your partner hide near the bird but out of site. If the launcher is remote controlled, let your partner hold the transmitter. If it's a manual launcher, have your partner hold the string that is attached to the launcher release mechanism.
The handler releases the dog several hundred yards away and 'hunts'. This distance allows the dog time to forget that it might be a training situation. Just before the dog reaches the scent cone, the handler hides too. Now your partner takes over. While remaining hid, he waits for the dog to establish point. If the dog does not hold point (takes a step or more after establishing point OR does not point at all - busts the bird), he puts the bird up by pulling the hidden cord - this teaches the dog that it will fly away if it does not hold steady and wait for the handler. Bird busting 'wise' dogs will often look around for the handler just before they jump in to bust the bird.
Now, at this point, the chasing habit will reveal itself. The dog will chase because he thinks he's alone since after he established point, he didn't hear or see the handler anymore. Your partner needs to be quick and nimble because he must allow the dog to start the chase then run out from hiding and grab the long check cord. When he grabs the cord, he allows it to run through his gloved hands to the point of the knot then immediately sets the cord firmly thus flipping the chasing dog backwards. The partner who flipped the dog needs to sit down and hide when he does this. The startled dog will be looking blankly back in the direction of the handler and not see him. The dog will think the bird has magical powers that caused him to be flipped backwards. Many times, this is all that is needed to stop the dog from busting/chasing.
The handler waits for the dog to resume the hunt and then 'reappears'. IT IS BEST if you have enough land to have two birds set up so that you can immediately repeat this training technique in a second location. The dog will be perplexed as to how this could have happened since the handler was no where to be seen when he was checked.
Your partner will have to have a lot of hustle and be a dedicated friend ;-)
An alternate way to do the low tech way is for the handler to not hide so that the dog associates it with the handler, as if the handler has magical powers. The handler would then put the checked dog back where it was when it broke, command whoa, walk out front, kick around, walk back to the dog, heel him a short distance forward and release him to hunt on. The only problem with this method is that the dog will know that if he sees the owner he can't get away with it but if he doesn't see his owner, he can do what he wants. I've seen dogs actually look around before taking a bird out to make sure it can get away with it!
The high tech easy way that, if done wrong, will forever mess up your dog.
Substitute the check cord with an e-collar. If you choose to use an e-collar be careful! Make sure the dog is in FULL CHASE and has covered a good bit of ground (100 yards - a football field's length!) before employing its use. We STRONGLY recommend using the collar away from your normal training grounds (we really like D.T. systems SPT 7302 training collar with the humane vibration feature. Contact us if you want or have questions about D.T. system collars.) - Stimulate in continuous mode using the minimum response level (see my threshold article) until the dog stops or turns away from the bird, then immediately stop the stimulation. Say nothing! Let the dog think that if it pursues flying birds, that were not shot at, that they can 'get him'. CAUTION: If you stimulate the dog too close to where the bird flushed from, you can create a blinker which is a BIG problem. There are some very subtle techniques when using an e-collar. Not knowing EXACTLY what to do can ruin your dog! ALWAYS seek the help of a professional if there is even the slightest amount of doubt!
A remote control bird launcher makes either technique easier. We use strong flying pigeons that have been used for dog training before. We've seen wild pigeons, trapped in the city, simply land 10 feet away from the launcher only to be caught by the dog - big problem! Weak pen raise quail are a big time no-no! Pigeons that have been used to train dogs know to get the heck out of Dodge! If you need an e-collar, read this:
Teaching sit is one of the most NOT asked questions by the novice. The novice trainer assumes that their puppy should learn sit first. This assumption is wrong for the pointing bird dog that will be expected to ‘whoa’ properly in the early phases of training.
Keep in mind, in this discussion, we are speaking of a pup that is too young for formal yard work and is learning it's first commands.
Here’s the problem: ‘Sit’, albeit a wonderful command with many uses, it is a controlling command. From the dogs’ perspective, you just taught him how to behave when you are forcing something upon him. This is especially true when it’s the first command taught. Once the dog learns ‘sit’ early on in its life, ‘Sit’ becomes the default posture to assume when you are exerting control over it.
start your yard work and begin to teach heel, whoa, quartering, and coming, your
dog is apt to sit when initially teaching whoa.
Some dogs may do this anyway if they are very soft in nature but they
will almost do it certainly if you have already taught sit (by force).
You will lose training time because you have to teach the dog that the
‘new’ training command ‘whoa’ does not mean sit and this may very well confuse
the pup thus making your training time losses greater. Sitting on
whoa can be fixed but it will cost you more time (and money if using a pro).
Sitting on whoa can be fixed but it will cost you more time (and money if using a pro).
Another negative side effect of teaching sit early is that the dog may want to sit on point. This all goes back to properly teaching whoa. You can see the domino effect.
to avoid this situation altogether by just teaching sit sometime later in life.
We suggest you teach it after the pup has learned to hunt with confidence and
has completed its Phase I yard work..
NOTES: If you can teach sit or any other command through positive
reinforcement such as the use of treats without any force, then sit may
not be a problem when it's time to start yard work/whoa training. We
advocate teaching dogs 'tricks' early in life with treats and rewards as we feel
it helps their mental processes mature and makes them ready for yard work.
NOTES: If you can teach sit or any other command through positive reinforcement such as the use of treats without any force, then sit may not be a problem when it's time to start yard work/whoa training. We advocate teaching dogs 'tricks' early in life with treats and rewards as we feel it helps their mental processes mature and makes them ready for yard work.
What is force? Force can be something as simple as raising your voice
in a negative tone or pressing down on the hips to make the pup sit.
What is force? Force can be something as simple as raising your voice in a negative tone or pressing down on the hips to make the pup sit.
Creeping in on point has to be one of the most popular of questions.
First off, pointing is a 10,000 year old basic instinct of the wolf which is mixed in with careful and stealthy creeping until close enough to it's prey to pounce and kill. Man (or woman) merely refined that instinct so that the dog will allow us to creep/pounce/kill! So you see, the point is actually a refinement of his instincts and is somewhat unnatural for him.
We are asking the domestic dog to ignore the creeping and killing instinct and trust us to do the job for him. Why do you think the retrieve for a dog is the reward that I speak of so much? It is the culmination of your dogs finest instincts to locate and kill.
