Hunting With a Pup

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

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Hunting With a Pup

Postby Quailguy » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:11 pm

I need some advice on hunting with a young dog. At 4 months, I took my Pudelpointer to the hills to get wild bird exposure. The banner year we are seeing in southern California allowed Jace to see 200-400 wild valley quail in a single morning. I did this 3 times a week. He fully understands what he is looking for, but I put no pressure on him to point; sometimes he did, sometimes he busted them like a wild man. His backyard work consisted of basic "whoa" training and recall. His bird drive is high.
Since the season started, we hunt 2-4 days a week. Here's my question: We are shooting birds around him, but I am not sending him to retrieve as he is not been completely force fetch trained yet. He routinely gets to the birds before I do and picks them up. He will "usually" bring it to me, but he loves that bird and doesn't want to give it up. I'm afraid to dink him with the collar as I'm afraid this will hamper his later retrieving on birds. We hear about exposing young dogs to wild game, but I haven't seen this part of the training discussed. Do I leave him home? Do I allow it to happen and correct it in the off season when he's older? I thought working him on pigeons in controlled scenarios might work, but I'll wait for advice.
He is almost 9 months old now.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby orhunter » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:42 pm

Save training till the bird season is over and you can control everything.

Quail are tough on a young dog. They travel in coveys so there's an overwhelming amount of scent, noise, birds going everywhere. Quail hold pretty tight so a young dog doesn't learn to back off on their points and end up getting too close. But, that pretty much depends on your dog, the cover and ultimately the birds so you're the only one who can give a accurate evaluation of how the dog relates to birds.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Quailguy » Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:18 am

Are you saying to stop his whoa work and force fetch? Or not taking him hunting at all? You're correct about how quail act. It's tough having a dog that holds a point forever in heavy scrub brush halfway up a hillside. With past dogs, after their first season afield, I don't push pointing too hard or we'd never see a bird or the dog again! I'm hoping to handle this dog differently if for no other reason than I like watching him learn new things. Thanks for the advice.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Urban_Redneck » Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:35 am

What I do: Recall the dog, praise, take the bird, praise, let him smell/lick bird again, praise, put the bird away, water (gets his mind off the bird in your bag), resume hunting.

IMO, shooting birds that the dog busts will reinforce that behavior.

YMMV
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby orhunter » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:05 am

I wasn't very clear I guess. By training I meant training with birds. Obedience is fine. I don't know how far along your whoa training is or how you apply it but don't be speaking to your dog around birds. Let the birds do the training and shoot only pointed birds. I wouldn't be doing force fetch either till bird season is over.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:11 am

Do you work with him in the yard retrieving dead birds? If a pup will not retrieve a dead bird in the yard most will not retrieve hot bird in the field. Possessiveness of a bird and not returning it to the handler immediately is very common and to be expected.

Some foundation is needed and I do not know where you are starting from. My progression goes as follows:

I use a snow fence setup parallel to a wall on my machine shed to teach out and back retrieving behavior from a young age. The far end is blocked with straw bales and we start and end at the other end of the tunnel. After introducing birds, we mix some birds into the short retrieving drills along with bumpers keeping enthusiasm high always and stopping while the pup is still wanting another retrieve. When we move to outside the tunnel the pup is dragging a light homemade check cord. When and if he does not come in all the way I can get my foot on the check cord and gently reel him into to me and praise him when he arrives, letting him continue to hold the bird. If he is too possessive outside the tunnel we move back to it and do a few out and backs in the tunnel. Lots of praise, no pressure.

I will also be training a strong recall command in parallel to these short retrieve conditioning exercises. A strong recall is key to getting a young dog to bring a bird into you. I condition the pup to the ecollar and overlay light ecollar stimulation and then the ecollar tone to teach the pup that swift compliance to the Come/Here command turns off the very low level stimulation. I do this away from bumpers or birds until it is completely learned and the pup is complying. Then if I need to use it later on while the pup is retrieving there will be no confusion as to why the low level correction is being applied. I am using the methods taught in the Perfect Start DVD.

Without seeing your pup is hard to gauge its interest in picking up and carrying birds. I would want to see a very strong interest before applying any ecollar stimulation to enforce a Come/Here command to avoid any confusion. I would work the pup in the yard as described above. If it drops the bird I would pick it up and stop the session so the fun stops. No discipline, I just stop and move to something else so the pup learns the fun stops, no more getting to chase the tossed bird. I would also work this pup until its recall is excellent in the field. It will give you the mind control you need to get the pup to come your way with a bird in the field.

I have always waited to teach Hold to my puppies until after their first hunting seasons. And that may be what you will choose to do as well. Do not give commands to the pup in the field it has not been trained to comply with e.g. say Hold if the pup has no idea what Hold means. Just stay silent and walk over and pick up the bird when it drops it until you have trained otherwise. I have recently learned the power of clicker/treat training and in the future I will be teaching Hold in the house as a PR based game at a much younger age than I have done in the past. I mention this because you could be working on that in your house now and be ahead of the game when and if you undertake a formal FF program.

I would continue to hunt that pup as often as possible. If it points birds long enough for you get there and flush I would shoot the birds. If it busts the birds I would hold fire. If you train a strong recall with ecollar overlay you can use that understanding to call the pup all the way into you when it has a bird, but the recall must be fully understood and the pup complying well to avoid any negative association with the bird which is to be avoided at all costs. If you are not there yet on recall then just encourage the pup to pickup birds and if and when it drops them, pick them up yourself in silence, put them away and move on in your hunt until you have the tools in place to do otherwise. Do not make the birds a discipline situation is the short version of what I am describing. You have plenty of time to address this away from hunting and if need be after the pup's first season and before the second.

