Hunting nose downI have a 2 1/2 year-old Brittany that I am trying to train to hunt. We're working on very basic stuff like "whoa" and trying to keep him in control when off the leash. (He basically goes nuts when he's off the leash or out of the fence, but we're working on that.)
I took him to a game preserve last weekend just to see what he would do on birds. Once I got him going in the right direction and into the field, he began hunting very enthusiastically. He was following his nose all over the place. He wasn't following anything near a quartering pattern, but he was hunting fast and furious. The only problem was that he was hunting nose-down all the time. Several times he seemed to scent something in heavy cover and just went after it. I suspect that he had smelled a rabbit or field mouse.
After that I read that pointers shouldn't be hunting nose down. Is that really a problem? If so, is there any way to break the dog of that? How? Also, will I make matters worse if I take him rabbit hunting with me? By the way, my Brittany eventually found a pheasant which he quickly flushed. I'm not too worried about that, because I think I'll be able to bring him around when I get him on training birds regularly. Or should I be worried?
Dan Hi Dan,
Thanks for writing verstailedogs.com and thanks for the questions.
Everything you are describing points to formal yard work. Yard work is the foundation that is laid to produce an obedient, stylish bird dog. It involves teaching the dog to heel, whoa, quarter, and come to it's name. It also involves developing the natural retrieve as well as honoring (backing another dog on point).
How can this keep my dogs nose up? When we teach heel we are also teaching the dog to heel with its head up. We discourage 'ground scenting' as it is unattractive and inefficient for finding game.
We'll take that young dog that has learned to heel with it's head up and take it into good cover with planted birds. After a few lessons and several birds, the dog learns that he is finding birds with his head up. With more yard/field work the young dog gains confidence that it can find birds better with it's head up. A smart dog will put 2 and 2 together and realize that ground scenting is only good for trailing wounded game.
Without explaining the whole process, here it is in a nutshell: Heeling with head up, finding game at heel with headup, quartering with head up on lead and finding game, quartering with headup on the check cord and finding game, quartering with no check cord, head up and finding game. Final result: Dog that quarters automatically with head up and points with four feet planted. (we style the dog on point as well during this process to encourage the dog to point with it's tail up and feet planted)
A dog that ground scents for it's birds will often want to point with its head low to the ground which is not good. For instance, if you hunt in tall CRP fields and your dog goes on point you would have a hard time finding the dog unless you have a beeper or bell to track your dog.
A great example of dogs hunting head up and pointing head up was revealed with a couple of my new gun dog hunting buddies this year hunting wild quail here in Texas.
I have an old pointer that will not budge off point even if you call her, shoot the gun, whistle or whatever. She was trained by someone else and points low to the ground. It took us a long time several times this year to find her even though she was within 100 yards in the tall CRP.
My old dog Chief, on the other hand, was trained by me to hunt and point head up/tail up. Scott Petty, my hunting partner, was with me one day a couple weeks ago when Chief disappeared from the CRP. I explained to Scott that the dog wasn't near us or we would see him standing tall on point or running head up. So, my guess was that he had hunted out of ear shot or was standing birds somewhere. 20 minutes later I was worried...
We crossed a nearby creek and started walking the edge of the adjacent CRP field. I glanced west into the CRP and saw the top of Chief's head and the tip of his tail glistening in the soon to be setting sun, just barely visible above the tall Alamo switch grass...standing on point. I told Scott "There he is standing point" Scotts' reply was "Where?!" and then "Oh man, that's awesome!" A huge covey was flushed by us and it was fun for all. Chief had it all at that moment...Style, Steadiness, and devotion that his master would eventually find him! I remember telling Scott that it would be o.k. if Chief and I died right then and right there for that was what it was all about. We had a good laugh and then chased some of the singles with equally good dog work.
You can find more info about yard work at our website www.brittanygundogs.com
Hope that bit of info helps and good luck.
Dave Jones, Chief, US Navy, Ret.
Guided Quail Hunts over Brittanys
Gun Dog Training for Brittanys
Our Brittanys are guaranteed in writing.
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