Patterning the Dog to Stay to the Front

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

In previous articles, we covered the three-action introduction to the Tri-Tronics collar, the stop to flush, and honoring. We also discussed teaching the dog to stand off his birds and not to creep when pointing. Now the dog is ready to learn a hunting pattern.

Patterning the dog to stay to the front

When teaching a dog the desired hunting pattern, you have two training goals. First, you want the dog to leave an area in which he just found a bird. Second, you want the dog to stay to the front of you as you progress through the field, so that he is always hunting new areas.

A triangle of three bird launchers works very well to teach these two things. See Illustration No.1. In the illustration we have labeled the three corners of this triangle "positions A, B and C," and we'll use these positions in our discussion. For the beginning dog, positions A and B should be about 50 yards apart, with position C about 100 yards in front of position A. If you desire to develop a big-running dog, gradually lengthen these distances as the dog gains experience.

The launchers should be hidden in obvious objectives where birds are likely to be found, such as patches of heavy cover or brush piles. When you first start, place launchers at positions A and B, only. Later you'll add position C. As we discussed in Part V of this series, it is best to flush more than one bird at each location so that the dog will not learn to "let down" after the first flush.

With launchers at positions A and B, start walking down the center of your field. Have the dog first hunt toward position A. After he points the bird, flush it and let it fly off.

Now cast the dog toward position B and follow him as you proceed back to the center of the field. If the dog tries to return to the launcher at A, immediately bend him back to the front.

You taught your dog at the beginning of the three-action introduction to bend with the collar, so now you can use this training in the field. Any time the dog ignores your command to bend, reinforce a second command to bend with your Tri-Tronics collar.

After the dog has pointed the bird at position B, flush it, and put the dog on a check cord to walk him off the field. (If the dog has already been taught to retrieve, you can shoot the bird at position B for him.)

Since position B is initially placed close to position A, the dog will be able to locate another bird quickly. Consequently, he will soon become convinced to keep hunting away from locations that have already produced a bird.

Continue working this pattern in different places until the dog is confident at leaving position A and taking your direction to hunt across the field.

Teaching the dog to hunt away from position A toward position B accomplishes the first of the two training goals--teaching the dog to leave the area that produced his first bird. Now the dog is ready to learn the second step--staying to the front as he hunts back across the field. Teaching the dog to go from position B to C will accomplish the second training goal--teaching the dog to stay to the front as he hunts across the field.

Set up your triangle pattern, adding the third launcher at position C. Begin the session as usual, sending the dog toward position A, then to position B.

After the dog has located the bird at position B, send him off to hunt again, this time toward position C. The beginning dog, when sent across the field away from the area of position B, will often start back to the location of the first bird produced (position A). When the dog tries this, immediately bend him back to the front.

You want to guide the dog quickly into the area of position C so that he will find another bird to the front. This way, the dog will soon learn that he can find birds by staying to the front. After he has pointed the bird at C, go to the front and flush it. If the dog has been taught to retrieve, you can shoot it for him. Then put the dog on a check cord and walk him back to the truck.

Training on this triangle pattern is the key to developing a dog, which will stay to the front, and readily accept your control as you bend him from side to side.

Coming in the next article

In our next article, we will cover breaking the dog from chasing "off game."

First Appeared in:
Pointing Dog Journal, November/December 1993

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