Teaching To Honor
For frequent readers of this column, you should know by now that I like hunting situations that have some semblance of control and order. Dogs out-of-control, busting birds and busting another dog’s point creates havoc in the field.
To help bring order, if hunting with multiple dogs, we should strive to have our dogs honor another dog’s point. It’s not a difficult training exercise, however, it does take a few tools and a training partner. Here’s how to do it.
First, the dog being taught needs to understand and respond to the “whoa” command. We’ve covered how to teach “whoa” in previous articles or you can find numerous videos on teaching” whoa” on YouTube. Once your dog is reliably stopping on “whoa”, you can then begin the honor (backing) work. Also, it helps a great deal if the dog learning to honor is been taught to be steady to the flush and shot. You’ll need a six to eight foot lead (or check cord), one or two bird launching devices (electric is the best), a live pigeon (or quail, chukar, etc), a live dog that is steady to wing and shot or a fake dog silhouette, and a helper, The learning process can go quicker if you have an e-collar, but it’s not necessary. If using an e-collar, this process assumes the dog learning to honor has been properly introduced to, through low stimulation, the e-collar.
Now, let’s go through the sequence. We want a situation that is under control and bird launchers give us that control. Two launchers are best but one will do. Put your launcher(s) out, loaded with birds, in a field. It’s best if they’re placed just off of a path; you want clear visibility for the dog learning to honor. We then bring in the live pointing dog, on a check cord, and allow it to establish point while clearly visible from a distance. The helper, or handler, then approaches from a distance with the dog learning to honor. The approaching dog is on a check cord or lead. It’s best if the honoring student comes around a corner and suddenly sees the pointing dog (or silhouette). The moment the honoring student sees the pointing dog, we give the “whoa” command. If “whoa” has been properly learned, then the student dog should stop and watch the pointing dog (or silhouette). If your dog has been taught with the use of an e-collar, you would apply slight stimulation when delivering the “whoa” command.
The first time this exercise is used, have the helper launch a bird as quickly as the student dog stops. Since both dogs are steady to the flush, both dogs should remain still. After the student dog remains staunch for at least one minute, lead the student dog away from the scene. The pointing dog should also be lead away. If there were mistakes, repeat this same exercise again.
If all went well with the first exercise, add a little more to the second drill. In the second drill, we’ll put two birds in launchers. We’ve moved our training to a new spot. It can be in the same field….just a new location. If you have two launchers, put a bird in each. Bring the pointing dog in for the point. Then have the student dog come in from a distance and “whoa” the dog as soon as it sees the pointing dog (or silhouette) on point. This time, before a bird is launched, have the handler around the pointing dog go over and stroke the tail upwards…the same as you might do in any training situation. Then walk back to the birds and pretend you’re trying to locate and flush a bird. The student dog is standing staunch during this whole process. Now a bird is launched and a shot is fired on the flush but not at the bird. If both dogs are still staunch, then launch the second bird and shoot it. Allow the pointing dog to fetch the bird. The student dog has carefully watched this entire process. Dogs do learn from observation.
A few additional points. As with any training exercise, if it doesn’t go well, we begin all over again. If you use a silhouette for the pointing dog, and the student dog has never seen the silhouette, the student dog may bark at it. If so, simply calm the dog until it stands tall and staunch. Try to have the student dog approach from behind a bush or shrub so the pointing dog suddenly comes into view. Two or three sessions and you should have a backing dog.
Good luck…you’ll enjoy a controlled situation when hunting with more than one dog.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.