Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 27

 uate your pup's reaction to birds first. Remember, everything has to be positive and fun - no negative associations with birds or training, especially at this point. We repeat - you are training a puppy - your reactions and handling should be as though you are dealing with a child - patience, fun, fairness, and firmness.
Plant your birds ahead of time in the field, while the dog is crated or confined out of sight. We don't advise the use of bird releasers for the young beginner pup in training. Releasers can often scare a puppy and set you back in your program. You'll want your bird work to be as natural as possible. Pigeons can be planted by using the "dizzying" method. Grasping the bird firmly in your hand, quickly rotate your wrist back and forth for at least thirty seconds or more to disorient the bird, and then, and this is important, throw the bird into the cover as though you are releasing a ball - fast, quick, and forceful - with authority. Do this with a second bird, mentally noting each location. The pigeons will react like flyaway wild birds and won't stay there for long. It's important to get your dog out into the field right away.
With the checkcord on your pup, quarter him into the wind in the direction of the bird. If you are heading toward the bird and the breeze is at your back, he won't scent the bird as easily. Young dogs have to learn to work the wind; this will come with time and experience. It helps to have another person with you to assist in flushing the bird. As you move in the direction of the bird, pup may scent the bird and begin to point - or he may scent the bird and head right in. This is why you have him on a checkcord. If he points, restrain him gently and quietly with the cord while your helper flushes the bird. The person doing the flushing should approach the bird in front of the pup to flush it. The pup may be excited and want to chase, but restrain him at this point and praise him quietly. Then work the field again, heading to your second bird to repeat the exercise, but this time, let him chase the bird if he wants to, dropping your checkcord.
If he doesn't point, but simply rushes in, you will keep him from grabbing the bird by restraining him with your checkcord, and either you or your helper can flush the bird. Don't worry if he doesn't point right away. If the breeding is there, the point will come. Patience, remember? What you are trying to do now is to get your puppy bird crazy. Letting him chase is fine, it builds excitement and interest.
With pups that are not as enthusiastic as we'd like them to be, we encourage them by grabbing the bird when they reach it and enticing them with it, even letting them catch it a few times. Some puppies, upon finding the bird, will back off and bark at it, lie down, or shy away a bit. If your pup reacts in this manner, carry a "wing-clipped" pigeon in your vest. This is a bird with the flight feathers pulled out of one wing - it can flutter and flap around, but not fly away. If pup has found the first bird and seems intimidated as it flushes, show him your wing-clipped bird, teasing and enticing him. Then toss it in front of him. Be encouraging and act excited, and heap praise on him as he shows interest. Continue to excite him with the bird, picking it up and tossing it just a few feet away. If he shows enthusiasm and finally picks it up, you're in. Let him carry it around if he wants to, praising him enthusiastically. Don't worry about retrieving at this time!
You'll follow the same scenario with quail, except that you'll start by "dead-planting" the quail (see the last issue). As you work your dog into the bird, have your helper nearby, ready to flush. Dead-planted quail will stay there until kicked gently, and then they'll "wake" and flush. Again, do not let your birdy pup catch birds. This is only allowed with pups that are unsure and need some confidence. If your pup is consistently allowed to catch birds, he will not point staunchly. Why should he? Jumping in and catching them teaches him a "man-made" fault. Later, you will graduate to dizzying the quail, a bit more gently than pigeons, and tossing them into cover (not too thick) to work your pup on. These quail will not hold too long, and will flush quickly. Eventually, if you have a johnny-house for your quail, they can be released, a few at a time, into your training field. They will be spooky and flush easily, and pup will learn that if he isn't careful to point first, the bird will flush on him.
With bold pups, you will always use your checkcord for quartering and bird work in the field at this stage. With softer pups that need confidence and enthusiasm, it's fine to let them drag the checkcord, or remove it - if they handle fairly well for you, and are in a safe area. Let these shyer types find, chase and

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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News May 2003
Do not reproduce or retransmit in any form, and we surf the web, we'll find you.
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