Questions and Answers About "Crowding" Birds

By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs

Question: I have a two-year-old female GSP and we are getting ready for the season in Illinois and some playing around with field trials. My training problem is that she finds the bird and when I approach to flush she breaks point and moves to my front and blocks off the bird. When the bird comes out to flush, she will jump in and trap the bird. Is this the price you pay for pen-raised birds (chukars)? Would a launcher solve the problem if I release the bird when she creeps? Would this make her think about not moving before I get there?

Answer: If she is taught to stand off her birds she will not jump in and trap them. She will wait until you flush, shoot and release her to retrieve or relocate. The short answer to the question on use of a launcher is yes, a bird launcher is a great tool to solve the problem of creeping in on birds. Also, training her to obey your "Whoa" command better would be very helpful.

If you decide to use a launcher, teach your dog these preliminary training steps before introducing the new training tool. First, the dog must be reliable on the whoa command, which means that she will stop immediately on your command "Whoa" even from a run. She must stop on your first command, come to an abrupt halt and not take any further steps. Second, she must be taught not to chase flying birds. Third, the sight of a bird flushing must be a visual cue to whoa.

We suggest that you look up the following articles we have written on these subjects in Pointing Dog Journal: "Using the New E-collars to Enforce 'Whoa'", Jan/Feb 1999; "Training with Bird Launchers", May/June 1999; " Using the New E-collars in the Field", March/April 1999.

Question: I am trying to retrain a two-year old that went through a season on planted birds. He had a very good year and successfully pointed and retrieved many birds. However, toward the end of the season, I noticed he was sight pointing rather than scent pointing. Since then I have been taking him to a local field and now he is downright busting the birds without pointing at all. I am looking for suggestions on how to get him pointing again.

Answer: First your dog must become very compliant to your whoa command. Second, it needs to be taught to whoa automatically at the sight of a bird flushing.

When you have mastered these two commands, set up training situations so that the dog is making game on crosswind finds. Since he is coming across the scent cone at a right angle, he will turn toward the bird when the scent is strong enough for him to make game. This gives you a clear indication that he has smelled the bird. If he doesn't stop but continues to "road in" or stops and then "creeps", release a bird out of a remote bird launcher and give him the command "Whoa". After several repetitions of this set up, he will begin to stop and point birds on his own. The reference articles referred to in the last question will also give you additional information on getting your dog to point again.

Question: I have an eight-month-old Brittany. He has been doing great with yard and field training; however, I have a couple of concerns: 1. The first 20-30 pigeons in a manual launcher, he would catch scent and hold point at about 20 feet. Now he seems to want to get too close and do more sight pointing than scent pointing. I do use a checkcord, but in my opinion, he gets too close to the bird (less than 5 feet). 2. Until what age should I continue using a checkcord and what is the ideal length?

Answer: I personally prefer to use a 20' check cord because any longer tends to be unwieldy for me to use. As soon as the dog has a reliable whoa when off of a check cord in the yard and will stop at the sight of a flush, I no longer use the check cord in the field.

To stop the dog from pointing too close to the birds, teach him not to crowd by using crosswind finds as described in the previous answer. If you use a remote controlled bird launcher to stop the dog from roading in, his perspective will be that he caused the bird to fly by getting too close to it. He won't think he is being corrected for finding a bird.

Past Pointing Dog Journal articles that we have written can be found on our web site, www.dobbsdogs.com

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