How do I teach my dog to find birds

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How do I teach my dog to find birds

Postby Janice » Wed Oct 13, 2004 6:54 pm

Last year we took both our dogs to the 'fun day' hunt test. Both the dogs did pretty well and found and pointed at least three birds. I was pretty proud of them since I've never done this before and the dogs have never had any training. Seemed like they were just natural hunters. This year my friend brought back a couple of quail wings from last weeks hunt test hoping that we'd strart training our dogs and go out with her in the future.

Tonight I brought the wings out from the freezer and started my "training". I showed them the wings and went out into the yard and placed the wing down while Blue was watching and said "find it". He didn't point it, but he went and sniffed it (actually he tried to grab it) and I praised him. I suppose you're wondering why I praised him as he's really not supposed to grab it, but I was trying to teach him the "find it". command. Anyhow we continued this for a few times then I hid it when he wasn't watching. I gave him the "find it" command and he'd just looked at me like "mom, give me the bird". He did eventually go and look for it in places I had originally placed it. But he actually wasn't looking for it on his own for the most part, mostly just staring at me demanding I give him the wing.

Obviously, I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Can anyone offer me any tips. Quite frankly they did better on their own out in the field with me just pretty much following them along and letting them do their thing.

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Re: How do I teach my dog to find birds

Postby CJ » Thu Oct 14, 2004 12:13 pm

Janice wrote:Obviously, I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Can anyone offer me any tips. Quite frankly they did better on their own out in the field with me just pretty much following them along and letting them do their thing.

Janice



You're actually not doing bad.... Before getting to where you want to go, heres some stuff to help you understand why you're going & how it all works.
Scenting and prey drive are really what your driving at with your dog for hunting or testing/trialing. Prey drive is inherant in these dogs, and is triggered by the bird scent. Bird scent is where you are having a disconnect right now. Wings are great tools to use for dogs/puppies that haven't actually hunted or been on real birds yet. Reason being is that they have CONSIDERABLY less scent on them than the real deal.... I know they came off the real deal but... Here's how the whole bird scent works... if you're squemish, stop reading here... if you just ate... read this later. The scent that the dogs are picking up off the birds is actually bird waste. Birds only have one exit so it all comes out the same place and that generally gets on their feathers. It's that scent that flips the dogs lid and makes them want to get after the bird (once they connect it more firmly with a bird). You may notice that dogs will eventually not point or bother with "tweety birds" after a while hunting or working upland birds. The reason behind this is scent. tweety birds are worm eaters.... upland birds fall into the genus of galeanatious (probably spelled wrong). They eat seeds and grains. Soo... what goes in is different, what comes out is different (smells different). That's why they know the difference and discriminate between them.
So, back to the how. Since your pup has already been on a real/whole bird.... he know's the difference (which is considerable) in the smell, and more to the point, the intensity of that scent. This will help you understand why (when they are out working an area) they "get birdy" in some areas and other times they just slam on point. It's the intensity of the "scent cone". All upland birds have what is called a scent cone. It's an area, generally cone shaped with the point being at the bird and that point being the most intense/strongest place of scent... and the bottom being broader with the scent weakening as it gets broader. So when they are in the scent cone, they act differently (going on point... more intensely the closer they are) than when they just get a wafting little tid bit from a stiff breeze or left over "ground scent" (weaker scent left fromthe feathers brushing the grass or what ever as the bird walks around).
Back to the pup again... he's already seen/smelled the real deal.... It's going to be very hard to get him excited about a feather at this point. If you're really wanting to try to use the feathers... get a little puppy bumper/retrieving dummy and wrap the wings around it and tie them on. Then get some bird scent (I know it probably sounds nasty now after knowing what it is), they come in little squeeze bottles, for what ever bird it is you want to get the dog on (it comes in quail, pheasant, grouse, ect..) and squirt it on... the dummy will absorb the scent and give it a better scent cone. If you just squirt it on the wings alone... it will mostly run off.
Use this set up for using wings.
Now to what you probably aught to do. Live birds. What you are trying to do at this point is help the pup develope it's innate prey drive to it's fullness. Live birds are needed for that. Pigeons or dove will work (they generally cheaper than game birds too) to start, but you'll eventually need to move on to quail or chukar. You'll need to find a training area (a field or even a park that isn't busy and has some thick/tall grass will do). Get some birds and either strap their wings down with a harness (a little leather gadget that just goes over them like a sweater and keeps their wings pinned to their sides) or hobble them (tie their legs together with yarn or masons twine) and pluck out a few flight feathers so they can fly, but not to far. Dizzy the birds up a little (out of sight from the pup) and stick them in a place that they will feel safe and covered when they come too.... and then go get the pup and let him run around.... he'll come across the bird (even if you have to help dirrect him a little at first.... but don't keep doing that) and.... the rest should come pretty natuarally. If he points, great... if he doesnt.... he will at least get excited and pick the bird up.... any of this is great... it will get the pup into the routine of finding birds... There's a lot more from here, but what you've got in this post will get you well started. Drop another post when you need more from here, or if you have any questions about what I've put down........ Good luck!
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Postby Janice » Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:15 pm