Now to the problem. The basic problem with creeping is that the dog is not staying on a self-initiated whoa until released and is 'crowding' (creeping up on) the bird - pen raised birds make this problem worse as they do not spook easily and flush wildly when a dog crowds them. The matter is made worse when training without remote controlled launchers because your dog can move without any consequence from the bird.
Your dog should be taught in yard work to stay at whoa until released either by gunfire or human command. He should also already know to stop and hold at first scent, see my yard working A to Z plan.
Keep this in mind: Your dog is never allowed to be released from whoa unless you: A. heel him away, or B. touch him on the head to release him, or C. shoot a gun. This teaches him later to never move once he is either commanded or self-initiates a whoa. Steadiness is important!
Creeping is usually reinforced by man even if the dog was taught whoa properly to begin with!
Assuming the dog was taught 'whoa' correctly, the dog 'unlearned' his training when the hunter shoots at a bird that the dog did not hold absolutely steady. Since dogs naturally want to creep, you are reinforcing this behavior if you kill the bird over your creeper.
Also, a dog learns to creep and bust if it ever catches a pen-raised bird because the creeping dog is thinking he can catch another.
Shooting and/or Killing a bird in which the dog was not absolutely steady (even if it takes just a step or two) is a reward to the dog! Therefore, in the dogs mind, creeping is acceptable.
When the dog initially establishes point (gets first scent), it should immediately freeze and point. You should then be able to remind the young green trained dog to stay on point with a gentle 'whoa' command. If the dog takes just one more step and you shoot and/or kill the bird - you just reinforced creeping because in his mind, next time, he might be able to get away with 2 steps.
What you should do, when in a hunting situation, is let the bird go and pick up your dog and put it back where it was when he got first scent, whoa him, then walk out front and kick around - then go back to him and release him on to hunt - this shows him he made a mistake and you didn't reward his mistake by shooting and/or killing the bird.
So how do I get him to freeze on first scent? We like to use remote controlled bird launchers (strongly recommend D.T. Systems Launchers). We take the dog in perpendicular to the down wind scent cone on a lead or check cord. I like to start at about 50 yards and cross the scent cone left/right moving closer in 5 yard increments so as to cultivate the dogs nose to stop on first scent. It is imperative that you know how to read your dogs body language so that you know when he gets the first infinitesimal amount of scent.
When he indicates first scent, launch the bird immediately and say nothing! This is important! You want him to think that he can cause the bird to flush if he moves beyond first scent!! Many dogs indicate the scent cone (when crossing perpendicular to it) by simply angling their head into the wind and flaring their nostrils.
Now take him back and set another bird IN A DIFFERENT SPOT! Repeat as above. We are not looking for a point just yet. We are showing him that any bird, anywhere, will flush if he does not freeze immediately. Remember, we are not looking for him to point YET. We are launching the bird regardless of whether he freezes (points) immediately or not as we are launching the bird the INSTANT he indicates scent with his body language (Such as: flaring nostrils, ears forward, flagging, etc.)
Repeat until he gets the idea he must freeze (point) immediately on the slightest amount of scent. You will find that instantly launching the bird causes the well bred pup to begin to understand that he is the cause of the birds action (flight). Once you are sure he will point, then let him point it and wait a few seconds. If he moves as much as his head, launch the bird again. We want to gradually get the dog to understand that he must point and hold perfectly still on point until you produce the bird to shoot!
Once he is pointing staunchly and still on the lead/check cord, then we reward him with a kill.
Repeat this exercise until he is locking up on first scent off the check cord and holding for you to launch/kill the bird.
Also, a simple reminder to 'whoa' should be all that is needed to remind him to stay at whoa when he stops at first scent. If that doesn't fix the problem, you need to go back to whoa training. Never whoa your dog into a point. I've covered that in my 'teaching whoa' section on my training web page. And for Pete's sake, don't ever shoot unless the bird was held steady!!!
After your dog has been properly introduced as above, you will notice that he has learned to be careful around birds! He will take great caution in birdy situations!
This is one method, I have a couple other methods to cure creeping.
Keep this in mind: Your dog is never allowed to be released from whoa unless you: A. heel him away, or B. touch him on the head to release him, or C. shoot a gun. This teaches him later to never move once he is either commanded or self-initiates a whoa. Steadiness is important!
We feel that it is ok to teach tricks to your Brittany early in its Puppyhood, however, we believe that any force too soon/young will stifle your pup when it's time to start yard work and field training.
My experience has shown that a puppy taught tricks through positive reinforcement (praise/treats, etc.) seems more ready to build upon his knowledge when it's time to start yard work.
A puppy taught tricks has several indirect benefits:
1. If you have lovingly taught tricks to your puppy, you have been spending time with it - a definitely plus!
2. Quality time spent together translates into a bond and trust with your Brittany. Your Brittany will be more apt to trust you later own when you begin tougher lessons.
3. Dogs learn in steps. Some call it 'layers'. With each new lesson, you are building upon the last. (commands should be taught in sequence - steps). So when a pup comes to me for Phase I training that has been loved and taught 'tricks' (without force!), I find that the dog is more apt to want to learn and please thus facilitating a smoother training period with less stress (because the dog is use to someone working with it in a loving way often!).
Let's talk about steps/layers:
It is not a secret though some trainers who protect their programs want it to be, that dogs need to learn in steps through a logical progression.
Example: Let's say we want to teach the pup to roll over on the ground. Do you place pup on his side and roll him over? No. I guess you could but it doesn't benefit the dog. The way we teach that command is to start with sit. We 'catch' young pup sitting on its own and quickly grab a treat, say 'sit' and give it to the pup while it is sitting. After a few reps, a light bulb comes on and he realizes that if he is sitting on his butt, hears sit, he gets a treat. Soon he will come to you and sit just to get the treat!
Now that he is sitting, we use the treat to encourage him to lay down in order to get the reward. As he follows the treat down to the ground with his nose, he lays down without thinking and we say "lay down" and give the treat. Just as we did with sit, we repeat a few times and now pup knows "lay down".
Then we move to roll over. He is now use to following the treat with his nose and while he is laying down, we move the treat in an arc behind his head so that he follows it with his nose and wah-lah, he follows it and rolls over by accident...we say "roll over" and give the treat! Folks, it's that easy.
Did you see the steps (or layers)? Each command overlaps the other thus making an easy transition!
