Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 14

 from the barnyard put them out in the grass. They're small birds, they fly back to the barnyard when flushed to be used another day. Anything you can do along those lines to get young dog to follow scent is important.
Delaney: Ordinarily, I do not go into the training to track, and so on, but it certainly isn't a bad thing to do. I think if you shoot enough birds over dog, you give him plenty of opportunity to work crippled birds. Or you can duplicate it by taking a dead bird and dragging it around; this is a good way to get them started to track.
Benson: It's very important that a hunting retriever learn to track and trail a cripple. That's a way for him to find out how birds walk around after they are crippled. It also helps him game-seek. Naturally, a blood scent bird is a lot different than a wing-clipped pigeon or duck. Only through repetition in the field will a dog learn by himself.
In training, you must use a brailed pheasant or wing-clipped bird, anything that can't fly; or when a shot bird isn't killed out-right, use the opportunity to give experience trailing cripples.
Let the dog see a wing-clipped pigeon or duck fall, but delayed in sending long enough to let the bird to run 30 or 40 yards from where it came down. Then let the dog work it. He may have to track a bird only 10 or 15 yards for gets up. But a real or imitation cripple will run and hide, move and stop, and take quite awhile to catch.
(The above training suggestions are excerpted from the book EXPERT ADVICE AND DOG TRAINING By David Michael Duffey, the copies of which are available from Bird Dog & Retriever News and other sources including the author and N6584 Airport Road Bowler, Wisconsin 54416. Besides opinions and off-the-cuff tips and explanations, training steps and processes are detailed by top pro trainers who specialize in pointing breeds, spaniels, retrievers and versatile breeds.)
In the form of a combination reminder and admonition, I'd like to put in my two cents'-worth.
Introduce your dog to game before the hunting seasons opens! In conversations and correspondence with hunters it is amazing how many bird dogs to taken afield never having found a bird of any kind and never having feathers in their mouths.
Admittedly artificial training dummies are easier to acquire and keep around than real live birds. A great deal can be accomplished in the backyard with dummies. But they can't do the complete job.
But a pup in its first season ought to know what a live bird and a dead bird are if much is to be expected of them. No one expects a city dweller to keep a penful of training birds in his apartment or out the front on the front lawn. But just a bird or two for a dog to find and fetched before the season opens work wonders compared to bring a pup in "cold" expecting him to seek out and find birds and fetch the first one-shot.
Of course, use pen-reared game bird and mallard if you can. But feral barn pigeons will do just fine and as noted above, in a pinch, domestic fowl like bantams or guineas can be used in introduction. Whenever possible, when training, mix some real stuff in with the dummies.
It will cut down considerably on the calls and letters I get after seasons open every year saying essentially: "My pup was doing just great on dummies when we were training but the first day of hunting season, he wouldn't pick up the only bird I shot."
Nine times of a ten it is because the dog went out expecting to fetch a dummy and ignored or was spooked by the strange, warm, feathered object for the first time.

Dave Duffey hails from Bowler, WI

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