Early development is the Key!!!
It took a lot of years, a lot of trial and error, a lot of time spent in the field chasing upland game birds with Flushers and Pointers and freezing my ass off in duck blinds shooting ducks and geese with Retrievers for my passion for Pointing dogs to come full circle. My first experiences with hunting as a kid were those awkward trips with my dad into the unknown of Eastern Washington Pheasant hunting.
After many years hunting pheasants and quail with Labrador Retrievers I fell into the beginning of my career training Gun Dogs professionally. It was at that time I had the opportunity to purchase my 1st American Field English Setter. I began Chukar hunting and competing in NSTRA field trials and I was hooked.
Early in my career I trained and campaigned a number of pointing breeds and handled many American Field English Setters to NSTRA field trial points and derby wins. I also trained and handled many AKC Master Hunter Retrievers, Master National Qualifiers and a few of the first APLA Grand Master Pointing Retrievers in the Pacific Northwest. After years working to develop our Retriever Training Program and finally passing it on to Blake Gibson. I am still an avid Upland Bird Hunter and I now train Upland Bird Dogs full time. I spend much of my time chasing Huns and Sharptails in Montana, Chukar and Quail in Washington, Idaho, Utah and Arizona and I love to watch young pointing dogs develop...
Upland Bird Dog Training
Head Start Training
Our Upland Bird Dog "Head Start" training program for all Pointing and Flushing breeds allows your dog ample opportunity to develop the natural instincts it was born with. We provide a realistic environment with a lot of bird exposure. It takes Birds to make Bird Dogs and during this 1 month class we will also introduce your youngster to water retrieves, here training, whistle training, crate training, gun breaking and e-collar conditioning.
Your dog is eligible fo Basic Upland Bird Dog training if it has already been through our Head Start Class or has had at least one good season of actual bird hunting and is truly Gun Broke. In this program that we refer to as the "breaking process" for pointing dogs we continue to take a very realistic approach and use a lot of birds to ensure that we retain the style and confidence in your dog. Basic Training takes a minimum of 2 months and at the end of this time your dog will hold point, quarter and handle in the field, and respond consistently to to voice and whistle commands.
Your dog is eligible for Advanced Upland Bird Dog training if it has already been through our Head Start Class or has had at least one good season of actual bird hunting and is truly Gun Broke. In this program we take the "breaking process" further. We continue to take a very realistic approach and use a lot of birds to ensure that we retain style and confidence in your dog. Advanced Training takes a minimum of 3 months. Advanced dogs will hold point broke to wing and shot, quarter and handle in the field, respond consistently to to voice and whistle commands and retrieve.
Developing and Training a Bragging Rights Pointing Dog.
5 General Steps - Picking a Puppy, Getting your puppy home, Gun Breaking, The Flyway, and Formal Training
1. Picking a Breed, Breeder, Litter, Gender and Puppy
It is important to enjoy your puppy, and enjoy the training process, and to look forward to taking your youngster to the yard or field every day. This starts by picking the right puppy to start with. People love to get so scientific and analytical when it comes to picking a puppy. I say that this is not Rocket Science, but comes down to personal preference and having a little common sense. Breed and Gender of your new puppy really comes down to your personal preference. If we really wanted to sit and have a discussion about this, we could find pros and cons in all Sporting Breeds as well as in Male or Female. Use some common sense about who you are as a person, hunter and dog owner. Be realistic, do your research, find a reputable breeder and pick the type of dog that you like and the gender that you prefer.
2. Getting the Puppy home * 8 weeks to 4-5 months *
It is important to begin socializing, developing and training your new puppy as soon as you get it home. First things First. Crate training to give your puppy security, teach him his place and begin potty training. Daily walks “off leash” with the freedom to explore, be a puppy and begin developing naturally. Daily, short retrieving sessions with knotted up sock, balls and small bumpers in a hall way or corridor. Intro to water if weather permits. Intro to clip wing pigeon or quail just to spark the puppies natural instinct for birds. Do NOT over do it with chasing and retrieving birds. Begin teaching your puppy limits such as not chewing up your shoes or getting in the garbage etc…. Start restraint training out on the stake chain or chain gang in the yard. Simple obedience through attrition and treats is ok but don’t over do walking at heal and sitting. Dogs are creatures of habit and if you over due these exercises at too early of an age it could slow their development and training in the field as they get older. Use preventative medicine, common sense and enjoy your puppy in the these early days.
