Pointing Birds in the Field

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

So far this series has covered the three-action introduction to the Tri-Tronics collar, in which the dog learns that it "controls" the collar by its own actions. In this conditioning process, the dog learns that it can turn off mildly unpleasant electrical stimulation by performing three different actions on command. This understanding prepares the dog to understand corrections with the collar while working.

We then made practical use of the dog's understanding of the collar when we taught the dog to stop to flush and honor another dog. Now the dog is ready to begin pointing birds in the field without the restraint of a check cord.

Pointing Birds in the Field

Start by placing a bird about three feet off the ground in a bush. The bird in the bush creates easy scenting conditions, and also helps to keep the dog's head up. Place additional bird launchers with birds in them to the rear and sides of the bush, hidden in cover.

Bring the dog into the scent cone from the side, allowing him to run into the strong scent coming from the birds. As soon as he makes game, command "Whoa" if he doesn't stop immediately.

By giving your command quickly, you teach the young dog to stand off his birds when pointing. It is important that the dog develop the habit of stopping as soon as he makes game, instead of following the scent cone in and crowding the birds before locking on point.

It is natural for a dog to want to move closer before pointing, especially when scenting conditions are weak. But if you allow your young dog to move in on his birds after winding them, you may create two problems. First, the dog may develop a tendency to sight point, and second, wild birds usually won't hold if a dog comes too close.

Now walk to the front of the dog, making a wide arc to one side so that the dog can see your approach in his peripheral vision. By using this technique, you can keep the dog from developing a tendency to turn his head to watch you, as he might do if you approached him from behind.

Take up a position about ten feet in front of the dog, facing him. He'll recognize this familiar position from his training on "Whoa." This training and the earlier training on stop to flush will keep him from moving forward when
the birds are launched.

Now release a bird from one of the launchers. Calmly command "Whoa," wait a moment and launch the next bird. Then wait another moment and launch the third bird. By using three successive launches, you simulate a covey rise. This procedure keeps the dog's enthusiasm high, so that he won't tend to "let down" after the flush of a bird. (Training on too many singles often causes letting down.)

When the dog expects that the first flush will lead to more flushes, his pointing style will actually increase in intensity as he waits.

When all the birds have been launched, walk to the dog and put him on a check cord. Then turn 180 degrees away from the bird remaining in the bush and walk the dog away from that location.

Repeat the procedure described here in at least five different locations. At this stage of training, do not use your electric collar to reinforce "Whoa." If the dog creeps forward, repeat "Whoa" and take a step toward the dog.

After the dog has worked this type of set up in five different locations, you can begin using the e-collar to reinforce "Whoa" if the dog creeps on point. Watch the dog closely so you can catch him taking his very first step, and use low-level momentary stimulation as you repeat your command "Whoa."

As the dog progresses, you should begin standing farther from him when launching the birds. Eventually you will be close to the bird launchers and you can simulate a flush.

Your dog should have been previously introduced to gunfire before progressing to this final step. In this step, add gunfire before you launch the bird. Remind the dog to "Whoa" just before you shoot. If the dog remains steady, launch the birds one at a time. After a few repetitions of the sequence of shooting before releasing a bird, reverse the order, so that you simulate a shot bird.

Coming in the next article

In our next article, we will cover patterning the dog to stay to the front.

First Appeared in:
Pointing Dog Journal
September/October 1993

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