Training your bird dog is a great adventure. As with many adventures in life, the little things we never thought about often carry the best (or worst) memories and have a big impact on that adventure. Advertisers certainly push the latest and greatest gadget and gizmo for training the gun dog faster, easier and better.
No doubt there have been many advancements in this realm over the years. Not all great things are well advertised. Below is my list of the 5 most valuable bird training tools not available in stores.
Bird Dog Training Techniques for only the Price of your Time.
There is a plethora of bird dog training information available at one’s fingertips, absolutely free. The amount is actually astounding and grows literally every moment of every day. Media sources range from website and Youtube videos, to chat rooms, groups on Facebook, Forums, e-books and others.There is so much out there, it can be overwhelming.
Certainly, not all information is good, or relevant. Sadly there are also more sites out there finding ways to waste your time using click bait pieces. But, the loss of a few moments of time figuring those out is a relatively small price to pay.
On the upside, there are also very good bird dog training sites that can help everyone – from raw beginner to seasoned professional.
How to wade through it all? My suggestion is first skim several sources to find ones that are easy for you to read, or watch and who match the demeanor of training you feel suits you and your dog.
Select a few and see how they make you think about training your gun dog.
Then go back to the ones that absolutely don’t match your personal viewpoint. Push yourself past the pre-conceptions we all have and read or watch them. Yes, this can without a doubt be an exercise in frustration.
But, if you keep an open mind, you may find that there are parts of their ideas, programs or near religion in dog training methods that you could use that benefit you and your bird dog. You will also discover things you realize you definitely do not want to use in your training program, and that is just fine!
There are many roads to Rome. Take advantage of the information available in training your bird dog and chart your own course. It’s your dog, and your adventure. With this knowledge, you can get to work your “Bird Dog Training Plan”. If you need decide you need a driver, our bird dog training services can get you there.
Bird Dog Training Plan
Making “The Plan” starts with two parts. Humans are great at skipping ahead.We like to dream of happy endings, and that’s certainly true for folks that train bird dogs.
Who doesn’t daydream of walking crisp October fields with their dog working happily with us, the sun smiling down while gaudy roosters take flight, the single perfect shot and Pup happily bringing sharing in the prize…. This is why we suggest that the plan starts with the Dream. This is the part that motivates us and brings joy to our hearts. It makes us happy.
Part 1 is the end goal, The Dream, you have in mind. The other part is the part we sometimes prefer to gloss over, the reality. Pup is a handful and everywhere but where we want him.
It’s important we be objective and face the cold hard truth to do both of us and Pup a favor. Part 2, what does your dog know NOW, is essential in developing “The Plan”. For example:
Then we need to think about the missing link – the part that takes us to The Dream from Reality. The Plan. It may seem overwhelming. Don’t fret, it isn’t! Remember the old adage;
How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.
Train Pup the same way. Think about what the precedent is needed to achieve the goal.
- Pup will need to come to you to give you the bird, right? He’ll need a good recall.
- Pup’ll need to carry the bird in order to bring it to you, so he’ll need to be comfortable picking up and carrying a bird.
- Pup will need to know that a bird is great and fun and desirable, so he’ll need to be introduced to birds, etc.
By breaking down the steps and checking them off, you’ll find training your Pup not only achievable, but fulfilling.
These steps could be broken down further again.
For Example, Introduction to birds can be broken down into the introduction to dead bird quail, Wing clip quail, flyaway quail and so on.
ProTip: If you find Pup having difficulty learning a task, you’re probably trying to teach too many parts at once.
Gun Dog Training Journal
We humans think we have a great memory. We’re masters at convincing ourselves we do. The truth is, we can’t remember what we had for lunch last Thursday unless it was a special occasion.
Along with “The Plan”, which you should pencil out at the very least, Keeping a simple journal of the day’s training as soon as you are done with a session will prove invaluable.
Ok, maybe technically this one is not free if you don’t have a simple notebook and a pen lying around the house unused, but it sure won’t cost more than the drive through coffee you picked up this morning.
Journaling the days and weeks will give you surprising insight into the progress you’ve made. It also is very useful to remember what worked, what you’ve observed, what didn’t and where to start today because you haven’t been able to train for a few days and….