We think little tricks such as these help to 'smarten' the dog and exercise his brain. So do it! Be nice though and use NO force. Our favorite treat to teach with? They are liver treats that come in a small maroon milk carton (like the ones you drank out of in grade school). There are two brands that we know of, Bil-Jac and Hollywood Stars. The treat is a small, moist liver treat (doesn't really smell) and your pup will Go Crazy for Them!
Don't let your dog become a victim of technology!
The manual and remote controlled bird launchers are a necessary tool to help teach a pointing dog steadiness. We here at Chief's Brittanys believe that the remote controlled launcher is an essential tool, especially in the absence of abundant wild game birds.
The good ole law of supply and demand has really brought the price down on quality remote controlled devices thus everyone is buying them.
With increased use of anything, there are bound to be problems. The biggest one we see is launcher shyness...a technology induced modern age problem.
Any time a dog is shy of something, they have usually had a bad experience with whatever they are shy of.
Launcher shyness is a modern day version of bird blinking and can sometimes be directly related to bird blinking. (blinking birds is where the dog smells the bird, then quickly turns away as it is afraid of what will happen - again, a bad experience is associated with the bird).
One of the primary causes of launcher shyness is that the young pup or dog in training got too close to the launcher as the handler launched the bird. Usually right in or near the dogs face.
Like sound conditioning and anything else for that matter, the dog must introduced carefully and gradually. There are a couple ways to do it which I will discuss.
First off, let's introduce the pup to birds WITHOUT a launcher and let's do it right. From pups earliest days I let pup see birds flying about, at a distance. When I let the pup smell a live bird up close, I hold the bird in my hands in such a manner that it can not accidentally peck/scratch/flap pups face. We keep everything positive.
I also like to put some live birds in a solid built wire cage for pups to explore. I let the pups walk on top of the cage, paw at the cage, etc. to build their boldness on birds.
Then I hand plant some strong flying birds for pup to find. I keep pup on a lead/check cord that I am holding in my hand the whole time. I cross perpendicular to the downwind scent cone as far away as possible, zigzagging back and forth, closer and closer, until pup smells the bird. I gently restrain pup and let a friend flush the bird for pup. The flush is a natural sound and far enough away that pup does not get scared. On the first few flushes, I like to hobble the bird so that the bird doesn't fly immediately to high altitudes while the unsuspecting/novice pup fails to track it with his eyes. If pup fails to see the bird but hears the noise of a flush, it can sometimes cause a timid dog to shy away. Pup MUST see the flushed bird. White pigeons are a good aid.
Once pup is ok with birds flushing, we move to the launcher. The launcher should be completely hidden in good cover. Once again, I suggest you hobble the first bird or two in the launcher because many launchers are so strong that they will launch the bird so fast and hard that pup will not see the bird. The hobble weights the bird down so that pup can find the bird in the sky after hearing the noise. Remember, PUP MUST SEE THE BIRD.
ALSO REMEMBER, you want your pup to smell the bird in the launcher as far away as possible and the pup MUST be under your control with lead/check cord in hand so that pup does not run up to the launcher only to have it go off in his face!
Once pup is tracking birds launched, you can stop hobbling the birds and let them fly freely.
Here's a hobbling tip for introduction of pup to birds from your launcher: Using ordinary yarn, tie one end to the birds leg, above the foot, and the other end to the launcher basket. Your yarn should be about 20 to 30 feet in length. When you launch the bird, it will fly a short distance before being pulled down by the yarn. This makes certain pup sees his first ever launched bird! If pup is sound conditioned, you can fire your cap gun as the bird is being pulled down so as to simulate a kill. Don't let pup run to the live bird unless you are sure the flapping bird won't make pup shy of birds! I only use this technique when I am FIRST introducing pup to launched birds.
This is a terrific technique to simulate pups first kill without having to actually use a shotgun!
Understanding Stimulation Thresholds for the Modern E-collar ™
What is a stimulation threshold? What are stimulation thresholds? What are stimulation thresholds used for? How to I determine stimulation thresholds? Why do I need to know them? What's a threshold?
WhY rEad ThiS?
You need to know about this stuff because if you strap an electronic stimulus training collar (herein e-collar) on your dog you have the sudden power to suddenly, and quite permanently, ruin your dog. If this alarms you, it should.
First, let me give you a Scientific study, relative to the probes which will contact your dogs skin, that specifically addresses impedance from 3 types of metal on human skin. I cannot find a 'dog' study but assume impedance across human and bare animal skin is closely related (with the absence of sweat).
Received: 25 August 1972
Abstract: The temporal change in the approximate impedance of dry silver, stainless-steel (Dave's note: similar to e-collar probes I would presume) and German-silver electrodes applied to the unprepared skin of human subjects was measured using the electrocardiogram as a test signal.... ...In most cases, with the passage of time, the average electrode-subject impedance decreased; the temporal nature of the decrease was similar for all three metals. Although there were wide variations in individual impedances over a 20-min period, the average 20-min impedance was between one-fourth and one-fifth of the initial impedance for all three metals. Silver exhibited the lowest average initial and 20-min impedance values. Placing ordinary tap water below the electrodes further reduced the 20-min impedance to about one-sixth of the initial impedance. (Dave's note: Just like a dog getting wet)
Supported by Grant FD 00044-02, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, D. C.
I wrote this article and developed my own terminology and technical descriptions to standardize my explanations. My goal is for each and every person to understand that e-collars are more than just a "zap 'em" tool. This article and it's titles are copyrighted and protected under my trademarks.
While I'm not a scientist, I have trained hundreds of dogs and understand there are differences in e-collar transmissions affected by many factors. Plus, in my previous Navy life, I was a Registered Cardiovascular Technologist (Invasive) and worked with all sorts of electronics that were applied or inserted into the human body.
Remember this above all else, e-collars aren't for teaching, they are for reinforcing.
First, My technical descriptions
A 'stimulation threshold' is the minimum amount of stimulation emitted from an electronic dog training collar that is required to accomplish something. There are several kinds of stimulation thresholds on a dog. Specific stimulation thresholds are required to get the dog to respond to the handlers request in training, hunting, or in emergencies. (The term stimulation threshold is actually one that we use in the Invasive cardiac cath lab among various tests and pacemaker insertions. It's a real term.)
