The young Brittany
romped into the field, where sorghum and switch grass stood in straggly rows.
Far down the field, a German shorthaired pointer stood on point, nostrils
twitching as he drank in the scent of a bobwhite quail.
The correct response for the Brittany was
to "honor" the point of the German shorthair; in other words, when the Brittany saw the other
dog pointing it should have stopped and stood still, observing the bird work
when the shorthair's owner flushed the bird.
Instead, the Brittany
romped in a couple circles around the pointing dog, eventually also catching
scent of the bird and pointing. The Brit's owner raised her hands in
"I don't know how to fix that," she said.
The place to fix it is in yard work, which are drills designed for teaching
dogs what we want them to do around birds. But, since it's so much fun to put a
pair of dogs on the ground and let them hunt, we want to skip the yard work.
But think about it. If you played basketball in school, how did the coaches
run the practice? I bet you did drills, such as how to set a pick, making a
foul shot, shooting a lay-up from either hand. If you didn't break down the
game and practice the components first, you weren't ready for a scrimmage.
Spring and summer are terrific months to accomplish training with a dog,
using yard work. There are certain basics that a pointing dog should have down
pat before it goes hunting in the fall.
* Come to hand when called. Most
handlers use one word, either "Come" or "Here," which means come to me and
touch my hand. This should be taught using a check cord. Give the command, reel
in the dog.
* Change direction. This word
means, I'm walking in another direction and I want you to come with me. Most
people use either "Come around" or "This way." I personally prefer "This way"
because it is not at all similar to "Come." Also taught with
a check cord, just playing it out and giving the dog a tug on the collar to
change direction as you give the command.
* Stop on command, usually the
word used is "Whoa." This can be taught as basic obedience, as part of "Heel" and
"Whoa" work. An effective technique is using a check cord, which has been attached
to the dog in a "belly hitch." The dog's owner tightens the belly hitch to
train and reinforce the command.
* Stop to flush. Once the dog will "Whoa" on command, the owner starts teaching the
dog to stop whenever an object is in the air. With the dog moving freely, in a
position to see what is happening, the owner throws a training dummy up, and
gives the command "Whoa." With repetition, the dog will learn to stop without a
command when the dummy is thrown. Once that is learned, change it up and use a
bird instead of a dummy.
With these skills, the dogs has some of the basics
of the game, and can play in a "scrimmage."
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