3. Gun Breaking. * 4-5 months *
This is the most important, sensitive part of the process that requires the highest level of compassion, focus, patience and understanding from the trainer. It is a must that you understand that no dog is born Gun Shy!!! Gun Shyness is always man made!!! That being said, yes some dogs are born more timid than others or more likely to become gun shy than another dog. But by taking the right steps, using common sense and patience all dogs can be given the opportunity to develop a positive relationship between Gun Shots and Birds and to completely understand what the Gun Shot means. At 4-5 months is when I find that puppies are now mature enough and their eye sight has developed enough to see and chase a thrown crippled bird during the gun breaking process. At this age they are generally most malleable and we seem to get the best results. NOTE: A Gun Broke dog is not a dog that is just ok with loud noises and gun shots. It is a dog that through proper training has learned that a Gun Shot means that he could potentially get too retrieve a bird. It is through this teaching and development that the positive relationship between Gun Shots and Birds is achieved.
4. The Flyway * 5 months to 1 year *
What we call “The Flyway” is a period of time where it is now imperative to begin truly “letting go of the leash” and affording your youngster the opportunity to run, hunt, find birds and develop whatever natural instincts he was born with. During this time whether you are turning your puppy loose on planted birds, liberated birds or wild birds, it is very important that the environment be safe and as natural as possible. It is a must that birds flush well and get away from your young dog. If your dog catches a bird it is not the end of the world but you do not want to make this a habit. During this time if your dog is finding quality birds he will begin to develop scent recognition, prey drive, forward run and pointing instincts. I tend to feel like the quality of the birds my youngster finds is much more important than the quantity. There is a lot you can develop and teach through attrition during the Flyway. As long as your dog is Gun Broke during this phase you can begin shooting birds when your dog points them. Keeping in mind natural retrieving ability and natural development while determining how many and how often you choose to shirt birds. After all, the action of birds getting away is what generally increases the dog’s natural instinct to point and to hold point longer. Always be thinking outside the box and use common sense to work with the dogs instincts and not against them. There are so many variables, so many different levels of ability and natural instincts in each dog as well as many different goals and expectations by owners, handlers and trainers which will determine how long each dog is kept in this phase of development prior to more formal training. For example if a dog is going to be a weekend warrior and has good natural ability he might only need a month of Flyway. But if a dog is expected to be a Field Trial Champion we may give him an entire hunting season to run in the Flyway on wild birds. Usually toward the end of this time of development in preparation for the Breaking Process I will put the dog through e-collar conditioning, here training, whistle training and begin teaching him to come when he is called in the field, handle to the front and retrieve. This is also a good time to start light whoa training in the yard away from birds.
5. Formal Training or “Breaking”
It is time to get your dog “Broke”. What does this mean? This also has a lot of variables. The training it takes to teach your dog that it must hold point so that you can flush the birds and shoot them is the process we call breaking. There are different levels of this training depending on what the goals and expectations are of the owner, handler and trainer. I prefer that all our Bird Dogs and Shoot to Retriever Dogs be Broke to the Flush. What that means is that the dog will hold point through the flush and until I shoot the gun. I like our dogs broke this way because it insures they are out of the way of the gun fire and then in pursuit of the down bird as quickly as possible. If a dog is to be trained for American Field or AKC horse back field trials then the dog must be broke to Wing and Shot which in case the dog can never move again after establishing point. We train our dogs with very little pressure and very few gimmicks and equipment in as natural of an environment as possible to retain the highest level of style and confidence in every breed and ability of dog that we train. We use a silent method of breaking with real birds, a checkline, and a flusher/shooter. This insures that our dogs know how to handle birds and understand the rules without being told. Pretty tough to tell your field trial dog or big running Chukar dog to WHOA when you don’t see him go on point. Through time and attrition and necessary pressure, when your dog is broke, then and only then, is when we finish their whoa training in the field around birds after doing some light whoa training in the yard. This process of attrition also develops a dog that stops to whoa with style and in turn we can use this to later teach the backing of another dog on point. All the while retaining style and confidence in every dog no matter the breed or ability.