Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Training For Bird Dogs

Scott and I took our English setters out today for a bit of spring training. Doggystyle, so to speak.

Dottie has been looking forward to it and the weather was nothing less than perfect today for a short romp in the big country.

Dottie has not been on a live game bird since early December. We could have gone out to local clubs to hunt post season but the ever present lake effect snow and frigid cold made that more of an adventure than these 57 year old bones are willing to endure.

Scott called out of the blue this morning and asked if we wanted to head out with him and Penny to Bob’s ranch and tune up our dogs on some quail. I rushed through some chores, loaded up the pup and a shotgun then pointed the Exploder south.

We grabbed a few quail out of Bob's pen, traveled to the rear of the secluded property and released the birds.

At first we took each dog out separately to kick up one bird and then swapped dogs, repeated and so on, that was the plan. No need to get all worked up as we would during a regular season hunt where we take both dogs out and work them together for two hour walks. Training like this is meant to be play time for a bird-hungry pup.

Dottie with Penny in the background

I had no idea how Dottie would do so I hooked her up to a thirty-foot check cord. It wasn’t necessary. She worked close and came when called. She found two birds but both flushed before she could stay on point. Not unusual for pen-raised quail.

One quail was in the bag, the other was worked again. We would not shoot to kill on each point. We just wanted to get the dogs all jacked up on game birds and for them to hear the shot. This is very important in training.

Quail do not fly far and do not fly high so it becomes a friendly game of tag for the pup if we do not knock one down. Eventually we drop one just so pup can get a snoot-full of feathers. It's a reward, another very important part of training

Dottie has come a long way. She worked relatively close and I only needed to use the remote control once, a very good sign. She obeyed my whistle commands very well and looked for me when called. We worked both dogs together on the last bird and I liked what I saw. Both dogs were oblivious to each other, another good sign.

We worked that last quail for three respectable points and flights making two false shots, knocking it down after the third. MMmmmm, feathers.

Patience is important when training a young bird dog pup. A handler knows within two years if the dog will work well and obey. Dottie will be two in June.

In my case I want to breed Dottie..IF. I will spay her at four years old IF she does not appear to have the chops. A lot depends on me because she has displayed a good natural ability for her age.

Dot’s right on schedule. The reason this pleases me most is because I have not trained her as hard as my last two setters.

Next Tuesday we are planning on another training session. Soon the weather will be too hot and the thickening vegetation will make field work hard on the dog and hard on me as well.

That's when we'll go fishing.


Dan from Madison said...

Hey that is great of that guy to let him use your land. Sounds like a great day and Dot looks good!

Annie said...

Good girl, Dottie!
She's looking more "dog" than "puppy" now...but still as sweet faced!