I don’t train dogs. I simply manipulate their current hunting strategy by encouraging them to include me. It’s simple and it works every time. It’s how I work with all the dogs from inexperienced puppies to dogs with problems caused by excessive obedience training. Here it is in a nutshell. First, I let them establish a natural hunting strategy. To do this, I release birds in a hunting field. This “hunting field or fields” do not have to be where you go to hunt wild birds during season. Simply a place where the birds are free (released), act similar to wild birds and can be shot. Remember, the birds are the dog trainers, not us. Our job is simply to set up scenarios where the birds can do their job. There is no yard work. No pigeons, launcher, pressure or commands. Dogs (all predators) learn quickly and with ease by building associations. What they learn in the yard is not naturally applied to a new area, the hunting field.
The initial hunting strategy I want the dogs to create is “bump & chase”. It’s easy and happens quickly. Birds are released in the hunting field for the dogs to hunt. They learn about air scent and ground scent. They learn to stalk runners and coveys. Soon, they begin to stalk and point, trying to get closer to the prey before the pounce. This is also where I let them chase and catch a few birds while I introduce the gun as a positive, necessary association to getting the bird in their mouths.
At this point, I have a happy dog that looks forward to hunting with me. We’re having fun hunting birds together. So far, he hunts his birds, stalks, then bumps and chases. Now it’s time to tweak his current hunting strategy. I will show him that if he will include me (basically wait for me), his odds of successfully getting the bird in his mouth will increase.
First, I need to show him the new strategy. This is how the young predators learn to hunt. They need to see what works. I start with the checkcord for the first few birds. Now when the bird flushes, I can control his chase and show him the new steadiness associations. I’ll even have the shooter shoot, bring back and share a few birds with the dog. From now on, chasing is unsuccessful. Not chasing, controlling energy is the answer now. The same natural energy management he displayed when he stalked and pointed, I now want him to demonstrate when a bird flushes, when the gun goes off and when the bird falls. He was born knowing how to do it. This change of strategy from chasing to steadiness happens quickly. This new act of being steady on birds (not flushing or chasing) can be as natural a response as flushing and chasing used to be. It’s just a matter of strategy.
To be continued…………