If you use an e-collar you need to understand stimulation thresholds! I have taken the term 'stimulation threshold' and applied it to e-collars so that one can understand what they are doing when stimulating a dog.
While descriptions of various stimulation thresholds follow, I don't expect you to memorize this stuff. My goal is that you understand what is going on with your dog so that you don't over stimulate your dog.
OVERUSE OF THE E-COLLAR USING HIGHER THAN REQUIRED STIMULATION LEVELS LEADS TO 'E-COLLAR DESENSITIZATION'....That's BAD! I call this e-collar overstepping™. More on that later.
First, let's discuss the various stimulation thresholds I observe:
1. Minimum amount of stimulation required to be felt by the animal, herein 'felt'. You should determine his minimum amount to be felt in a quiet environment as an excited environ may not yield the same results thus skewing your findings.
2. Minimum amount of stimulation responding to, (dog is in a quiet environment and not excited), herein 'responds to'. Example: A stubborn dog may feel level 3 but won't respond (comply) you until you use level 4. Many times the response level is the same as the felt level...but not always!
3. Minimum amount of stimulation responded to in an mildly excited state, herein 'excited'. The more excited a dog gets, the more 'tunnel visioned' and deaf they become. A dog merely excited by kids playing in the yard may require a slightly higher than normal stimulation level.
4. Minimum amount of stimulation responded to when panicked or super excited, herein 'panicked or super excited'. Super excitement is something like deer / rabbit chasing / car - the dog develops 'tunnel hearing' in that he acts as though he doesn't hear you. In this scenario, the dog has complete tunnel vision to the point of blocking all audible commands from you. Often you have to increase the level of stimulation to a very high level to get the dogs attention. This is when folks often use the 'panic button' on their e-collar.
Please note: Minimum amounts of stimulation vary. Variations are caused by changed electrical impedance, herein 'variations'.
Changed impedance can be due to varying prong contact (secondary to dogs coat, prong length, collar placement, collar's fit - snugness), atmospheric conditions, weather, etc. (also as noted above in Baylor Physiology Abstract about impedance).
IMPEDANCE IS SOMETIMES LOWERED IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOUR DOG FEELS HIS FIRST "FELT" STIMULATION OF THE TRAINING SESSION (EACH SEPARATE SESSION) THUS YOUR THRESHOLDS SHOULD BE DETERMINED AFTER THIS PHENOMENON. Simply relower your settings to zero again and start back up. Often you'll be surprised that the 'felt' level has changed and is now lower.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that different levels of stimulation are required to accomplish different training missions. Let's talk about the different levels outlined above.
1. 'Felt' level, minimum amount of stimulation needed to be felt by the dog
This is Dave's TWO STEP METHOD to determine the 'Felt' level:
STEP ONE: We put the collar on properly (just behind the ears and 2 fingers snug is what I like) and ensure the probes are making contact with the skin on the underside middle of the neck. Place your fingers on the skin adjacent to the probes or carefully observe the probe area by raising the dogs head. Now, with your other hand, take your transmitter and begin testing each level starting with the very lowest level. Slowly increase the transmission 1 level at a time. ONLY USE THE MOMENTARY (nick) BUTTON! You will soon come to the 'felt' level. You will know as you will see or feel the skin twitch or maybe the dog will slightly twitch or blink. This 'felt' level feels to the dog about like someone tapping you on the neck with their finger.
Warning: If you do not apply the collar properly it can give you the false idea that the dog needs a higher setting. The danger is that should the collar shift and come into proper contact during the lesson, your dog will be caused great pain! COMPLETELY YOUR FAULT.
STEP TWO: Once your dog feels it, IMMEDIATELY back the levels down to the lowest level and start up again, testing one level at a time. You will be surprised to find out that his felt level is possibly now lower. See the laws I've listed below in highlights.
WARNING, e-collars with only a few levels will often overstep the 'felt' level and cause pain!!! I call that e-collar overstepping* ™! This is why we recommend D.T. Systems as they have collars with 50 or 60 levels. A collar with this many levels has very small differences in between each level of stimulation. Also, D.T. has now come out with 'GTS' technology whereby you can preset extremely low levels on their systems with fewer levels to choose from.
*E-collar overstepping ™
My definition of an e-collar with too few selection levels of stimulation. This may often result in 'e-collar overstepping ®', whereby level 'a' is too weak yet level 'b' is too hot. A collar with many levels, say 50 or 60, will allow minimal incremental rise in intensity per step/level thus allowing you to select the correct level of stimulation for your dog without causing harm. How do you know if you have too few levels on your current e-collar? Start at the lowest setting and work up. When determining the 'felt' level, If he shows no sign of being stimulated then all of the sudden cries out from the next level, get rid of that collar... you just overstepped.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR, For consistent stimulation results, shave or use clippers on the neck where the probes will make contact. Long probes on long haired dogs are fine but we have found too many variations in impedance.
2. Now let's determine the 'response' level, minimum amount required to get the dog to respond under normal conditions
Example: A dog knows whoa and has the e-collar on to remind it to stay at whoa (I'm assuming proper e-collar/check cord blending was done from here forward). Let's say the dog is in the back yard and there are no distractions. Let's say for example that the dog's 'felt' level is 3. That is the level we begin to train with. (I am assuming you have already blended in your e-collar in previous lessons so he understands what the stimulation actually means, i.e., that it means the same as a 'check').
Now lets say you have commanded whoa in this lesson and the dog starts to move. You remind him to whoa with a momentary nick using the 'felt' level of 3. Lets say he responds appropriately. That suggests that his felt and responds to levels are the same thus that is all you need for that lesson / environment.
In this next example the dog is a bit stubborn. In this scenario we'll say that he felt 3 just like the previous dog when asked to whoa but won't respond to your commands using it (assuming you know that he knows the command). You would now select the very next level and try it with the same command he previously disobeyed. Lets say he still doesn't respond so you will then move up one more level at a time repeating the command until the dog responds. Let's say that the stubborn dog felt 3 but didn't whoa until 6. 6 becomes his 'response' level in that environment.
These scenario's assume your dog was correctly started with an e-collar in previous lessons using the blending method. It also assumes your collar has a full charge and is properly placed on your dog. Also, in the above scenario's, there are no distractions (environment plays a big role in the level of stimulation required). It also assumes that your dog knows its commands very well and is simply disobeying. Sound like a broken record? It's that important. Remember, e-collars aren't for teaching, they are for reinforcing.
