Puppy TrainingI live in Texas and the fall dove season is approaching. I have a 4 mo. old Brittany male I have been training to whoa, heel, come, etc., and hope he will make a good pointing dog as well as a retriever. We have been working on these sessions at a very leisurely pace, with very little pressure.
I have taken him into the field(w/ no game birds)a couple of times, dragging a 20' check cord. He seems very content to follow me around . I assumed he would be very eager to run and explore away from me. I have tried the Wolters method of continually turning to face the dog and he will just sit in front of me, happy to be there. I expect that at this point he is young and probably unconfident in this new situation, and have since been advised that this is probably the case. My question is , at what point should I expect him to get out front and hunt, and how do I train him to do this?
With the dove season approaching, I am tempted to work more heavily on his retriever training, as this would better serve me at this time as well as getting him experience in this field. Quail season here runs from Nov. thru Feb., so I have a fair amount of time to get back to the pointer training. My problem is that I don't want to get the cart before the horse. I am afraid that this could possibly create some confusion for him later on. Is there a definite order of things so that it is more preferable to finish the pointer training before going into more concentrated retriever training ? If so, would it be detrimental to take him dove hunting with me as a companion to find lost birds with no pressure to retrieve?
Linda Hi Linda,
Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your questions about your Brittany.
I can certainly understand your desire to concentrate on retrieving right now since dove season is rapidly approaching, however, we do not recommend dove hunting until the pup is already pointing and understands his job while hunting upland game. There are many reasons for this too lengthy to discuss here. The primary reason is that it may be confusing to the pup and you may get a refusal/lack of interest on the dove retrieves. Then you'll be frustrated with the refusal/lack of interest which escalates to the point of frustration.
Your young pup is typical of any bird dog. When you start 'controlling' them at an early age they want to stay with you and please you. So placing controlling commands too early usually translates to shortened hunting range. This is why it's important to introduce the pup to birds in the field so that pup understands what being in the field is all about. This almost always prompts the pup to 'explore' ahead on its own. Some puppies are late starters but the average is around 6 to 8 months of age for Brittanys (as late as a year before they show signs of birdiness). 4 months of age is very young but there are exceptions to every rule.
I recommend getting the pup on birds. Pigeons work well since they are strong flyers and can be used over and over.
I generally place the birds in launchers and hide them in medium cover. Bring pup in on a check cord crossing downwind of the scent cone. When pup shows attention to the scent, if only for a second, I launch the bird and let pup observe it flying away. Praise pup excitedly for a minute then lead pup away from where the bird flew. Do this every day if possible. If pup is sound conditioned, kill a bird that he points properly and let him run to it. Call him to you as soon as he picks it up and praise excitedly. Once you get your pup 'hooked' on birds, the field/yard work will go well as he will always be seeking birds.
I would hold off on whoa until you can get him interested in birds. Just make sure you don't let him catch a bird such as a pen raised bird that doesn't fly far. Always restrain him from catching a bird. The idea is to get him very interested while he simultaneously learns he can't catch them.
Coming to his name and the understanding of 'no' when he performs unwanted behaviors (like jumping up on you, etc.) is all he needs for now until he gets birdy. You'll know when it happens because he will become excited over anything that flies such as butterflies, houseflies, tweety birds, etc. Once he gets birdy, you can also start his sound conditioning with the use of birds.
Your pup is very young, enjoy his puppyhood for now. Good luck and Happy Hunting!
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