Ok, thanks for the tips. Looks like we will be off to buy some scent for the boys first of all since the wings aren't too hot of an item. Somehow, I don't see myself keeping birds, so perhaps we will just try another hunt test and take it from there. I'm quite sure putting a JH on them will be a piece of cake. Although from previous posts of your descriptions of the leap from Junior to Senior, we will have some work to do.

The ability of the "pups" (four and eight year old dogs) to find and point birds is pretty good, just from that one time out in the field, but I need to get them back out and see how they do as far as backing. I was so excited watching them look for birds I didn't pay much attention to anything else.
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Postby CJ » Fri Oct 15, 2004 8:51 am

Janice,
Your right, JH is pretty much a snap for a dog with some natural ability... The trick, I think, if you're going to really do the hunt test titles is to be training for the next level (at least) the whole time... So if you're going to go for Sr.... start implimenting peices into the pups training for that while you're competing at Jr. It helps make that jump a little shorter.
Something I was thinking about last night that I forgot about in the explaination (on the training for the next level subject).... while your using the puppy dummy w/ the wings (and scent) tied to it.... let the pup keep it in his mouth for a while.... let him carry it around if he will, and better yet, let him carry it and follow you (lead him around). It will help bridge the way for retrieving to hand. Little things like that are really big in minimizing that next leap... and making the dog be a stronger contender in the stake you're competing in.
Oh.... you don't have to keep birds either (my wife would kill me if I did that). I plan my training days and pick up the birds the day before, leave them in a box in the garage, and then use them the next day. I just get a few so I don't have to worry about keeping them around. Just a thought...... Good luck,
c.j.
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Postby Janice » Fri Oct 15, 2004 3:52 pm

Very good point about having to dogs carry around the dummy and having them follow me with it if they will. One of my dogs I'm pretty sure is not what you'd call having a "soft mouth". I forgot to mention that he picked up one of the birds he was pointing at the "fund day" and had too much fun with the bird....biting so hard on it that he killed it. I guess you could say that he was having quite a fun day.

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Postby CJ » Fri Oct 15, 2004 4:16 pm

Haha, ya, I'd say he had fun. Sometimes they just don't like live birds and chomp them because they are wiggling around in their mouth. Time will tell after they have some really dead ones in there. If he's still chewing when they're quite dead... that's a problem that needs fixing before it's gets to be a habbit. Something on this line of thought.... if you haven't already exposed him to gun shots, do it gradually and from a distance at first.... a close up gun shot for no reason can really rattle a pup and make them gunshy. Just something to keep in mind, since it generally is something to start working on/working into the training after they really get bird crazy and are finding & retrieving birds.
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Postby Janice » Fri Oct 15, 2004 6:56 pm

While I'm definatly concerned about the bird chomping, both the dogs did fine with shotguns. Blue flinched slightly a couple of times, but the other had no concern at all. I was pretty amazed. I was also amazed that neither one seemed to notice the horses. I thought for sure they'd react somehow. I know our youngest dog lived in an apartment, and rarely if ever was let out to run in any open space at all. We got him at one year of age and he didn't even know what to do when we let him out in the yard for the first few days we had him as he kept wanting to go back in the house. He's the dog who never flinched at the guns or horses and seemed to know most about what to do in the field. He was more attentive to us and willing to please in the field than he ever is/was at home! Its pretty incredible to see for a dog with so little experience and no introductions to birds or anything having to do with the great outdoors.

