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4. The Flyway * 5 months to 1 year *

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

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 shoot 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.

- Ryan Fortier

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