3. Excited level, minimum amount required to get the dog to respond under excited conditions
In our stubborn dog example above we have the stubborn dog with 'felt' level 3, 'responds' level 6. Let's put this dog into a training situation where he is distracted. Say he likes to play ball and your kid walks into the back yard playing with the ball while you are training. Let's say you are teaching whoa at that moment. Suddenly your dog is distracted, breaks whoa and begins to run off. You issue the whoa command and use his 'response' level, 6 (it was 6 in a quiet environment). The dog does not respond. You move up one level at a time until you get the desired response. This is the 'excitement' level. It's not a permanent level nor is any other level described herein. This simply illustrates that the dog may require a higher level of stimulus when excited and less focused.
4. Extremely excited / Panicked level
So now we know that this stubborn dog has a 'felt' level of 3, a 'response' level of 6, and an 'excited' level of lets say 11. In this next example we are hunting merrily along and suddenly the dog encounters a jack rabbit. The dog, never having seen or smelled something like that, is extremely excited. He decides to pursue the jack rabbit with his full attention and vigor - you've never seen him run so fast and so far away - you get a lump in your throat and a sick feeling in your stomach. He is 'Extremely excited' and has tunnel vision / tunnel hearing directed at one thing, the jack rabbit. His normal response level isn't working ...no response...12, 13, 14...still no response. Finally, at level 43, he responds to the e-collar and breaks away from the jack rabbit. That's your 'super excited or panicked' level which, BTW is not carved in stone for all situations. Again, this is for illustration of stimulation thresholds.
Why do we need to know this? Because in today's world of e-collars, there is absolutely no reason why we should be applying more stimulation than is required due to humane reasons. Also, continual over application of stimulation using levels that are set far higher than are needed lead to a dog that will become desensitized to the collar, if not ruined. You've seen those dogs, the ones that will only respond to an e-collar around the flank and/or on max settings. What a shame. Or the ones that when you put a collar on them they lay down and pee themselves. How awful.
Then what do you do when you desensitize the flank?...there's no where else to put the collar. This is the major reason I disagree with 'flank' training programs where they have one collar around the neck for 'discipline' and one around the waist for 'birds'. Yes, in few circumstances it is called for but certainly not for routine training.
Are my dog's stimulation levels permanent? NO!!! Electrical impedance can change hour to hour, minute to minute from a variety of things.
Many dogs will quickly figure out the collar and on subsequent lessons will respond to MUCH LESS stimulation. Smart dogs! It is observed in dogs which previously didn't respond to their 'felt' level but had to have a higher level to respond. Smart dogs will often revert to their 'felt' level for everything except for panic or super excitement.
Yes, this is a repeat: Changed impedance variations can be due to varying prong contact, atmospheric conditions affecting conduction from one prong to the other, weather, rain soaked hair, etc. Other factors include density of the dogs coat, prong length, collar placement, collar's fit, full charge vs. almost dead charge, etc.) If you experience a wide variation, I recommend you shave/trim/thin hair and if that doesn't work and its not too cold, you can wet down the neck of he dog to reduce impedance. (See the scientific study listed above)
Again, wet conditions from weather or swimming will always affect your system. The stimulation response levels will go down because impedance has gone down and conductivity has gone up between the probes!
Don't forget to test your dog's 'felt' level each time to you put it on his neck!
There are days when the collar seems 'hit or 'miss'. Sometimes the dog responds to 'felt' level 3, sometimes 5 or 6.
Assuming the collar and transmitters are fully functional and fully charged, it could be a variety of issues causing the problem. If you are sure it's not the weather conditions, look at the probes to make sure they are screwed on completely. Make sure there is no rust under the contact points by unscrewing them from the collar to see if the post that the probe screws down on are not rusted. You will see this happen in cheap collars. Finally, you should test your e-collar with the provided test lamp that every manufacturer includes with their e-collars.
6. Always remember that the e-collar is only a reinforcement tool. It is not infallible and is only as good as its user, you.
So there you have it, stimulation thresholds. They are important and as a good trainer you should recognize what level to use on your dog and when. A 'Extremely excited / panicked' level of 43 is not appropriate for a dog in an unexcited state performing yard work!
Lastly, if your collar has fewer than 16 levels, you quite likely are overstepping. I recommend DT systems' SPT 2400 series that has 50 levels and now D.T. has come out with 'GTS' technology whereby you can preset extremely low levels on their systems.
If you need a basic collar and don't need long distance / professional ruggedness, I like the Micro IDT seen in this Amazon advertisement
Y'all take care and give your dog a treat for me!
Dave Jones' new and innovative uses of PV (positive vibration)™
For years folks have 'reached out and touched' bird dogs with corrective e-collar stimulation but there has never been a way to reach out and praise. With Positive Vibration, you can. Therein lies the discussion that follows.
What is PV? It is a collar that vibrates, similar to a vibrating pager.
Why I am utilizing PV?
You should know that PV is no panacea and is far from perfect in many applications, however it IS very useful in my applications! PV is often misunderstood, even by some of the most prominent pro dog trainers. Some have never tried it and some are unwilling to try it. I'd like you to keep an open mind as you read this article about the way I use it.
I continually work hard to find better ways to train, not because my method lacks anything but because I believe in the "Work Smarter, Not Harder" mentality. I certainly don't know it all and don't claim to. I go with what works.
PV offers professional trainers willing to experiment with it, new and rewarding ways to humanely train dogs. PV can be extremely useful and humane. In my method of training, which I will explain in this article, we are using the PV tool to not only praise, but to cause the dog to be humanely distracted from possibly behaving improperly.
First, however, we have to understand that dogs are living their life 'second to second' and what you do in between seconds matters.
To understand my application of PV, let's discuss dog behavior, negative and positive outcomes and proper association:
Much study has been done about how dogs learn. I can boil it down to you in a simple line. Dog's learn through doing and what happens to them WHILE they are actually DOING IT. This simple line should impress upon you the need to praise and correct while the dog is in the act, not 1 second or 10 seconds later. I use to believe that anything within 10 seconds was ample but over the years I have come to believe that if you can't praise or correct in the act, it has much less effect, if any. There are some exceptions to this rule. A dog that is very smart and has been in training for quite some time can make a mistake and KNOW what he did wrong. This sort of dog can be corrected with a short delay! Catching them in the act applies mostly to young dogs.
