Can you Train a Bird Dog with a $7.00 Releaser?
Remote Bird Launchers are wonderful tools. No argument, they offer many advantages when training a bird dog. But they are not the only way to get your gun dog trained. Like every tool, there are pro’s and con’s.
The major drawback to them is cost. To get a good 3 bird setup can cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $800. That’s a fair chunk of change to most folks!
A second issue with them is that being mechanical, they can be a bit intimidating for young, inexperienced dogs. They smell a little different, they make some level of noise and when opening could snap on a dog startling it, which has the potential to have the dog create a negative association with the bird, something we don’t want. Of course these are all mitigated with precaution and proper usage.
But what is an alternative?
The Corded Pigeon Restraint Harness
This exceptionally simple tool has been in use continuously by me for at least 25 years. You may have seen some of our videos and noticed them in action. We use them a great deal in our Gun Dog Training Programs. Although we do own and use remote launchers, there are several instances where we prefer using this $7 pigeon harness. The comparative cost to 3 remote launchers? 3 of these corded pigeon harnesses with shipping will be around $28.
When might you want to use these vs. a launcher (poverty aside).
- Young dogs that a launcher might startle or scare.
- Depending on lesson and system you use, to help pointing dogs stand their birds.
- When you want a pigeon or chukar to stay put. Carded birds are good, but they often are not where you set them, and chukar love to run.
- A softer dog that needs a bit of encouragement, you can use these to entice the dog.
How to properly load the bird
Loading the Pigeon into the harness is relatively simple. I use what I dub the “ice cream cone” technique. I hold the bird lower on the body, with its legs extended down, wings folded cleanly to it and simple drape the harness over the top, the hole on top of the harness being for the bird’s head. Snug the harness around the bird and put the hook and loop fastening tab low, near the base of the harness.
Pro Tip – Keep it low. If you put the fastener up high on the bird, it can allow the bird to back out of the device.
Bird Planting for Gun Dog Training
Now that you’ve gotten comfortable with loading the bird in the harness, we need to discuss initial options in using it for training. One of the real benefits of this item is that it is far easier to hide in cover, and you can work a field with less cover, than a remote launcher.
With a young dog, we want the dog to see the bird fly, but generally not wanting to see it hiding on the ground. We tend to try to select a training area with lower to moderate cover initially. As dogs become more skilled at finding birds, we increase the challenge for them to find in heavier cover. Dogs are essentially color blind, so though the harness/wrapper looks bright orange to us, it’s another shade of gray to the dog.
You’ll also want to keep terrain in mind, as terrain interacts with wind pattern, and wind pattern is what brings the scent to the dog. If you picture wind like a river, how would it flow and eddy?
Additionally you may want to increase the length of pull cord. The closer to the bird the dog is, the higher the amplitude of the dog. If working to steady a dog, pointing well off the bird is beneficial and a longer cord helps if working alone especially. If the lesson is to bring a dogs enthusiasm and drive up, closer is likely what you’re after.
Pro Tip – When planting the bird, keep the pull tab up. Otherwise you’re likely to drag the bird instead of opening the release.
We use primarily homing pigeons with these harnesses, but if you don’t have homers, you can still use this with a carded or weighted bird. You just make certain the cord for the card is clear of the harness when loading. The advantage is that you will know where your bird is when you plant it, then go back to get the dog and bring it out to work the bird.
They work relatively well on chukar too, so long as it’s not too small a bird.
You may want to try them out, get a few and see how it goes. The worst thing? You’re out a couple of coffees. The best thing? You may just have found a good tool that is grossly underutilized in today’s high-tech, high dollar training world.