Using the New E-Collars in the Field-Part 3
By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
In our last column, we discussed "Whoa" and the use of the modern e-collar to reinforce your command. In this column, we will apply what the dog has learned in the yard to finding birds in the field.
Note: Before you use an e-collar to correct any fault the dog might associate with finding birds, we suggest that you read our May/June, 1998, PDJ article about blinking.
Stop to Flush
In our program, we first teach the dog that the sight of a bird flushing is a visual command to "Whoa." Then we can flight a bird the moment the dog needs a correction for crowding. This "visual 'Whoa' command" has real impact on a dog. When you put the launch of a bird together with a verbal "Whoa" command, you'll usually stop a dog in its tracks, while at the same time it is a mild enough correction that even sensitive dogs will tolerate it.
In our last column, we covered how to teach "Whoa" in the yard, including collar conditioning. This essential step teaches the dog to understand a collar correction for not obeying "Whoa." Your dog should have completed this training before you begin teaching him to stop to flush.
The yard procedure in the last column also introduced the dog to the "Whoa" board, a 4" high platform just large enough for the dog to stand on. Using the familiar "Whoa" boards will also help the dog learn to stop to flush.
We start teaching stop to flush with two "Whoa" boards, placed about 10 to 15 yards apart. Put the dog on leash and heel him back and forth between the two boards. Command "Whoa" as he arrives at each board. Do this first on leash, then off leash.
Next, leave him on one of the "Whoa" boards, and you stand right behind the other one. Call him to you, and move left and right as necessary to guide him up onto the "Whoa" board that is right in front of you. As soon as he is on the board, command "Whoa."
Repeat this with the other "Whoa" board, so you are calling him back and forth from board to board, commanding "Whoa" each time he arrives at one of the boards. With each repetition, move farther away from the board, until you are about three yards from it.
Now set up a bird launcher just behind you. Call the dog from the farther board to the closer board, and just as the dog steps onto the "Whoa" board, flight the bird and command "Whoa." If the dog moves off the board at this excitement, guide him back onto the board, and command "Whoa." Repeat until the dog is comfortable with this step.
Now set up the launcher hidden in some cover between the two "Whoa" boards (be sure that it is located down wind of the dog's approach, so that the dog will not wind the bird before he sees it launch). Call the dog off the "Whoa" board where you left him, and launch the bird when he is about ten feet from the launcher. If he does not stop when he sees the bird come up (most dogs will because of the prior training with the two Whoa Boards), command "Whoa."
Repeat this step several times until the dog shows you that he understands that the sight of a bird flushing is a visual command to "Whoa."
Crowding birds can include several problem areas, including creeping, roading-in, jumping-in, and sight pointing. Using our techniques to prevent creeping and roading-in will also prevent jumping-in and sight pointing.
When a dog takes steps after he points, he is "creeping." To work on the fault of creeping, we use a crosswind to keep things "black and white" for the dog. Put a bird in a launcher, and approach the launcher so that the dog will make a crosswind find (see Diagram A). The dog should go on point as soon as he makes game, because if there is enough scent for him to turn toward the bird, there is enough scent for him to go on point.
If he begins to creep, immediately launch the bird. (His stop to flush training tells him he has just been corrected for creeping.) After you launch the bird, say "Whoa."
So the sequence is: the dog points, the dog creeps, you trigger the launcher and say "Whoa."
If your yard work on "Whoa" and stopping to flush was thorough, he will quickly learn not to creep using this procedure. If he doesn't, and he continues to creep, "believe what you see." Take him back to the yard for more work on "Whoa" and stopping to flush. He isn't quite ready for field work yet.
If the dog still persists in creeping after his refresher course in the yard, use the e-collar and give a "nick" to reinforce your verbal "Whoa" command.
"Roading-in" is when the dog doesn't point when he should, but just moves along the scent cone that's coming from the bird until he is much too close. The set-up for working on this fault also involves a bird in a bird launcher, but this time you bring the dog in from directly downwind. With this set-up, the dog will typically make game far enough away that he has to work the scent cone for a while. When the scent finally becomes strong enough that he can get a "fix" on the bird's location he should go on point (Diagram B).
Your job as trainer is to watch his behavior change when this "fix" occurs. As long as the scent is weak, you will see the dog working the scent cone, often going from side to side. When he begins to go straight toward the bird, he has enough scent to get a fix on the bird's location, and it's time for a point. If he continues to go straight at the bird, he's now "roading-in." He knows where the bird is and he's still not on point!
We use the same correction for roading-in as we do for creeping. We launch the bird and that means "Whoa" to the dog.
So the sequence is: the dog works the scent cone from side to side, the dog begins to move straight for the bird, you trigger the launcher and say "Whoa."
If the dog persists and still roads-in, then correct him with the e-collar by giving him a nick and repeating your "Whoa" command.
In a future column, we will discuss some training techniques we use during and after the flush.
Dobbs Training Center