NA Tracking Questions

Pointing, retrieving, flushing, tracking, behavioral issues, puppy training, etc.

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NA Tracking Questions

Postby bhennessy » Fri Aug 04, 2017 12:10 pm

Background: we have a three year old Griff who I didn't NA test because there are no chapters anywhere remotely near me. We've now got a Stonyridge pup who my daughter and I are training and plan to NA test, somewhere up north somehow. I've got more time now to travel to do this than I did previously.

Dash is doing well with obedience so far and we've introduced him to pigeons (locked wing initially and now launchers) and will continue to build on this.

The kid loves the water, but is a slow starter on actually entering the water. Once he's in tho he swims like a fish and you can tell he really, really wants to get in. The pup doesn't yet like to hop off beds, the tailgate, etc. yet so I'm thinking he'll grow into it as he matures. He's a retrieving maniac so once we work past his reluctance to jump in, I think he'll do well on the water phase of NA.

Thinking about the tracking phase of the test, I've found a guy here in Southern Louisiana who has a couple Red Gold pheasants for sale. They are immature, but I figure I'll toss them in with my pigeons until they are fully grown. Dash (the little one) obviously need to be introduced to this phase of the test, and a little pheasant tracking training would be very good for my older Griff too.

Two questions: Has anyone used this type of pheasant (I.e. Will they run?) and regarding the actual test, i understand the test simulates a crippled runner leading to a retrieve, but what happens if the pup points the bird when it gets to cover?

Thanks all
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby blue04 » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:02 pm

bhennessy wrote:Has anyone used this type of pheasant (I.e. Will they run?)


I'm not sure it matters. The dog won't see you release the bird (typically). You'll pull or clip the primary feathers from one wing, put the bird down on the ground in short cover (typically short grass), and let it run to heavy cover (typically a hedegerow or other tall cover). If it doesn't run to cover, you can chase it and push it until it lays a track. Then bring the dog to the spot where the bird was released and let him go.

bhennessy wrote: i understand the test simulates a crippled runner leading to a retrieve

It's not even that hard. The dog doesn't have to retrieve, or even catch the bird. All the judges want is to see that the dog is able to follow the track of the bird, and that he's willing to enter the higher cover to continue the search. That's it.

bhennessy wrote:but what happens if the pup points the bird when it gets to cover?

This happens occasionally, especially if the pheasant hits the hedgerow and just stops to hide in the edge. I don't think they'll ding you for that if the dog follows the track up to that point. Remember, the judges will intentionally lay the tracks into a cross-wind. So your dog is not going to be getting a downwind nose-full of bird scent until he gets pretty close to the end of the track. I would advise you to lay your tracks into a crosswind for training.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby marsh » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:10 pm

They wont ding you if he points at the end of the track. In fact- you can get pointing points on the track if you need them.

The track is often the deal breaker in NA. Since the dogs are young, the birds will sometimes hop and not leave a great scent trail...Guys in our chapter usually start with putting the pheasant or duck in a harness and using a long PVC pole with and attaching the pheasant to it. They pull the pheasant along and then leave it at the end to insure that the dog is successful...

Good luck!!!
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:49 pm

A little tracking work on released pheasants goes a long ways on a young dog. Too much, especially if they are catching the birds at the end of the track, will take your pup backwards on its pointing.

Yea the party line is it simulates tracking a wounded bird, but the problem is it does not because the released bird is not putting down any blood scent. The track is no different than the pup will encounter many times when you take it pheasant hunting on healthy running birds. So too much will have your pup running down rooster tracks looking to catch the bird at the end.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby ryanr » Fri Aug 04, 2017 2:51 pm

You don't have to use pheasants to teach tracking (keeping pheasants can be a PIA and there are cheaper, easier game birds like chukars.) You can use a chukar, heck I like to start young dogs off dragging a dead bird to help ensure success early. I can even use a pole and string to drag it and pick it up for several feet to simulate "hopping" that the actual test bird might do. I always put the dead bird several yards into cover too. You can also start out by dragging hot dogs to teach a pup to use its nose to track. It really doesn't matter what you use, the idea is to get the dog to understand that it nerds to use its nose to follow a track that its been released on and told to "Track, track, track." I also let my pup track rabbits whenever we came across them, foxes too. Every time it hit a rabbit or fox track I'd tell it "Track, track, track" and encourage it to pursue the track. I'll bet u these "free" tracking exercises did as much or more than released pheasants did to teach my dog how to excel at tracking.
Good luck.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:21 pm

