by Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
When a dog points an area where a bird used to be, he's making an unproductive find, or "false pointing." Here's an easy way to teach a bird dog to differentiate between where a bird is, and where one was.
Start with a "false bird field."
A "false bird field" has the ground scent from recent birds, and perhaps a few feathers, but no actual birds. One easy way to set this up is to make double use of your training field.
Set up the field with three bird finds as shown in the illustration. Run a dog you are working on patterning and in the process clear out the planted birds. This field will now be your false bird field, with plenty of scent but no birds. Just beyond this first field set up a new field with birds. Now you have a false bird field in the former location of your training pattern, and a productive bird field just beyond it.
Bring in another dog, the one you want to teach not to false point. Run this dog through the area where the birds just were. The young dog will often false point on the remaining ground scent.
Encourage the dog to move on
When the dog false points, immediately encourage him to get going again with two toots of your whistle. If he won't move on, go to him and lightly tap him on the back of his head as you tell him "All Right." Encourage him as many times as necessary to get him to continue on. Be patient with his learning process at this stage of training.
After he's worked through the ground-scented area, he'll come into the area where the pattern is now set up, and find the birds you planted. By arranging for the dog to find birds immediately after moving beyond the area where he false pointed, you allow him to make a comparison, so that he can learn to distinguish between ground and body scent.
If you're working only one dog, you can create a false bird field by planting some shackled birds on your way out to plant the bird field. Then pick up the shackled birds on your way back to get your dog. Work the dog through the area where the shackled birds were before moving him into the planted area.
This lesson isn't just for young dogs. If your old campaigner is coming up with too many unproductive finds, he can also benefit from reviewing this lesson on false pointing.
A word of caution
Don't work a dog back over an area where he has just produced birds. Working a dog back over a formerly productive area encourages him to back cast, and to return to the old places where he just had success. The triangle lesson, described in our November-December, 1993, issue of Pointing Dog Journal, is designed to prevent this problem. So don't undo your good training now.
Dobbs Training Center