Yard work is a must and you should continue with it. Just do not fall into the trap of using those yet untrained commands while hunting until the pup is complying with them well when not hunting. I use the Whoa command to train steadiness to wing, shot and fall after the pup's first hunting season. I do not use it to teach a pup to point but rather use pigeons in launchers and wild birds to teach the pup that following its nose into the bird never results in a bird in its mouth. The method is again what I learned in the Perfect Start DVD. I let my pups work birds in silence. I want all their style and intensity intact.

I hope I have been helpful. Sounds like you have a nice pup and are well positioned to bring it along.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Quailguy » Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:18 pm

I truly appreciate all of you taking so much time to help me out. Let's see if I can give a clearer picture of where we are in training; Initially in the yard, we did play retrieves with toys, incorporating HERE without pressure. This transitioned to hiding toys and bumpers in the yard for him to find, which he really liked. I slowly applied increased pressure for his recall and he responded with enthusiasm. In the field, he responds to voice and/or whistle about 90% of the time. I little stimulation always brings him back. He has zero aversion to carrying birds or anything else. His recall goes out the window if he finds a dead bird.

For his whoa training, I started on the table and moved to the ground as he mastered each step. In the field, I have only used the whoa command twice, both times after he initiated his own point. He held until the birds flushed. I said nothing to him other than praise him as he pointed.

I started FF on the table and he will hold anything I put in front of him. Per another response in my last thread, I am ultimately going to move to a heavier dummy to try and curb mouthing. I have just transitioned to the ground, but it has been hit and miss. I'm going to move back to the table to reinforce correct behavior.

Let me give you an example of a typical hunt scenario: Bird numbers are so high that we get into multiple coveys in a morning. These coveys run 15-80 birds (one at least 200), and may be stretched out over 30 or 40 yards in thick buckbrush, sage and manzanita. It makes it nearly impossible to always know if Jace pointed and/or flushed the birds or a hunter did. That has been a dilemma in running pointers in this terrain, so we often overlook the busted coveys. I want this dog to hunt the occasional chukar or grouse, so hope to make him more correct.

Just to clarify your suggestions; keeping hunting, keep my mouth shut when hunting, continue yard work, wait until the off season to FF and build on what he's learned during the hunting season. I'm trying to avoid problems before they happen. This is the most stubborn pup I've had but I believe he has a lot of potential.
Thanks again
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:01 pm

So good recall, has been conditioned/trained to ecollar overlay of Here command, retrieves bumpers in the yard, and likes to get shot birds in his mouth. Good.

Does he retrieve birds to hand when in yard or in the training field? If not work on that until he does.

If he already retrieves birds to hand well in training then it would seem to me, he is ready for ecollar enforcement of a Here command while hunting and holding a fresh shot bird. Start low and stay as low as needed to get him to come in.

Working hard running birds is always tricky particularly with a pup. I favor getting the desired behavior of pointing and holding at least through the flush using homing and then shooter pigeons in a training field as it is so much easier to control at least the bird variable. Meanwhile I hunt the pup as much as possible and keep looking for opportunities where the pup holds a point and I can reward it with a bird shot off its point. I refrain from shooting if the pup's movement puts the bird in the air. If the pup is holding point and the birds bust on their own through no fault of the dog, I would shoot if I had a good opportunity to grass a bird. I would not shoot wild flushed birds by either dog or hunters.

Thats all I got without being there. Hope it is helpful.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Quailguy » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:33 pm

Of your questions, the worse part is bringing the bird to me, but that is fixable with obedience. Thanks again for everything.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Kiger2 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:21 pm

Quailguy,

I think you are on the right track. If the dog is picking the bird up and just not bringing it to you then it does seem like an obedience issue. I really want to caution you about correcting the retrieve if the dog isn't prepared properly.

But it is also a preparedness issue.

Just got back from a chukar hunt with my young goldens first hunt. First bird she sees downed she gets to it, picks it up, returns to heel and sit. No issues. Because she was prepared through training.

There is no reason not to continue FF as long as you don't expect compliance in the field until yard training is complete.
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:47 pm

Here's my two cents: to have 200--400 wild birds to train on must be as close to nirvana as it gets. I'd probably put a 30 - 40 foot (or longer) check cord on the pup while hunting. At the least you can reel him in after he picks up a dead bird or maybe help restrain with a tug and "whoa" while on point. I would definitely let my buddies do the shooting as I focused on my dog. Since FF probably seems totally unrelated to the hunting process as far as the dog sees it (as long as you are doing it correctly) you can probably continue that. No ecollar around wild birds unless yard commands are totally ingrained and proofed via the collar. Lastly, in the field I'd trade any retrieve for a piece of cheese (or hotdog), and in the yard I'd do the same all day long with dummies, frozen, and eventually fresh killed birds - this alone will go a long ways towards getting your dog to do the retrieve you're looking for.

You could consider having me come down and help train your dog (my PP would love it as we're struggling to find enough birds to keep her happy)!
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:08 pm

I meant to let the dog just drag the check cord behind him
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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Quailguy » Sun Dec 10, 2017 5:24 pm

All sound advice, but things have changed drastically here. I live about a mile from the ignition point of the Thomas fire and we were the first neighborhood to evacuate. The fire burned to my back fence, but we suffered no damage. My hunting and training grounds were totally destroyed. There are still places for us to hunt, but a few hours away instead of 10 minutes. Additionally, there is not a place where I can even run Jace to burn off his excessive energy, and have been forced to use a baseball field across town until I get kicked out. I realize a lot of you don't have a nearby place, I guess I was spoiled as I've had unlimited access to this ranch for over 20 years.
I'm fortunate that I was able to get Jace into so many birds so early, and I don't think this will hurt his drives much. