Training with Bird Launchers
By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs
Bird launchers play an important role in our pointing dog training program. At first, we use them to prevent the pup from catching a bird. Later, we use them to help teach the dog stop to flush. After that lesson, a launched bird becomes a very good correction for crowding birds.
We also use one or more launchers with a backing dog silhouette to teach the dog to honor. The dog learns that the sight of a dog on point means there are birds even though he can not smell them. Using more than one launcher in the same location simulates an exciting covey rise that will cause a dog to develop more intensity on point or when backing. Also the multiple flushes prevent "letting down."
There are many different bird launchers on the market. Some launchers are specifically designed for flushing dogs and for throwing marks for retrievers. They are often large, strong and very noisy when they open. So if you are looking for a bird launcher to help train a pointing dog, choose one that is designed specifically for that purpose and make sure it will open quietly.
Prevent the Dog from Catching the Bird
At first we use a bird launcher as a cage to prevent a pup from being able to jump in and catch a bird. Catching a bird is the last thing you want your pointing dog to do! The excitement of catching the bird can overshadow his pointing instinct and set back his training on holding a point.
When using your launcher as a cage, be sure to use the safety pin to prevent it from opening when bumped. If your launcher doesn't have such a lock, be sure to tie it shut -a short bungee cord works nicely.
Stop To Flush
A bird launcher makes training a dog to "Whoa" at the sight of a flush much easier. After the dog has been trained to "Whoa" on command, (See PDJ article "Using the New E-Collars to Enforce 'Whoa,'" Jan-Feb 1999) we teach him that the sight of a bird flushing is also a command to "Whoa".
Begin this lesson by diminishing the distance he is allowed to chase a bird you throw. At first, flight a bird by hand and allow him to chase it about 20 yards. Then use an e-collar set just strong enough to stop him from chasing. Over the period of a few sessions, gradually reduce the distance that you allow the dog to chase the bird. Repeat this lesson until he will no longer chase after a bird you throw.
Next, instead of throwing the bird by hand, release it from a bird launcher and command "Whoa" if he chases. If he continues to chase, nick him with the e-collar as you repeat "Whoa." Soon he will stop on his own at the sight of a bird flying up off the ground. Now the sight of a bird flying has become the visual command "Whoa".
After the dog has been taught stop to flush, we use a bird launcher as a correction if he "roads in" or "creeps". Because of his previous training, the sight of a bird flushing is a visual command for "Whoa" and popping a bird up becomes a gentle correction for not standing off his game.
The remote bird launcher now becomes the perfect tool to give the dog a well-timed correction whenever he crowds a bird. And popping a bird up won't cause "blinking" as is the problem encountered with more severe forms of corrections.
Developing a Stylish Point
By using two or three launchers in the same location, you can simulate a covey rise. This procedure keeps the dog intense and he won't tend to "let down" after a bird is flushed (letting down is often caused by training too often with just singles). He will keep thinking there may be one more bird coming up and he will stay intense and stylish until released.
A word of caution when you first introduce the launcher. Be sure to introduce the dog to a bird being launched from a distance until he gets used to the surprise and sound of the launcher.
Soon you will find the bird launcher an invaluable tool as you use it to prevent catching birds, teaching stop to flush, correcting for crowding birds, developing intensity on point, honoring and preventing "letting down" on the flush.
Dobbs Training Center