For a dog, it is all about Cause and Effect. The effect will be either a positive or a negative outcome.
The positive or negative outcome influences their future behavior.
Example involving a negative outcome and future behavior: Dog chases rabbit, you e-stimulate dog WHILE he is chasing the rabbit. He learns through cause and effect that chasing rabbits results in a negative outcome, the e-stimulation. Is the dog permanently cured? Probably not with just one application. But he certainly will consider the previous outcome before taking the chance again (future behavior)!
Example involving a positive outcome: Dog comes when called and immediately gets a treat. The dog learns that by coming to you he will have a positive outcome, something that he desires, the treat. The next time called he is more likely to come (future behavior).
In my use, PV is a way to reach out and gently touch your dog to let him know that he is doing well while he is doing it, and also, to break his thought process about potentially doing something wrong. It's a positive outcome to in response to his proper behavior. With PV, we 'catch him in the act' of doing something right. This often is enough to keep them on track. Does this mean he won't ignore 'PV'? No! I DON'T use PV to enforce anything. I use it to REINFORCE correct behavior so as to help prevent the dog from making a mistake.
You can start by blending in vibration with giving your dog a treat to help him understand what vibration is about. The "vibration and treat" method is a way of letting the dog know that he did something correct because eventually the dog will understand that vibration and treat mean = positive reward.
A dog that understands this concept can thus be rewarded with positive vibration quickly and immediately however, I have a different approach with PV's use and association.
I don't use treats in field work (obedience in the field for bird dogs). Most bird dogs that have any clue about what they were bred to do could care less about treats when in the field. If you use treats in the yard for association, at some point you have to blend the vibration in with some other form of praise in the yard and field.
I've found that positive spoken words and tactile (touching) stimulation is more rewarding to the dog for a job well done, especially if you have used this method all through training.
I'm from the old school of soft spoken sweet talk and a gentle stroke down the dogs side. Other prominent trainers of yesteryear made this point in their writings and I agree!
My point being is that if you will associate sweet talk and positive tactile stimulation (long gentle strokes down the side from shoulder to flank), from DAY 1, you can make a better association with Vibration in the field by blending the two together.
Many trainers gently stroke the dog's tail upward or use some other form of praise to make the dog feel good about standing there steady. So a dog taught that PV is the same as your gentle voice or touch will quickly understand PV on a bird!
Use PV the same exact way you use positive voice and positive tactile stimulation throughout your training program! Yes, even for whoa! Whoa is a good thing!
Using PV is a great way to catch them doing something right when the are actually doing it!
Positive vibration is silent - sorry, I know that's obvious. I believe positive vibration to be a better tool than the audible warning tones many collars come equipped with. Why?
I have seen many dogs in recent years that are now "beeper / warning tone shy". Yet another man made problem! The dog learns from the handler that when it hears the warning tone, it is about to get shocked if it does not comply.
That dog hears the warning tone and is quickly running through his learned list of do's and don'ts and trying to figure out which one he is screwing up now. Probably because a solid foundation was not laid for the poor dog to begin with and so he is clueless about what he is doing wrong. The dog becomes afraid of the tone because he doesn't know what he's doing wrong, gets shocked after the warning tone and worse yet, the owner/handler is clueless as to why the dog is clueless.
Soon the poor dog shuts down when he hears a warning tone. To make things worse, the owner/handler likes using the beeper built into his new e-collar to help him keep track of the dog and now the owner/handler doesn't understand why the dog has stopped hunting and won't leave his feet when the beeper is turned on.
My advice for those of you who train your own dogs and like beepers / locators is DON'T use the warning tone method of training. True, many dogs never have a problem distinguishing between the warning tone and the beeper but why take the chance? If you MUST use the warning method, better to use PV as the warning.
I only use PV for praise.
When in yard work as discussed on this page in other articles I've written, you add the use of PV to let your dog know it did something right. To accomplish this, give your ordinary reward of verbal praise and gentle stroking of the side, shoulder to flank and simultaneously press the V button (vibration) - Remember, DO THIS ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY.
After a few 'refresher' yard working sessions with the addition of PV, the dog quickly learns that PV is a reward just like sweet talk and stroking. Do not be surprised if your dog shakes his head with his first application of PV. Vibration tickles and this reaction is normal. They'll soon learn to accept it without shaking their head.
After I have blended PV in the yard, we go to the field and reinforce with work on the check cord. Remember to use PV every time you give verbal or tactile praise. This is how we show the dog that PV is the same as verbal praise at distances away from us. Let's say your are practicing whoa out in the field. You command whoa and he stops. Let's say you ordinarily say 'Good Boy - Whoa'. Then all you have to do is add PV simultaneously. Remember, you must go back to yard work to blend in PV from the beginning or he may be confused as to what the PV sensation is all about.
Now if we've done all this correctly, the dog now understands that PV = verbal praise and stroking, no matter how far he is away from you. Remember you are giving this praise WHILE HE IS IN THE ACT OF DOING IT CORRECTLY!
The vibration becomes an affirmation of what I am asking him to do! In other words, he expects that when I ask him to turn, whoa, come whatever, I will also give him a positive vibration for doing it! Awesome huh?..... Of course you will use less and less PV as your dog becomes more experienced and better trained. PV is only a tool to let him know he's doing it right during a time in his training when things can get confusing. It's a terrific transition tool during early training.
Let me give you one more example of why it is awesome. Every good trainer knows that while your dog is learning to hunt forward that too much praise and 'handling' may cause the dog to yo-yo because it passively encourages the dog to come back over and over to you for your praise or handling. With PV, you can give the dog a long distance affirmation that he is doing things right without risking the creation of a yo-yo'er.
Now, assuming that you have already blended in low level e-stimulation in previous yard and field working situations as well as PV, let's proceed with our training discussion.
Let's go back to yard work and ask him to do something he fails at from time to time. Example, 'whoa'. Let's ask him to whoa. When he whoa's properly, give him simultaneous PV. If he fails to do it, we do not use PV, we immediately use his 'response' level of e-stimulation because we are in the yard away from distractions (see my article on e-stimulation thresholds to understand 'response' level). You may substitute e-stimulation with the 'check' of the check cord and / or verbal - hand commands.
We asked him to do something, something he already understands, and corrected him if he didn't do it, but NOT with PV. If he did it correctly, we used PV.
