Preliminary pointing dog training looks much like the training of any new puppy. The new puppy (Zeke) has been home with his new owners for a couple of weeks, and my friend's emails to me were full of the typical stuff: potty training, puppy biting, and sleeping (or not sleeping) through the night.
Finally, a week ago Saturday, I made the trek to Woodstock to meet the pup and to go over some of the training common to all dogs and some training that is unique to pointing bird dogs. This consisted of the following:
- Teach “Wing-on-a-string”
- Teach “Puppy Pong”
- Introducing my dog to the puppy
Wing On A String
Wing on a string is a game that people like to play with pointing dog puppies to awaken the pointing instinct. The idea is that you pull out the fishing rod and reel and tie a dried bird wing to the end of the line. Cast the wing out there and turn the puppy loose. Pup will try to get the wing, but when the pup gets close to the wing, we move it away with the rod and reel. When the wing has moved away a few times, the pointing instinct will rise to the surface and the puppy will point the wing.
And here is what it looked like with Zeke…
Truth be told, wing on a string serves little purpose except to get owners excited, gives a good opportunity for taking snapshots and videos, and lets owners marvel at what a natural hunter they have. Once these pictures and videos are gathered, the wing on a string are put away.
The owners were complaining to me that Zeke had the attention span of, well, a puppy, and sometimes would choose not to come when called. Which is about normal for a 10 week old puppy. But teaching a puppy to come when called is easy to do and very useful when pup bolts out the front door.
Puppies will come when you vocalize in a high pitched voice with your face close to the ground. This is as certain as finding puppy piddle spots in the house. So, I got on the ground, and my friend got on the ground, on our bellies, with our faces mere inches from the turf. And I called in the highest sing-songy voice I could muster: “Zeke, Come”. And he came. As he was approaching, I clicked a clicker and had the treat ready for him when he arrived. And then I had my friend, laying in the turf 5 yards away, do the same thing. Zeke ran to him, got a click and a treat. And so we passed the puppy back and forth like this for 5 minutes.
What did the owners learn? They learned to speak in high voices and get down to Zeke’s level. And Zeke learned that these words mean a click, and a click means a treat.
I wanted Zeke and my dog (Shiloh) to meet, because these two dogs will be working together one day soon. I wanted this meeting to happen while Zeke was still smaller than Shiloh. Shiloh is a high strung dog who has not done well with other male dogs in the past. Shiloh tolerates small dogs because he can bully them and make it clear what is appropriate behavior. And, for Shiloh, this means “Leave me alone”.
And that is how the introductions went. Shiloh ran over to Zeke and towered over him with stiff legs and tail and low growl. Zeke pinned his ear back. And the relationship was established. We will continue to have these two around. The don’t need to like each other. They just need to work together, and this meeting has established the parameters of their relationship. Zeke knows to stay away and Shiloh knows that Zeke will not bother him.
So, until our next session, the owners job is simply to play puppy pong and just have fun with the pup. In a couple of weeks, it will be time to introduce Zeke to birds.
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