Questions and Answers On Birdiness and Scenting
By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs
We have written so many columns for Pointing Dog Journal that we were running out of ideas for topics. So it was suggested that we try something new- answering the readers' questions. We hope our answers will be of help to many of you.
Getting Pups Started on Birds
Question: I have a two-month-old pup that I would like to train myself. I was wondering when should I introduce him to birds?
Answer: We like to start pups on birds when they are very young, if possible, before they are three months old. Starting a pup young is done for two reasons.
First, we want the pup to get "hooked" on birds by giving him early experience to instill a desire to hunt that will last a lifetime. The second reason for an early start is that it is usually easier to cause a pup to point rather than flush at this young age. Most pups are not as brave as an older dog and will stop short of putting their head down into cover when they can't see birds but can smell them. This technique can help start pups pointing at a very young age.
The Not-So-Birdie Dog
Question: I have an eight-month-old Vizsla that seems not to be the least bit birdie. I've never hunted behind a pointing dog, but it seems as though she is not getting "jacked up" about the scent of the pigeons or chukars that I have planted for her. I have three bird launchers and have had her out a few times on them. Am I expecting too much too soon?
Answer: If a dog isn't interested in birds, place a lightly dizzied bird out in the open. You want the dog to see it easily as he approaches. Birds planted in this fashion will usually fly away from an approaching dog. Allow the dog to experience the thrill of the chase in order to develop more interest in hunting, then go back to using your launchers.
If the dog isn't inherently "birdie", allowing her to chase will help her acquire a desire for birds. We have often seen a dog that you would swear could only be a pet, but developed into a very good hunting dog after its first season of hunting. Sometimes you just have to be patient as it can take maturity and exposure to hunting for latent potential to blossom.
Enhancing Scenting Conditions
Question: My GSP pup is at the beginning of his training (10 weeks old) and I am starting him on obedience. My question is I live in Arizona and I have hunters tell me that the dogs don't do real well in the dry weather because they don't scent as good here. Is this true, and if so, can training like a scent dog or tracking dog work for bird dogs (with liquid quail scent)?
Answer: Hot, dry conditions can make scenting harder for the dog. For training purposes, there are several ways to enhance the scenting conditions and help the dog have success. Here are a few ways to make scenting easier for beginning dogs when scenting conditions are poor.
Running Past Birds
Question: I have a 10- month-old GSP that seems to do well with the yard work the "whoa", "come", "heel", "sit", and "stay". He goes nuts over live birds. This is my first pointing dog, and so far with my inexperience and his age, I feel we are progressing well. The only problem I am having is that he will occasionally walk right over a planted bird. I get a little concerned when he walks over birds that he should be finding easily. Is this something that will sharpen with age and experience?
Answer: It is not uncommon for a young excitable dog to run past birds. Sometimes the dog may be very close to a bird when he runs past it, all he has to do in that narrow scent cone, is to be exhaling instead of inhaling to miss a bird. However, if that is not the case and your pup is not that close to the bird, you may also need to enhance the scenting conditions. We are advocates of frequently planting more than one bird in a place.
Often youngster's legs are a few steps ahead of his brain so to speak. As your pup becomes more experienced, he will learn to think through his nose and running past birds will diminish.
Question: I am new to GSP's and hunting. I recently got my first female GSP (four months). She is pointing rabbits, bees, dead sunflowers and just about anything. Is it okay for her to point these things, or will it hurt her pointing of birds in the future?
Answer: It is great that she is demonstrating a lot of inherent pointing instinct. We would start immediately getting this pup into as many pigeons and quail as possible. She will get "hooked" on birds and forget about false pointing trash.
If you have training questions please send them to: Jim & Phyllis
Dobbs Training Center