Points On Pointers
By Bob and Jody Iler
My pointer pup is finished with early puppy training and is
now five months old. What's next in her development?
Finally! The time you've been waiting for has arrived - you're
ready to roll up your sleeves, get out your training aids, and
start to train your bird dog. You've done all the things we've
suggested in the last issue during your pup's first four months
of development. Your pup seems fairly confident and socialized
- maybe even a little too brash, testing you at times - aware
of a whole new world out there. If we've described your pointer
pup - congratulations - you've done a good job! On the flip side,
if she is still somewhat skittish and soft, this doesn't mean
that you've failed. Dogs, like people, come with varying personalities,
and the key to successful training is recognition of your dog's
temperament. Some of the best hunting dogs are soft - and are
developed accordingly - with a light touch and patient approach.
What if your pup is older than five months of age? No matter!
We choose this age because most pointing breeds are now ready
to begin training, but older pups - and they are pups until at
least the age of two - will be handled in the same manner. The
difference is that older pups will often be more set in their
ways, stronger, and more of a challenge. They may also possess
what we call "man-made" faults - problems created inadvertently
by trial and error training methods, or by no training at all.
We think of a young pup as a "clean slate." Our goal
at this time is to develop him into a started dog. Our definition
of a started dog is a young dog that - come fall - you can "load
in the truck, grab your shotgun, and go hunting with him."
He will handle in the field, have learned to use his nose and
point fairly well, and be developed to the gun. In his first
season, he should be hunted alone with only his handler controlling
him, until he learns the ropes. Hunting young pointing dogs with
experienced older dogs does not "teach them to hunt."
The older dog will do the work and the younger dog will be outclassed
and learn that he doesn't have to work - his partner will find
the birds. If the older dog is trained, the young dog may "detrain"
him. Once the young dog gains experience, two dogs can be hunted
together - but the more dogs and hunters put together for one
hunt - the more chaos and problems that will result. Occasionally
we will have dogs that seem to naturally do it all at a young
age - hold point, honor, and retrieve - from the onset of training.
In our experience, these dogs are rare. If this were the norm,
we'd not be in business! Hunting dogs are not born "trained
and gun-broke," ready to go because they were "bred
for it." That's why you're reading this article.
At this started dog stage, the pup will not be steady to wing
and shot (pointing the bird and remaining motionless while the
bird is flushed and shot, until she is given the signal to retrieve).
She will also not retrieve to hand, unless she is a natural retriever.
This is college work - the young pup should be hunted a season
or two before steadying her and teaching her the trained retrieve.
Starting your pointer pup in training will consist of several
major areas: getting her into lots of birds, developing her to
the gun, and shooting lots of birds over her. During these phases
of training, you'll also be doing simple "yard work"
- the heel, whoa, and here