Your quite a way behind in training this dog. At three years old, it should be a fully trained dog. You can only run NA until 16 months. If you're going to test it, it's past the puppy age so you'll be testing in more advanced venues. Most dog's track natura if you let them. I never teach it (other than having pups track hot dog's around my yard) because I like to keep the dog's nose up as long as possible. A dog that tracks incessantly is a pain in the butt. They can become "potterers". I personally don't encourage jumping off tailgates; that's how shoulders are damaged.

I'd get a good set of DVD's like "Perfect Start and Perfect Finish" and follow them.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby bhennessy » Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:56 pm

Gonehuntn, my original post may not have been clear. I have two Griffs.

I've got an almost three year old Griff who is doing fine and a strong dog in the field. Currently he's on the couch next to me, hopefully dreaming of quail. To be sure, I've made plenty of mistakes training him, but he's got a huge heart and possesses a monster prey drive.

And I've gotten a few things right with him too, thanks in no small part to the advice I've gotten on this forum. In the post I was explaining that I didn't do any tracking training with our older dog, nor did I NA test him, hence my questions about said training for our new, 15 week old Griff pup.

My tentative plan is to have the breeder test the puppy in the spring when he'll be roughly a year old and after I can get him on some wild birds this coming season.

Thanks for the great advice all, as always.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:14 pm

I appologize, I totally missed that.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:14 pm

I appologize, I totally missed that.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:51 am

With respect to tracking, I think it's a good idea for the dog to know the command "track". This gives you a head start on test day. I agree with Ryan on this, and I also start by using hot dogs drug around and then telling the dog to "track". They love doing it and the command makes a difference IMO. I'm not sure what to think about the concern that the dog could shoot off too fast or too far, but maybe you could cure that by quick turns in the hot dog track to slow him down.

A dead bird works for tracking too. Done a lot they can get beat up, so you can use one for laying the track and putting down a nicer one at the end. I've built wire cages with no bottom and pulled it along with a live bird inside so as to be able to create a track that simulates a bird walking off on it's own. Then put a dead one at the end of the track.

I definitely would hunt your pup this year. Hunting with an older dog will be helpful for him, but be prepared that he will likely follow your other griff a lot. No harm as he'll come into his own in time. Hunting experience at a young age is immeasurable.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby centershots » Sat Aug 05, 2017 2:30 am

Lots of good advice, I'll add a bit and so you know I'm an apprentice NAVHDA judge and have judged about 120 dogs thus far. Training... teach it to track whatever. I use a live pheasant on a lead with a painter's pole out to my side and then I leave a dead pheasant at the end of the track for the reward. (I don't want the pup grabbing a live bird.) But that's on formal training... at home I drag scented bumpers and let the pup track them into the bushes to retrieve, or just find. I agree with the above post regarding a track command. I use Find It. I'll even drag the bumper in my house and hide it in a room and then give the Find It command. It becomes a game, but the pup is learning to put its nose to the ground and track an item when I say find it. Getting the pup to track anything helps. Pheasants, chukar, ducks, whatever... you're just getting the pup to know there's a scent to follow, go get it...

The point at the end of the track can only benefit you. If the pup points, the judges will add a score for the point on their scorecards. You'll notice at many tests that if a pup did not get enough points, or did not score well in pointing in the field the judges will wait a long time when the pup is tracking. They're trying to see if the pup will improve its score with a point on the pheasant. If the pup has scored well in the field they may tell you to get the pup once they deem a good score on the track. (Hope this made sense.) If the pup grabs the bird and doesn't point that's just the end of the track, there's no deduction or score on pointing for the track. Again, the point at the end can only help your pointing score... if needed.

