Pigeons and puppies

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Pigeons and puppies

Postby Huntin4fun » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:01 pm

My 5 month old GSP puppy is completely bird nuts at this point. I started with dead quail at 10 weeks, then moved to live quail (until he started catching them before they could fly), and now I am using live pigeons.

I have been planting 3 pigeons in a field and locking their wings. With the dog on a long check cord I simply let him find the birds. When he does, I unlock their wings and simulate a flush and let them fly. Lots of praise, never let him bust in, and make it fun. He loves it, and as mentioned it has really seemed to send his prey drive off the charts. The first time he wanted to grab the bird (probably because of the slow quail), but the last 3 times out he has actually stopped and held some pretty nice points.

Looking for some opinions on not only what I am doing, but where I go next. As well as he did the last time out I worry he will get bored soon. I don't feel my praise is going to be enough of a reward much longer. He is to the point that when he is searching that he doesn't even know I am there. He is on a mission.

My thought was to attach a string with cardboard to a pigeon and introduce gunfire. While he is chasing the bird or searching, have someone fire a gun at a distance to see his reaction.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby orhunter » Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:16 pm

Yes, you need to shoot a few and let pup fetch. Gotta wean the pup off the check cord.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jul 28, 2017 5:45 am

I work my pups on homing pigeons in remote control launchers. When the pup indicates it smells the bird if it continues to advance towards it, I launch the bird and let it fly away and steer the pup to the next one. I stay silent, no whoa, no talking, and I am not restraining the pup with a check cord. I make it as natural as I can.

Once the pup is holding a point long enough for me to get within gun range, I will switch to shooter pigeons in the launchers and launch and shoot them for the puppy, letting them break when the bird flies and race to the retrieve. I will have been working on retrieving and gun introductions associated with retrieving elsewhere so that those associations and behaviors are on their way. I let the pup drag a light short stiff check cord but do not hang on to it. The check cord is there in case the pup wants to play some keep away with the bird, I can get my foot on it and gently bring the pup to me as I call it and praise it when it arrives. Turning and walking away calling your pup as it runs towards with the bird is a good tactic to get it to complete the retrieve. I do not take the bird away from the pup immediately but rather let the pup hold the bird a bit before I do. If it is hot I will proceed to the nearest pond and work a couple of water retrieves with the shot bird in the same session.

Your notion of introducing gunfire as your pup chases a bird is an excellent way to do it and the safest in terms of avoiding potential problems. If you use the approach I post here, I would do it when using the homing pigeons as they fly away and the pup is in hot pursuit. It builds an excellent positive association with gunfire and birds in short order. Start with a softer blanks in a pistol pointed the opposite direction after the pup has chased 40-50 yards away and then get louder and closer as the pup shows it is handling it well.

Enjoy it, be patient. It is a fun period in your dog's life and it goes fast.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby Huntin4fun » Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:26 pm

Ok, thanks guys. You reinforced what I was thinking. Time for launcher and gunfire intro. Heading to a NAVHDA training day tomorrow, so that will be my agenda.

I put the last 3 pigeons I had out a little while ago. I let the dog run free with the cord, only using it as a precaution when he found a bird. He held some beautiful points, even on the one bird he saw. Very fun to watch.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby Huntin4fun » Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:28 pm

https://photos.app.goo.gl/E315OaqIBJUrYFXg2

Not sure if that will work or not.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:39 pm

Based on your posts I would work hard to not let your pup catch any more birds. Which means stay away from pen raised quail, chukars and pheasants is what I do.

You have lite the fire, now stoke it with pointed, flushed, shot and retrieved birds. Your use of pigeons is right on in this area as they generally can be relied up to get up and flying out of the area a lot better than low short flying pen raised quail or chukars. Planting them in launchers gives you more control at this stage. Some of that to build the positive association with pointing, holding point and getting to retrieve a bird for its efforts, and then on to the wild birds if you have them.

A high powered 5 month old pup can easily run pen raised birds to ground and catch them when they are exhausted and unable to fly again until they have rested. I mention because I see a lot of pen raised birds being used on NA dogs at NAVHDA training days depending on the chapter...

Nice looking pup. Sure is fun.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jul 28, 2017 4:39 pm

Based on your posts I would work hard to not let your pup catch any more birds. Which means stay away from pen raised quail, chukars and pheasants is what I do.

You have lite the fire, now stoke it with pointed, flushed, shot and retrieved birds. Your use of pigeons is right on in this area as they generally can be relied up to get up and flying out of the area a lot better than low short flying pen raised quail or chukars. Planting them in launchers gives you more control at this stage. Some of that to build the positive association with pointing, holding point and getting to retrieve a bird for its efforts, and then on to the wild birds if you have them.

A high powered 5 month old pup can easily run pen raised birds to ground and catch them when they are exhausted and unable to fly again until they have rested.

