Upland Hunting with a Flushing Dog:
Part I, Sit-to-Flush
By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs
Many people use their retriever for upland hunting as well as for hunting
waterfowl. NAHRA and UKC include both quartering and trailing as a part
of their hunt test programs. The UKC even offers an upland hunting retriever
Training a dog for upland hunting consists of three major parts: sit-to-flush,
quartering, and trailing. We break these three parts into several sub-tasks
in order to make it easier for the dog to learn its upland hunting lessons.
In the first part of this series, we will discuss sit-to-flush.
To teach the dog to sit-to-flush, he must first be steady. Use a place
board when teaching him that he has to wait until he is sent to retrieve.
After the dog is steady on a place board repeat his steadying lesson without
the aid of the board. We discuss in detail how to steady your dog in our
article in the Retriever Journal, Feb/March 1996. You can
also down load the article from our web page (www.dobbsdogs.com) by clicking
on the retriever library.
The second subtask that the dog should understand is to sit on a whistle
command. Assuming the dog already knows that one whistle blast means sit,
we like to teach the dog to sit quickly. Do this by jogging with the dog
and giving him a sit whistle as you quickly pull up on the lead. Immediately
come to an abrupt halt. Repeat this a few times.
Then, repeat the procedure but instead of giving him a leash correction
for a slow sit, use an e-collar correction. When the dog will consistently
sit quickly remove the lead. With the dog off lead, use the e-collar to
reinforce any non-compliance to the sit whistle.
Stop Chasing Birds
have a dog that is steady to wing and shot, he needs to understand that
it is not correct to chase birds (even when you miss your shot and the
bird flies away). To teach the dog not to chase birds, take a box of pigeons
to the field. (We like to use "homers".) Tease the dog with a bird; then
throw it low to entice him to chase it.
After he has chased the bird about thirty yards, use an e-collar
correction to stop him. Use an intensity setting that is just high enough
to discourage him from continuing the chase. Call him to you and get out
another bird. When he gets back to you, throw the bird. Repeat this procedure
until he won't chase a bird when you throw it.
In the next step, teach the dog to sit at the sight of a bird flying
up off the ground, even though he hasn't smelled it.
Begin by leaving the dog on a place board. Stand behind another place
board that is about twenty feet away from the dog. Call him from one place
board to the other a few times.
Repeat this procedure but this time have a bird in a launcher that is
positioned a few feet behind where you are standing. Call the dog to you,
and as he is getting on the place board, release the bird and give him
a command to sit.
If the dog gets off the place board, correct him and guide him back
onto the board. After the dog understands that he is supposed to stop
and sit when he sees the bird launched, try the same procedure without
the place boards.
When training the dog to sit at the sight of a volunteer bird, be sure
to have him approach on the upwind side of the bird. You do not want the
dog to smell the bird!
If you allow the dog to approach from the downwind side of the bird,
he is likely to start sitting when he smells a bird instead of going in
and flushing it. This happens because he will chain the events together-
scent followed by a flighted bird and the command to sit.
Since he is corrected if he doesn't sit when the bird flies, he will
try to avoid the correction by anticipating it. Consequently, he will
start sitting when he smells a bird instead of waiting to see it flush.
When teaching the dog to sit at the sight of a volunteer bird, it is
important that you also have him hunt for, and catch, several wing clipped
birds. This will encourage him to go in quickly and flush birds without
hesitation when he smells them.
Sit on Gunfire
Leave the dog on a place board and stand about thirty feet from the
dog. Call him, raise the gun in the air, shoot, and give one whistle blast.
Repeat this sequence several times and the dog will anticipate the sit
command because it consistently follows the shot.
From now on, only give the whistle sit if the dog doesn't sit when he
hears the shot. Enforce the whistle command with an e-collar. The dog
will learn to avoid the correction by sitting when he hears gunfire.
Now the dog knows all the subtasks that will enable him to easily understand
to sit when he flushes a bird. Let's put them all together.
Take him to the field and have him hunt for, and catch, some clip-winged
pigeons that you have planted. Then when he is coming across the field
in front of you, throw a homing pigeon and shoot a blank gun as the bird
flies away. The dog should sit at this familiar sight.
Next, plant a bird so that the dog will be close to you when he flushes
it. Your presence helps maintain control and you are close enough to him
to talk him into sitting if he is unsure. Gradually allow the dog to flush
birds that are up to twenty yards away from you.
Coming in the Next Issue
Another important part of upland hunting is to have the dog cover the
field in an efficient, bird finding pattern. In Part II of our series
on "Upland Hunting with a Flushing Dog" we will teach the dog to "quarter".