Training Hunting Dogs: Puppy Progress Being Made

This blog is about training hunting dogs. Lately, I have been talking a lot about other issues, tangential to training hunting dogs. Today, I will remedy this and talk specifically about training.

I have stated repeatedly in the past that this blog belongs to Zeke. Zeke is a Llewellyn Setter that I am helping train. This blog is his blog. Unfortunately, I have not had as much time with Zeke as I would have liked, but this past weekend, schedules aligned, so we did some training.

Even though I have not had a lot of hands-on time with Zeke in recent days, his training has continued. Much of Zeke's training is actually train-the-trainer, where Gregg, Zeke's owner, learns what needs to happen. Training needs to be a daily activity, so my once a week efforts were not going to cut it. Gregg is involved and working hard to shape young Zeke into an outstanding dog.

Our destination was Bong Recreation Area, near Burlington, WI. This Wisconsin state park is named for a famous WWII flying ace. It is not named for the water pipe used to filter particulate matter. Learn from my mistake...make no assumptions. Anyway, the purpose of this training was to give him another opportunity to point his birds. We bought 4 chukar partridge; two for Zeke and two for my dog, 3 year old Brittany, named Shiloh.

Zeke was happy to see me. Of course, he is seven months old, and has demonstrated this same enthusiastic greeting for inanimate objects, such as trees, chairs, and politicians. But I won't let this fact cloud my opinion; he was thrilled to see me.

The place was packed and our time was short. So we hurried and placed two birds in bird launchers for Zeke. Gregg handled and steered the dog, I ran the launcher's remote, and Gregg's godson Austin handled the gun.

Let me give you a sneak peek into how Zeke is doing. Great!

During this training, the dog is moved through the field with the wind on one side or another. We want the dog to suddenly find himself awash in bird scent. Some people make the mistake of running the dog straight into the wind, toward the bird, but this sets up a situation where the bird scent is gradually getting stronger and stronger. This creates a situation where the dog is not sure when the scent is strong enough to warrant a point. Coming into the scent with the breeze at 90 degrees puts the dog immediately into bird scent, prompting a point.

This is what happened with Zeke's first bird. He caught wind of the bird and with nose in the air, started pointing his bird. dog on point1Pretty quick he knew he was into a bird and started moving toward the bird. With his movement came the launching of the bird, which he was not allowed to chase and catch. He pointed the bird for about 15 seconds.

With the second bird, I called for Gregg to hold his dog in place. I then asked Austin to shoot the bird when it flew. Here is the purpose. If all we do is keep launching birds when he breaks his point, his experience is allays doing it wrong. He never gets to experience what happens when he does it right. I wanted Zeke to see that, when he holds point, he gets a bird. With the second bird, the dog was held in place, the bird was launched, and Zeke got to go get the bird. Now, Zeke learns what happens when he breaks point and he learns what happens when he holds point.

We put up Zeke and brought out Shiloh. dog on point2Two more birds were put out for Shiloh. Wind conditions were a rough, making it hard to find the birds. Shiloh pointed his first bird, but he moved to get a better scent and we launched the bird. The second bird was pointed well, and the the bird was shot as a reward for the dog. I kept things simple and easy for Shiloh, as we are heading to Montana in a couple of weeks. Just wanted to keep things fun.

After training is complete, both of the dogs are turned loose. Just a happy fun time to run around. This is a bit of training in and of itself so that the dogs learn to deal with each other. Shiloh does not like Zeke, but tolerates him. Zeke has enough sense to steer clear of Shiloh. Shiloh has this attitude where he expects Zeke to clear out of his way. This works fine until Zeke is otherwise distracted and not paying attention to where he is going. When that happens, slam! The two dogs run into each other, knocking each off their feet. Both dogs were a little stunned and acted a little sheepish, but shook it off and went tearing off.

Zeke's future training will consist more of the same. The lessons we are trying to impose on Zeke are as follows:

  1. Zeke cannot catch the bird
  2. the holder of the bang stick can make birds fall.
  3. If Zeke holds his points, the bang stick holder will share the bounty.

All of this teaches partnership. It teaches that Zeke can find the birds but cannot catch the birds. It teaches that the humans cannot find the birds but can catch the birds. When the dog understands that each person has a role, then the true hunting partnership begins.

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