Let's say your dog is at whoa now for the last 2 minutes and is standing quietly in the yard waiting for your next command. Let's assume you are standing there watching him, waiting for him to make a mistake. Let's also assume that you know your dog well enough now to recognize when he is getting distracted and is about to move from whoa without being given permission. AT THAT MOMENT, you have a choice, negative stimulus or PV. But why negative if he hasn't done anything wrong yet?
The dog just about to mess up is 50/50 can be influenced with PV. Many times, if the PV foundation has been laid carefully, you can use PV to remind him he is at whoa. PV will interrupt his 'second to second' thought processes enough to let him think about what he is doing. It doesn't mean he won't go ahead and do something wrong, but it does give him a chance to think about it and not commit the offense.
Some D.T. systems models such as the Micro IDT and the SPT 2400 series offer vibration and stimulation in one single button and a second vibration only button. I prefer to keep the two separate in my method of training using PV. I NEVER use the PV/STIM button.
Some folks do use vibration and stimulation together which essentially makes vibration like a silent warning tone which is what I don't care for. Don't get me wrong, it does work effectively. I just don't want to use that approach in MY method because I don't want the dog thinking that every time he gets a vibration an e-stimulation will or might follow! I stay true to the label, "Positive Vibration".
Those of you who like the warning tone feature but now want to change to a 'silent warning' method may choose to differ from me here and go on with use of the vibration/stimulation button. If you do choose this route, he learns that vibration and stimulation go hand in hand. Once he understands this concept, you can just use the vibration only as a warning and if he does not comply, e-stimulate.
In my method, what we have begun to do is say to the dog that you will be instantly rewarded for correct responses with PV. Incorrect responses are not linked to PV! Because we laid the foundation of PV = verbal praise & stroking, he isn't thinking that every time he gets a vibration he will get shocked. See the difference?
Now let me give you training scenario number 1: Assuming the dog has gone through all the ground work laid before in this article and on this page, I have a young green trained dog on point. I see him start to ease himself back as if he is about to pounce, I immediately command a gentle verbal 'whoa' with a simultaneous PV. This interrupts his thought process to pounce, thus he stiffens up and holds beautifully, hopefully ;-)
Dogs are simple thinkers, many times we just need to distract them in a way that takes their mind off of the mischief they are thinking about committing that second. PV will often do just that. I have just rewarded him for standing there, took his mind off moving, didn't shock him on a bird, and caught him in the act of doing well and reinforced it with PV. If he had been allowed to break and pounce I would have a lost a prime opportunity to reward and reinforce.
You and I are probably both guilty of yelling 'WHOA!' when a dog is about to move. Why yell when you can use PV to let him know he's doing it right? So what if it doesn't work every time. If he moves you have to correct him anyway. If he has learned his yard work well, I didn't really need to say 'whoa'. A simple PV would have been sufficient. It doesn't always work this way but if you've done your job, it will work many times and you'll feel better for it. Remember, PV is a terrific transition tool for early training.
Here's training scenario 2: A young pup learns to fetch quail in the yard with great delight. Every time he fetches you use your PV coupled with verbal / tactile praise. Now the young pup is taken to the field and his first bird is shot over him. Same kind of dead bird but a different place and a different presentation for the pup. Let's say pup gingerly approaches and mouths it or gingerly picks it up, acting unsure. This is a great time to repeat what you did in the yard by saying 'good boy' and using PV simultaneously, thus pup is getting a verbal and tactile affirmation that what he is doing is correct (picking up the bird to retrieve). This really works. Maybe not 100 percent every time but in many dogs, it works.
Ok, scenario 3: Let's say your dog is off the check cord and learning how to stop at whoa in front of you. Let's assume you used pressure to teach him sit before you started his bird dog training and now he just wants to sit on whoa, but only when commanded out front and not when he is on the check cord or leash.
In this situation, I would not use the PV immediately because he sat (deprive him of praise). I would walk over and stand him up, then simultaneously: Verbally praise him (after he is standing) with sweet talk and use tactile (under the belly light stroking with my finger tips to get him to lift his belly upward thus causing to stand tall) coupled with PV. He will arch is back up thus standing.
Then I would walk out front while the dog is standing at whoa and verbally sweet talk while simultaneously using PV to cement the relationship between the two, then walk back and release the dog. I would let him run a bit then command whoa again. The second he stops, I would use PV and sweet talk immediately in an effort to stop him from sitting. If he sat again, I would repeat above. Soon he figures out that if he stops and whoa's immediately he will get verbal praise and PV.
Let's say, however, that he won't whoa unless you use a 'nick' from the e-collar. Furthermore, when you do, he sits or lays down. I would do as I described above and it will fix it. Folks, I have used this technique successfully on many dogs that were unfortunately taught sit with force before they came to me for training. It really does work and is a kinder, gentler approach.
To summarize, we use PV to praise and distract. We do not use it as a warning.
Thanks for dropping in y'all, and have a great training day.
Basics of which manufacturer, which model, which features for e-collars, beepers, vibration, pager function, etc.
If more features interest you, then you should just wait and save a bit more to get all the features/make/model that you feel most comfortable with trying. If you go cheap and sacrifice toughness and features, you'll always be wanting more.
Most of the modern features are discussed on this training page in one article or another.
I have become dependent on vibration and the audible paging function on my D.T. Systems SPT 2432. Notice I didn't mention beeper with run/point modes which are very useful to a large number of hunters. The SPT 2432 has that too but I just don't use it much.
DT has come out with familiar models now labeled with "Plus" features. This means that you can add collars later should you add another dog to your family! In this ad below, I list 3 collars which should appeal to most everyone based on price and features. The launcher I use is listed as well.
There are occasions when the beeper is useful but since I believe in being very quiet around spooky wild birds, I rarely use the beeper unless to locate in heavy cover.
Not to digress too far and just in case you are wondering, the 'run' mode on most collars will beep once or twice about every 8 to 10 seconds so you know where your dog is located and it will also beep once or twice every 2 or 3 seconds if your dog stops to point, poop, eat dead carcass, hide from you, etc. The 'point' mode is for those that believe the run mode is too much beeping for whatever reason so it only beeps when the dog stops and points or does something else previously described.
The pager function of the beeper is very useful. If my dog is out of my line of sight, I simply tap the button causing the pager to beep once or I can hold the button down and it will beep continuously.