Remember the track begins when you release your pup. They will show you the feathers on the ground and give you the general direction that the bird went. Then you can take a few steps in that directing while holding your pup (I hold mine by the top of the collar) and give the command. Here's a tip, if your dog does not put its nose down and pull towards the track direction, keep a hold of your pup and pull it back. I pull my pup away from the track in a circle and start again at the feathers. There is no reduction of score for doing that and many judges (your handler) will tell you don't let your pup go until you feel it has the scent. I've pulled a pup off a couple of times and then released on the third time and received max score, all the judges know this is fine, they want to see the dog do its best. After you release your pup look at the track direction, not your pup. Many times the pup will get off the track and circle back, it may see you looking in the direction of the track and go back to it to see what you're looking at. If the pup gets back on the track and continues it will still score very high, or maybe even the maximum. The pup doesn't have to track a perfect track to get a 4, but it has to stay with it and even if it goes off a couple of times, but gets back on and completes a long track it will score very well. Also, many times the pheasant will jump at the start of the track. Some judges will take you to the spot the pheasant landed and start the track there. They'll move the feathers to that spot. If they tell you the pheasant jumped to a certain spot, but start you at the original they will tell you to release your pup after you get to the jump/landing spot. Many handlers let their pup go too soon in a situation like this. They start at the original spot and let the pup go before they get to the landing spot of the pheasant. Remember the track does not start until you release your pup. So you show your pup the original spot and then walk with it until the landing spot, when it hits scent and pulls towards the track you release the pup, if it doesn't make scent pull you pup back and start again. (You may be walking with your pup for 5-10 feet in this situation.) The judges will tell you if you've gone too far and restart you as long as you haven't released the pup. Hope this all made sense and is helpful, George
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby Urban_Redneck » Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:11 am

I've been advised not to put pheasants in with pigeons (pheasants are a holes).
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:58 am

instead of holding the pup by its collar I suggest you have it on a slip lead. This is a cord about six feet long and one end tied to your belt and the other goes through the collar and back to your hand. Keep it choked up so you're in good control and play out the loose end as the dog starts to track - and don't let go until you feel it's on the track. Centershots may have the last word on this but I use this method for tracking in the UT and am happy with it.
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby centershots » Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:03 am

Lots of folks use the slip lead and it works great for them. I've used it a few times at tests, but I like the to hold the collar. I like to tap the ground in front of the dogs nose as I lead it partially down the track. When I used the slip lead I didn't have as much control doing that so I went back to the collar hold. I hold it with my palm facing upwards so when I feel the pup tugging down the line of the track I just open my hand the the pup is on its way. I know lots of folks who use the slip lead and like it better, so either one works great. I think its a matter of feel for you on which technique you use. Great suggesting, some folks swear by the lead release...
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Re: NA Tracking Questions

Postby AverageGuy » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:35 pm

I have recently seen an 11 month old WPG working at several training days for its upcoming NA test. The handler is tearing his hair out. The pup used to search and point well and cooperatively.

Then he worked the pup on some released pheasants for the tracking part of the test, the pup tracked and caught the pheasant at the end of the track several times. A sure bet to get a 4 in tracking.

Now the pup is busting in full tilt on half or better of the birds it finds in the upland search. Taking them out, snapping in the air to catch them and chasing them to the horizon. Flash points then charges in on the other half. Working and catching released pheasants took the point right out of that pup. It can be restored of course but how the test will go is a complete crap shoot at this point. And the handler has no pigeons or launchers or training area close by so restoring the pup's natural pointing is not as easy as it would be otherwise.

The hot dogs and drags are fine to teach a dog what the track command and hand signal mean. I do it and most everyone else does too. Most dogs can easily work down the scent highway of a drag and will. Those exercises are distinctly different than working the pup on a released pheasant however.

I get my pups out daily where they learn to track wild rabbits, squirrels, deer, pheasants and quail. They catch none of them so I am not detracting from the development of the pup's pointing.

I also use a slip lead when starting a dog a track or a drag. A one dollar nylon fish stringer with the metal end cut off is what I use. I pull it through the metal ring on one end and put that loop around my wrist and run the other end through the center ring on the dog's collar which is turned to be on the top. As the dogs takes hold of the track and has gone down it a short distance I let go of the loose end and let it slide through the center ring as the dog continues on down the drag or track.
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