Stopping to Flush and Honoring

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

Introduction

In our last article, we finished the dog's three-action introduction to the Tri-Tronics collar. The three-action introduction teaches the dog to turn off mild electrical stimulation by performing three distinctly different motions on command: come toward the handler, move away from the handler, and become stationary.

We began by bending the dog in the field ("electronic check-cording"), then progressed to yard work, training the commands 'Here", "Heel", "Kennel", and "Whoa". We recommended that you spend about a week on each action before beginning work on the next action, with each week including at least five sessions in five different locations.

Before you begin the training described here in Part IV, your dog must have completed the three-action introduction. If you haven't read Parts I through III, you should get a copy of them and complete those training procedures before you begin the work covered in Part IV. It is especially important that the dog have a good understanding of the third action, becoming stationary (Whoa), before you begin teaching the dog to stop to flush and honor.

Teaching the Stop to Flush in the Yard

We'll use another piece of Tri-Tronics equipment for this procedurethe bird launcher. This equipment makes it easy for the dog to learn because it gives you the ability to predict and control the flight of birds while training: the bird comes up when you want and only when you want.

The goal when teaching the stop to flush is to teach the dog that the sight of a bird flying up is a command to "Whoa". Begin in the yard by setting out a launcher with a bird in it. The launcher should be downwind and in cover because you want the first cue the dog receives to be visual (bird coming up) not the scent of the bird or sight of the launcher.

With the dog on leash, approach the launcher. When you are about 30 feet from the launcher and the dog is looking toward it, release the bird. As the dog watches the bird fly up, command "Whoa". Do not use the Tri-Tronics collar at this time to enforce the command; use your leash and voice only, but insist on a good whoa.

Repeat the procedure a couple of times without using the collar, then begin using low-level continuous electrical stimulation with your first whoa command. Be sure to hesitate a moment after the launch, and before you press the button and command "Whoa". When the dog becomes reliable and seems under control, you can remove your leash. Repeat the procedure several times with the launcher in different locations, and always approach it from the upwind side.

After a few repetitions, the dog will "chain together" the sight of a bird coming up with the mildly unpleasant stimulation. Then he will stop on his own to avoid the collar turning on when the bird flies away.

You are making use of the dog's knowledge developed in the three-action introduction that he can turn off the collar by responding to the whoa command. By using only low-level stimulation and making sure the dog already knows the three-action introduction ahead of time, you're ensuring that the dog can be successful quickly.

Be sure to hesitate a moment each time after you launch the bird before you command "Whoa" and press the transmitter button. This gives the dog a chance to really see the bird coming up and, after a few repetitions, to stop on his own. If you stimulate and command "Whoa" too quickly after launching a bird, your dog will begin sight pointing the launcher even before the bird is released.

Soon you will see the dog begin stopping on his own when he sees the bird come up, without giving you a chance to press the button. Now he's ready to advance. Begin calling him to you from about 75 feet away, with the launcher between you and him. Repeat the procedurelaunch, hesitate, then press the button as you command "Whoa". The first few times, release the bird when the dog has come only about 10 feet, to make it easier for the dog to stop. If you must repeat "Whoa", use the medium button with the second command.

If your dog has already been introduced to gunfire, begin shooting a blank pistol as the bird flies off. Be ready to reinforce "Whoa" with the collar if necessary.

When the dog is reliable at this procedure, he's ready to move on to the next steps, stopping to flush in the field, and honoring. You can teach either exercise next. The dog's understanding of stopping to flush in the yard is the foundation for both.

Stopping to Flush in the Field

Set up a bird launcher hidden in cover in the field. Make sure that the dog will be approaching from upwind, not downwind. You want him to see the bird coming up before he can wind it.

Have the dog begin hunting and bring him in to the launcher. When the dog is about 20 yards from the launcher and looking toward it launch the bird. He should stop on his own when he sees the bird flush, but if he doesn't, press the transmitter button as you remind him "Whoa".

When the bird has flown off, release the dog to continue hunting. Be sure to turn him away from the direction of the bird. Doing this will help prevent him from trying to chase birds that fly away.

Teaching the Dog to Honor

Once the dog has learned to stop to flush in the yard, it is easy to teach him to back another dog by using a pop-up dog. Set up the pop up dog (lying down) with a launcher in front of it. Both should be hidden in cover. If necessary, cover the pop-up dog with a piece of burlap so that the dog cannot see any white as it approaches. When the pop-up dog pops up, the burlap will slide off.

Have the dog approach from the upwind side. Release the pop-up dog, then immediately release the bird. Because the dog has already learned to stop to flush in the yard, the sight of the bird coming up has become a command to the dog to stop. The dog will quickly "chain together" the preceding event (the sight of the pop-up dog), with the command it already knows.

Gradually build in more delay after you release the pop-up dog and before launching the bird. Be ready to reinforce "Whoa" with the collar any time the dog moves after he has seen the pop-up dog stand up.

Next, make the transition to backing another dog on point by having another staunch dog point a bird in a launcher. The dog on point should be around the corner behind cover, so that he is out of sight of the approaching dog. Bring the dog that is to honor around the corner, and as soon as he sees the dog on point, tell him "Whoa". Repeat this in different locations until the dog will automatically stop at the sight of another dog on point.

Coming in the Next Article

Up until now, all your work on stopping to flush and honoring should have been done with the birds downwind (so the dog cannot wind the bird ahead of time). In our next article, we will begin bringing the dog in from downwind, and teach him to stand off his birds when pointing.

First Appeared in:
Pointing Dog Journal
July/August 1993

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