Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

The Two-Second Rule            

Do you know the difference between an average dog trainer and a very good dog trainer? Two seconds. Three years ago, I heard this adage while attending a meeting of several professional bird dog trainers in Kentucky. All the trainers were in agreement. It’s the two-second rule.

The two-second rule means that you have two seconds to prevent your dog from doing something you don’t want him to do or two seconds to deliver a correction if the unwanted action is completed. Delivering a correction prior to the unwanted action is the harder of the two. To be successful, you must fully understand your dog. Dogs typically give a signal as to what they’re about to do. That means you must continually be paying attention to your dog and understanding your dog’s signals. Correction may be verbal or with an e-collar.

It’s hard to pin-point the origin of the two-second rule. It may have been a result of a US military study many years ago that you must correct a canine mistake immediately or the correction will have no value. Dog training has always been through association. If the correction is not delivered immediately, the dog will not associate the correction with the unwanted action. Since our canine buddies hardly ever forget anything, they will remember that they got away with the unwanted action and they will remember the correction, however, they will not associate the cause and effect. This is confusing for the dog.

Again, the importance of studying your dog from the moment the pup comes into your household and then throughout his career as your hunting buddy, can’t be overstated. You need to understand what yours is about to do…and then take action.

One of the most common infractions by a pointing dog is breaking point and flushing a bird. One of the tell-tale signals that the dog intends to chase is a softening of the point. The dog will relax and may begin flagging slightly. Within two seconds, you either whoa your dog or deliver a tone or vibrate on the e-collar. In either case, your dog must be “whoa” trained (meaning to stop immediately) or e-collar trained to stop when toned or receiving vibration. Never use electric stimulation if the bird is still on the ground.

Another example would be if you’ve sent your dog for a retrieve and he begins to munch on the dead bird. Correct immediately with either a recall command or deliver a tone or vibration. It’s okay if you use the e-collar to stop the munching and then recall for delivery of the bird.

After watching your dog carefully, you will learn the signals they will give you prior to performing an unwanted action. In addition to physical signals, learn your dog’s language also. Their language will dictate what they’re trying to tell you. They may need you.

A “woof” usually means that something different has entered their world. They’re not sure exactly what it is but want you to be aware of it. They want you to check it out. And, you may only have two seconds before a problem develops. An actual bark could be from fear or anxiety…both need your attention…and quickly.

If you study and understand your dog, you will learn numerous signals that require immediate attention. Follow the two-second rule and you’ll be a better trainer.

Copyright 2020 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at