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Postby Bernie's mom » Fri Oct 15, 2004 7:46 pm

Last time we were up north with Bernie we put the bell on his collar, that alone gets him pretty wound up, and out we go. I have heard and seen pics of little 8 week old puppies on point, and Berns is 10 months and we have yet to see him in a solid point; he'll stand there and stare things down, like flies in the kitchen or birdies on the deck, but no stretched out paw raised point. When he's out in the woods it looks like he's working, his nose is down and he's truckin' all over, but I think he's too riled up and moving too fast. Kevin kicked up a covey of 5 and missed all of them, but Bernie never even caught scent. He came over to see what the shooting was about, but, I don't know. I emailed the breeder, I wanted to bring Bernie back there to put him on live quail but they never got back to us. I do admit we don't work Bernie like we should, other than out in the yard a few times with the dummie and he did well on retrieves, but that's about it. Should we be doing something more with him? I just want to see him point really, and shooting a bird over him at least once would be great!
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Postby Karen_P » Sat Oct 16, 2004 7:10 am

CJ's advise to Janice to put her pups on live birds would seem to be appropriate for Bernie also. Remember though that dogs develop at their own pace, and some trainers don't even want to see them until they're over a year old. I did find a great brittany breeder website that breaks training down in manageable chunks based on the age of the dog.

http://www.brittanygundogs.com/Brittany_training.htm

Also, I read a wonderful book "Best Way To Train Your gun Dog, The Delmar Smith Method" by Bill Tarrant. Excellent book. You can buy it used on Amazon or Half.com for under $10.[/url]
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Postby Janice » Sun Oct 17, 2004 5:18 am

Thanks Karen, I've definatly bookmarked that page. I liked the section on teaching the dog to come as we certainly have some work to do in that area.
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Postby CJ » Sun Oct 17, 2004 10:29 pm

Bernie's mom wrote:Berns is 10 months and we have yet to see him in a solid point; he'll stand there and stare things down, like flies in the kitchen or birdies on the deck, but no stretched out paw raised point. When he's out in the woods it looks like he's working, his nose is down and he's truckin' all over, but I think he's too riled up and moving too fast...........
Should we be doing something more with him? I just want to see him point really, and shooting a bird over him at least once would be great!

Sounds like you made a good start on this guy too... A lot of dogs move pretty fast when their working, if he's moving to fast (so fast that he'll bump birds) the only thing that will slow him down is 1-time & age, or 2-bumping enough birds to realize himself he's working to fast.... My guess is the latter will work itself out before the prior does. He just needs to get out on birds.... There's a popular misconception that a dog only needs to learn/be trained once and they'll never forget and be perfect all the time.... I'm not at all saying that you're doing this, just mentioning it so you know where to set your expectations.... I'd guess that when Bernie finally beats Kevin to the birds, he'll point (at least a flash point, but probably a real one). The more he can get out on them, the better. All dogs need at least one good/full season on real live wild birds to come into their own. Training on pen raised birds helps hasten that along, but... there's no substitute for wild birds.
Something for those reading and in a situation where your dog won't hold... just put a lead on him and make him stand some planted birds... Sometime it's hard to tell when letting pups run birds down has passed it's usefulness in getting their prey drive amped up and they end up just wanting to grab birds all the time (because they know they can). So.... a check cord comes in handy for that.... doesn't usually take long so long as you haven't over done it tooooo far with letting them grab birds as a pup....
Anywho... just get him out in the woods some more... he'll find them and before you know it... he'll be pointing and you'll be sticking them in the game bag.
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