Early Puppy Training
You now have that well-bred, genetically proven blood line puppy. It’s the puppy you’ve wanted for many years. A puppy that will eventually be your upland hunting partner. And, you’re anxious to see it do something to suggest its potential as a pointing dog.
You’ve seen social media posts with the puppy owner flipping a wing-on-a-string in front of a puppy. And, the puppy hesitates before chasing. It’s fun and looks good, however, I recommend you only do it once or not at all. The wing-on-a-string can promote sight pointing which we don’t want. A pointing dog points scent, not the bird.
A well thought out training schedule for your young puppy must include introduction to live birds. I do know bird hunting guides who live in wild bird country and never show their puppy a pen-raised bird. Wild birds for training are great, however, very few of us have that opportunity. So, we use pen-raised birds in the beginning. Introduction to birds should begin around 12 weeks of age.
Introduction to birds must be done with caution. A negative experience could have a lasting effect on a young pup. I recently watched a YouTube video of an individual introducing a puppy to a bird using a launcher. When the puppy came within about two feet of the launcher, the bird was launched. The noise of the launcher and the wings of the bird flapping hard made the puppy flinch and jump backwards. Depending upon the temperament of the puppy, it could become seriously bird shy. This could take much more work to get it interested in birds.
The first step your author has always taken is, even earlier than 12 weeks, is to allow the pup to chase butterflies and song birds in our yard. This helps the pup get used to things that fly. We should remember the old adage: Prevention is far better than later correction.
At the 12 week mark, I introduce a pup to a bird by using a small mesh crate. I put a live quail or chukar in the crate. I then cover the crate lightly with grass…but just a little. I then allow the pup to run around the yard until it finds the crate. The pup is pulling a light four or five foot lead. Once it finds the crate and becomes seriously interested in the bird, I have a helper pick up the lead so the puppy can’t chase. I then reach in the crate and release the bird. The puppy is restrained from chasing. It’s important that nothing negative is done here. No screaming at the puppy or jerking on the lead. Keep the exercise positive.
Some trainers feel the pup should not be restrained from chasing at 12 weeks of age. They feel a pup should be allowed to be a puppy. To have fun. I believe I’ve accomplished this by allowing the puppy to chase butterflies and song birds before being introduced to a live game bird.
The next step is to allow the puppy open access to game birds. We do it with chukar. Quail have a nice scent; however, pups can often catch a pen-raised quail. We do not want chasing and then catching. Catching at a young age will promote chasing rather than pointing. That’s not what we want. I release four or five chukar around our bird pen. Pups will flash point and then chase. However, they don’t catch chukar. Once the pup learns he can’t catch the chukar, he elongates the point.
The elongation of the point is exactly what we want. It’s the beginning of a pup that will become steady to the flush. There are now two steps forward. One step is to release a few chukar in a field. A field with cover tall and thick enough so the pup can’t see the bird. They must locate by scent. The second step is to work on steadiness using a place board. Bring the puppy on a lead onto a place board. Make it stand still either with the whoa command or simply with a “stay” command. After the pup has been trained to stand still (for at least 60 seconds) on the place board, have a training partner throw a quail or chukar in the air. Make sure the pup remains still on the place board.
Now the creme de la creme. Expose the puppy to wild birds. Wild birds will teach the pup much more than you can teach. You’re on your way to a life-long hunting partner.
Copyright 2023 Paul Fuller