Nice looking pup. Sure is fun.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby Willie T » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:09 pm

Good advice from Averageguy. To tag onto his gun intro. A .410 with 2 1/2" shells is what I start with. A nice soft pop, pointed 180 degrees away has worked for me.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby centershots » Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:23 pm

I do a lot of what AverageGuy posted. Nice info there... a few other, or different things I do, or suggest. I don't just introduce gun fire with a bird without introducing loud noises first. I start with loud noises when the pup is playing and eating, getting the pup relating a loud noise to something fun and/or exciting. Then I go to a bird. I carry a dead throw-bird with me and when I launch a bird, either from a launcher, kick cage, or wing hooked I'll toss the dead bird for the retrieve/reward. I also let the pup carry the bird for a while as long as it's not munching. If it starts to munch, I remove the bird, if not I let the pup prance around with its prize. Pup learns that if it points it gets a bird, if it holds and doesn't munch it gets to keep the bird. No point, no bird... munch no bird. All fun, pup learns on its own... after that gunfire will be introduced with a bird. BTW I don't make the pup fetch, or retrieve. If I have a pup that just goes to the bird, smells and leaves it, that's okay by me. We'll do FF later.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby Huntin4fun » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:59 pm

Thanks for all the input! I have some launchers ordered and am going to hold off of any more bird work until I get them.

Was hoping to introduce gunfire today at the training day however it didn't go as planned. I think the launchers threw him off a little bit and took his concentration off the bird. It was his first exposure to a launcher and after the bird was launched he watched the bird fly and then went back to pointing the launcher. No shots fired because he wasn't completely focused on the bird.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby deerhost » Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:48 pm

Everything Averageguy said. Especially the launchers. Buy one and you will use it every summer to tune the dog up. When the pup points if he lets you get in front of him and flush the bird then shoot it for him. If he try's to creep after the point launch the bird and don't shoot. If you don't have a lot of birds you can card the birds in the launcher. If he holds point launch the carded bird and shoot a blank and mimic a shot bird and let your dog retrieve it. If he creeps launch the bird hold the pup with the check cord and don't shoot check cord the dog away and go pick up the bird up so you can reuse it. I would Gun condition the dog first by throwing clipped or tied flight feather pigeon and shooting as he is grabbing the bird. Start by letting someone shoot 80-100yards away. I usually do this first after the dog has been exposed to birds and is bird crazy and I do it before I start planting birds. Once my pups are Gun conditioned they don't get to catch any birds unless I flush them and they hold point and I shoot them. That's just my opinion. I am no pro but I've started a number of dogs and have had good results.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby blue04 » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:10 am

deerhost wrote: If you don't have a lot of birds you can card the birds in the launcher.


I think one of the main benefits of the launcher for this OP is to get the birds up and get them to fly very far so that his pup doesn't catch them. If your pup is chasing aggressively, I'd be cautious about carding birds. When my PP was ~4-5 months, I was using quail in launchers. The birds were flying 500+ yards, and he was so bird crazy that he was still running them down and catching them. That's when I stopped using quail. This is an extreme example, but I think it applies.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby deerhost » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:30 pm

Blueo4, You hold on to the check cord and don't let the dog chase the carded pigeon. Unless the pup holds point and you want to mimic shooting a bird, then if the pup holds point and you flush the carded pigeon in the launcher shoot the blank gun and the carded bird will come down like it was shot.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:05 am

I use homing pigeons in launchers to bring out the pup's pointing. Once it is pointing I start putting shooter pigeons in the launcher. Then I hunt the pup on wild birds as much as possible. No check cord until steadiness training which comes after the first hunting season is how I approach it, and even then I do not use it much. I teach Whoa away from birds, overlay the ecollar on the already trained Whoa command using low level stimulation, teaching the dog stopping and standing still turns it off. Then I combine the Whoa command with birds starting with pigeons again. Only time I use check cord is when working walking birds in the open close to the dog in the later stages of steadiness training.

One the best things a new dog trainer can do is secure a training area close to them and get a coop of homing and shooter pigeons going before their pup arrives.
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Re: Pigeons and puppies

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:39 pm

All good advice. I'll just add another method that has worked for me:

The goal is for your dog to hunt, then point, and then to be steady while you walk in and flush and shoot the bird and the dog is to stay steady. He's also to do a STF when a wild flush occurs while hunting. So I reverse engineer all of this and teach a "stop to flush" first off and go from there.

Best if your dog already knows "whoa" but if not you can teach that simultaneously. You need homing pigeons. Take a walk with your dog on a lead going downwind and toss a bird out of your pocket and jerk on the cord and say "whoa". Don't let him chase. The dog will soon come to expect these flushes, but that's OK (and will happen infrequently enough that he is distracted by other things when the bird does go up). Once he's stopping to the "flush" from your pocket, put out your remote releases (and still be sure they're downwind) and release birds on your walks when you get close. Now the dog is stopping to flush. And you've still got him on a check cord. If he's collar conditioned a light buzz will reinforce the whoa command. From there you can introduce fire from a starter pistol when the bird goes up (gunfire should not be new to him at this point though). He should never be allowed to chase.

Once that's all going well plant birds crosswind and bring the dog in on a leash across the wind, and as soon as the dog scents the bird you release the bird. The dog should whoa automatically. Later you will let the dog point and delay the flush for a longer period of time. Now your dog is steady to wing and shot so all you gotta do is kill one and let the dog retrieve it.

I didn't invent this method and think it's called "Burnt Creek" method, first popularized by Jim Marti. I wish I had invented it as it's atraumatic and, if you overlay it with a small bit of ecollar on a flush, you can then use the collar in highly distracting situations like a flush of wild birds and the dog will know why it got nicked and will stop.

I think this can also be used on older dogs who need tuneups.
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