What training equipment does a new bird dog owner require? A recent email asking me this question prompted this month’s column. The emailer said this was his first bird dog so, for training equipment, he had to start from scratch. Below are my recommendations for training gear. My emphasis is on gear for a pointing dog. Here’s a tip: buy the best quality you can afford. Cheap gear is just that…cheap. Either my website (www.birddogsafield.com) or my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/birddogsafield) offers hundreds of videos and articles on how to use the gear.
Check cord: A 20’ quality check cord is a must. The check cord is used to help steady your dog when you begin to break the pup from chasing.
Placeboards: These are used primarily to train your dog to stand still. A pointing dog must learn to stand still for pointing, backing, collar placement, physical check-up and much more. These can be made at home. An 18” x 2 ½’ piece of plywood will work for most breeds. For larger breeds, go to 2’ x 3’. Use 1 x 3 boards to frame.
Collars: Traditionalists like the leather collars. They look handsome and rugged. However, over the past few years, we’ve gravitated to synthetic. The synthetic collars come in hunter orange and are weather resistant. Typically, we begin with a ¾” collar for pups and then go to 1” as the pup grows.
Leads: Again, traditionalists like leather; however, for the same reasons as with collars, don’t overlook synthetic. I like leads in three lengths: 4’, 6’ and 18”. I use 4’ for beginning heal training, a 6’ for general use and an 18” to carry in my hunting coat. The 18” is great if you come out on a road and still a long distance from your vehicle.
E Collar: Although we seldom stimulate during training, the modern trainer should have an e collar. We use both Garmin and SportDog collars. Look for a collar that has at least six levels of stimulation and also a tone feature. For gear, this will most likely be your most expensive investment.
Blank Pistol: Also called a starters pistol, it’s simply a pistol that shoots blanks. They have a solid barrel so no live ammo can be sent through the barrel. They’re used for introducing gun fire to a dog and for keeping a dog steady to the shot. Don’t go cheap…you want a reliable pistol that will not misfire.
Bumpers: Most of us call them bumpers but some call them dummies. These come in various sizes, shapes, colors and materials. Bumpers are used for retriever training. Most trainers begin with a soft canvas bumper. A good size to begin training would be 2” x 9”. For adult dogs, a 3” x 12” is most common. Molded rubber is most common for larger bumpers. For more advanced training, we graduate to a Docken’s Dead Fowl trainer. They simulate a duck, woodcock and quail.
Bird Launcher: Launchers are highly valuable for controlling the bird. The bird can’t run away, dig into the heavy grass or flush prematurely. They are exceptionally valuable for teaching a dog to be steady to the wild flush and for backing drills. There are several high quality remote bird launchers on the market; however, we use the DT remote launcher. The primary reason we use the DT system is the loading mechanism. The bird is put into the launcher through a small door which practically eliminates the possibility of a bird escaping during the loading process. If the budget allows….buy two.
Johnny House: If you’re really going to be serious about dog training, you’ll need live birds. Most trainers use either bobwhite quail or chukar partridge. Both birds can be located on the internet and shipped directly to you. A Johnny house is used to keep your birds. Google Johnny House plans or Johnny House quail and you’ll see numerous plans on how to build a Johnny House. Before ordering your birds, be sure to check state regulations on importing and keeping live birds for training dogs.
Whoa Table: This is your work space. It should be 2 ½ feet off the ground. At least 8’ long with four foot ramps on each end. You’ll use this space for teaching whoa and standing still.
Backing Silhouette: These silhouettes are used for teaching a dog to back, or honor, another dog that is pointing a bird. We have three. One is the cut-out of an English setter and the other two are cut-outs of German shorthaired pointers. There is a very comprehensive video on our website titled Teaching Backing with Jason Carter. The use of silhouettes is demonstrated throughout the video.
Hope the above list helps you get started. Enjoy your training.
Copyright 2019 Paul Fuller