Backing for Dummies!



Now that you are hopefully well on your way with your dog as a useful hunting partner that hunts with you, finds birds for you and brings them back when, or maybe if, you hit them.

Nothing can make a person prouder than to have someone express admiration for your bird dog's work, especially if you have trained the dog yourself. Alot of that admiration, especially if you hunt with other folks and their dogs can from from an experienced hunter noticing the things that your dog DOES NOT do in the field as much as from the more tangible things that a good dog will do.

How a dog handles itself when hunting around another dog is a large part of that and there can obviously be a myriad of problems arising when dogs are put down together. There is much truth to the old saw that "he who hunts with 2 dogs hunts with half a dog and he who hunts with 3 dogs, hunts with no dogs!!" especially when the dogs are young and inexperienced. What this refers to is the fact that having more than one dog down at a time does not necessarily put more birds in your bag.

Having a pair of well-trained dogs down should enhance your enjoyment of the hunt, regardless of the bag. One aspect that will impact how much shooting you get is how your dog reacts to another dog on point. This can be a very delicate area of bird dogging as obviously, you will not keep many hunting partners if your dog steals the point of your buddies dog or worse, simply "torpedoes" the other dog's find out of the county before anyone can get into position for a shot at the bird or birds.

It is simply bad form on the part of the dog who will not honor that can lead to even worse behavior on the part of the dog who has his birds stolen by some nit-witted or coniving bracemate. A dog so treated will not stand for very much of seeing the other guy have all the fun chasing the birds up and once that game is on, you might as well head to the truck and go find a nice piece of pie, some coffee and head back to one of the Chicago hotels. From there you should get some rest and plan to do some more training, because your chances of seeing many birds in gun range for the rest of that day are slim to none.

I would like to give you a sure-fire method for teaching your dog to honor another dog's point by stopping and pointing a safe distance off and staying there until that piece of bird work is finished. This really kind of fun and if you are like me and live in town, you can do virtually all of this training right in your yard. What you will need for this is a life sized plywood cut-out of a dog on point, painted to match your favorite dog place on a pedestal so it will stand upright on the ground. You will also need a supply of strong pigeons and a bird launcher helps as well.

First, realize that all pointing is a reflex reaction. All animals point when startled, I bet YOU have pointed many times today. When can use the enhanced level of this instinctive reaction to help train your dog to stop on a time whenever he see another dog on point.

Here is how we begin. Take your "dummy-dog" and set it out in your back yard on a nice day in such a position that as you come around the corner of your house from the front yard, the dog is confronted with a full side view of this strange dog pointing in his back yard. Take a pigeon and put it in a launcher or just dizzy it good and hide it in the grass just behind the dummy. (Yes, I let my grass grow to un-PC heights for much of the summer. The neighbors don't even stare anymore!)

Go get your dog and put him on a leash and heel him out the front door. Heel on lead right along the side of your house to the backyard so that your dog cannot see the dummy until he rounds the corner of your house and steps into the back yard.

I can almost gaurantee that your dog will lock up tight the instant he sees this other dog on point, regardless of whether or not he has ever seen another dog on point or not. If you have trained your dog on "whoa" before you do this, you job is about over as soon as your dog locks up on this strange site in his yard. Simply command the dog to "whoa" and praise quietly for a few moments. Then simply move forward to the dummy and flush the bird. Knock the dummy down to the ground as the bird flies off and fire a blank, praise your dog and pet him up and then heel him back into the house and go have a beer. Repeat this several times in slightly different scenarios around the house over the course of a week and then move the whole set up to a training field.

I like to do this training is a large alfalfa field in the summer where the farmer rolls up those car-sized round bales and leaves them sitting around every 50 yards or so.

I hide my dummy behind a bale with a bird and hunt my dog up through as normal. Preferably approach upwind so the dog cannot scent the bird or the dummy as he hunts. The dog comes round a bale and gets a surprise, there is his chipboard and spray paint kennel mate pointing a bird again, out in the field. If the trainee locks up, fine. If not, fire that bird out of there immediately and go knock the dummy down to the ground. The idea is that the dog comes to associate a pointing dog with birds and will point his pointing bracemate as such. If the pointing dog "disappears" at the flush, I have been told that your dog may come to believe that a pointing dog actually can turn into a flushng bird and that makes them even more caution around another dog's find.

I then graduate through shooting these birds as a reward for proper performance and then to using other dogs in place of the dummy. A launcher or a partner is a huge help in this as you have great control over when to pop that bird out without the dog even gettng close to thinking he can road in on the other dog and steal point or bump the bird. The whole thing will make quite an impression on your dog if you do it right. I find that most of them will then point their bracemate with almost as much style as they point with, if you go slow, train "whoa" first, and be liberal with your use of birds in the repition of this excersise.

You can easily have a dog that folks will admire and consider a joy to hunt with. A dog that honors well is always welcome, and is a trait that no amount of other talent, or other ability can make up for when hunting with another dog, especially if that other dog belongs to your buddy. I work very hard on this. I live in town, I need buddies with bird land. My neighbors think I am nuts, my dogs will point refrigerators in ditches and old cars and even cows in the field. But, they won't steal any points or cost the hunt any birds and you will likely be asked back.



-The Bird Dog Bookshelf-
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