What did we do last time? You may find it a window to even more. This LifeHack post of 5 great reasons why to Journal ties in nicely with both life and our desire to improve and reach our goals.
We journal after every session. It doesn’t need to neat, no one else will read it (or possibly CAN read the handwriting). It shouldn’t be a novel. In fact, when you first start out try forcing yourself to write only two to three lines. If you write too much, you’ll put it off. You put it off, and then you can’t remember, which defeats the whole purpose. You’re simply writing a note to yourself.
ProTip: Save yourself frustration – Attach a pen to your Hunting Dog Training Journal.
Find a Hunting Dog Training Buddy
There are times when it’s very beneficial to have an extra hand or two. Training bird dogs can certainly benefit from a little help now and then. Some obvious and not so apparent benefits of training partners include:
- Flushing birds while working the dog.
- Gunning for each other so we can focus on training the dog
- Motivation – we’re much less likely to say “ah, tomorrow” when we have a buddy set up to meet us.
- Idea exchange – having a dialogue about how to go about working on a task is great.
- Grounds access. Sometimes a buddy has permission for grounds we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to use.
- Shared bird costs. Training a bird dog takes birds. Birds cost money. Being able to share costs is a great way to save.
- Working dogs with a bracemate. Hunting dogs should be able to work with other dogs.
- Honor training – this goes along with working with other dogs, it’s much easier for one handler per dog when teaching dogs to honor each other.
How does one go about finding a good training partner? In many ways, it’s similar to dating. Not all matches are good, but when you find a buddy or group you click with, you’ll have a blast. One of the best ways is to go to several “Mixers”.
There are a number of organizations that put on bird dog events, NAVHDA (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), NSTRA (National Shoot to Retrieve Association) AKC (American Kennel Club) Performance events like Hunt Tests and Field Trials, UKC (United Kennel Club) Tests and trials, Local bird hunting clubs, breed specific “fun days” put on by local clubs and many more.
Using the free tools of internet searches, there are a myriad of events to attend in most regions of the country.
It will require putting oneself “out there” a little, which can be intimidating. But experience shows that the vast majority of folks involved in these events are friendly and passionate people who are motivated to help others get involved in the sport they love.
If those don’t work, sometimes the old school “classified” ad can pay off. In the past, I wanted to have an extra set of hands to help me train some of my dogs. I had grounds and birds to train with. The barter system is alive and well – I posted a craigslist ad looking for a bird dog training buddy. Within a few days, I had several new friends to go train dogs with.
Many bird dog and breed specific forums have a regional section where folks can post they are looking for someone to train with. Those can be very beneficial as well. There are likely dozens more ways to find a training buddy, but with a little effort, anyone can make a friend!
Fine Wine, 12 year old Scotch and Bird Dogs – All Need Patience
We are a society of impatient people. We want everything as soon as we think of having it. Companies strain to keep up with our increasing demand for “now” with ever-faster methods of delivery. But some things are better with the investment of time. Fine Wine, 12-year-old Scotch, and bird dogs all benefit from Patience.
Patience is arguably the best tool you can have when it comes to training your gun dog.
Patience is required for the dog to grow. Patience is required for the dog to mature. Patience is required especially when you and the dog struggle to achieve a training task. I am not just talking about Patience with the dog, I’m talking about having Patience with yourself.
Relax. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy your dog and the learning you both are going through together.
Frustration in Training your Dog.
Many techniques used to train the bird dog are highly repetitive. It takes multiple exposures to a certain task for both the dog and the trainer to learn.
Don’t get down on yourself or the dog if you both just don’t get it the first time, or the 10th. When you find frustration creeping in (and we all do from time to time), change it up. Do something different.
When you are frustrated with your dog, stop that task for the time being.
Either give yourself both space to breathe and reflect, or go do something you both find fun and take the edge off. Remember, you’re a team and lifelong companions. Return to training when you’re both fresh and in the right mindset. Getting upset and pushing the envelope can have long lasting negative results.
If you can’t control your emotions, you can’t train your bird dog. Take the day off. You’ll both be glad you did. AKC has a nice post on Giving it time when training your dog.
Protip: If you find yourself frustrated, do something else until you’re in a good training mindset.