Most pager functions don't have a huge range, less than 1/2 of the stimulation range.
When you buy a collar, remember that the quoted 'range' by the manufacturer is an "ideal conditions, straight line of sight, no obstructions" range. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I JUST WROTE!!!!
If you hunt hilly/brushy terrain and say your dog ranges out to 250 yards then you should get a collar that is rated for about twice to 3 times that range which would be 1000 yards (over 1/2 mile rated range). You need to figure out your worse case scenario regarding range your dog may be from you then multiply that by 2 or 3 to obtain what rated distance you need to purchase. Or just buy a max range collar from DT that is rated for 1.3 miles (SPT, H20).
Many times I've been on one side of the coulee, draw or hill while the dog had traveled to another coulee, draw or hill. In that situation the signal has to travel up, over, and down to reach the dog. A stronger longer ranging transmitter is worth it's weight in gold in those situations. In cool crisp air I can page my dog and hear that it is at the bottom of the next coulee, draw or hill.
My SPT 2432's vibration feature for praise is awesome. I enjoy using the vibration function and I believe it has revolutionized the humane dog training industry. (see my PV article on this page)
The 2432 also has the latest in 'panic button' technology. Every collar you buy other than D.T.'s SPT 2432 and H20 series (H20 has a floating transmitter, a first in the industry for you waterfowlers) has the new JUMP feature. The collar you use or your buddy uses or your pro (if he/she does not use DT systems) has a 'panic' button. These panic buttons are preset at the factory to MAX stimulation. This will often roll a Brittany with too much stimulation. The new H20's and SPT 2432's have an adjustable panic button called 'jump'. So, if your dog will respond to level 10 in a panicked situation you can preset the jump level to his panic level of say 10 instead of the max on the collar of 50! Big difference!!
SPT 2432 has the new rising stimulation feature. It is terrific for teaching dogs not to chase, etc.
Enough about the new SPT 2432 and H2O series.
Remember and make special note that e-collars are like models of pick-up trucks. Most folks know a Ford F-150 is a light duty truck while the F-250 is heavy duty and the F-350 is super duty.
A cheap e-collar is like an F-150 light duty pick-up while an expensive well built PROFESSIONAL quality collar with top notch range and features is like getting a King Ranch F-350 truck (like the SPT 2432). It's tougher, better performing and comes with great warranties and service. I use my SPT 2432 daily for blending in vibration with praise and it is most definitely the 'King Ranch F-350' edition.
I honestly believe it's cheaper and better for you in the long run to go without however long you need to in order to get the best collar for your needs. Don't 'cheap out' on e-collars unless:
The next step is 'which manufacturer'. I like and speak for DT Systems http://dtsystems.com . I have purchased DT equipment and it has served me well. Yes, I am on the pro staff but I tell you that before I completely committed to DT, I purchased and used their equipment!
My SPT 2432 is practically bullet proof and has the new jump and rise features mentioned above. I love to demonstrate my beat up collars to clients. There's no better proof than a beat up collar that still works like it did the day it was new!
There is one other manufacturer out there that has a good product, I know because I use to own one. I won't argue which manufacturer is best but I will argue that the new SPT 2432 Plus is the latest in state-of-the-art collar technology to HUMANELY train your best friend.
When I hear someone badmouth any company, many times they purchased a lesser collar to do a bigger heavy duty job. Heavy users should always buy the top of the line pro models, no matter the manufacturer! D.T. Systems is the 2nd oldest e-collar manufacturer in the country. They will and do back up their products.
If you have remote bird launchers it is easiest to do or you can do it with manual launchers but will need an assistant. An assistant is best for both scenarios. It is also important that your dog know whoa really well so practice that before heading into backing. Also, I strongly believe the dog should be steady on their own birds first!!! Backing is done easily if you lay the foundation properly. Please, honoring is the LAST thing you need to teach. If you have done everything properly, that will be in your dogs 2nd season.
Here's how it goes using the remote launcher. First, put the remote launcher with bird in it in front of the silhouette. The wind must be blowing from bird to silhouette. Next bring your dog INTO the wind behind the silhouette. Obviously the silhouette will need to be standing at an angle so your dog can see it. When your dog sees the silhouette, make sure she can ALSO smell the bird. This requires a bit of pre-setup calculation on your part to make sure everything is right. Ideally the dog sees the silhouette and smells the bird at approx. the same moment.
If your dog does not point / honor on its own, gently check her into a point. Press the remote to release the bird, shoot a cap gun, praise your dog for standing and take her away. It is better if you have a string attached to the wooden leg that holds up the silhouette so you can reach down and pull it so it falls over otherwise Lucy will redirect her attention to the pointing dog again.
I prefer having an assistant. With 2 people the job is easier. I like the second person to pretend to brush up the tail of the dummy (we call our dog 'John') while gently looking at the dummy and saying 'whoooooa John' to the dummy. Then, after a minute of this, the assistant walks out in front of the dummy, reminds John to 'whoa' then flushes (releases) the bird, fires the cap gun (manual launcher works in this scenario) while simultaneously pulling the string to make the dummy fall over.
The dog handler holds the leash or check cord for the honoring dog to prevent it from breaking when tempted by the slow assistant who is making a big fuss over the dummy dog on point. If the honoring dog breaks, check him. Then take your dog by the collar or heel it away in the opposite direction of the dummy, your assistant and the path the bird flew away on (so as to dissuade delayed chase - this teaches the dog that once it is gone, it is GONE.)
After your dog is pointing / honoring the dummy, then set it up so he can see the dummy but can't smell the bird. Handle him just as above. If your dog whoa's well you can always whoa a young dog into an honor then eventually they will 'get it' although some dogs are greedy and they have to be dealt with accordingly. I prefer to check them first, then when stopped, reassure them with a gentle 'whooooa'. If using PV, use it too.
Eventually you repeat these lessons on a live dog that is hopefully very steady on birds.
BE CAREFUL and DO NOT USE THE E-COLLAR as a substitute for this lesson. You may cause your dog to BLINK AN HONOR!!!! That is not only ugly but ungentlemanly. One gentleman's bird dog should give the other gentleman's dog its due by backing it terrific point.
I see honor blinkers all the time in field trials. If you do it my way, you won't have an honor blinker.
Hope this helps you get started!
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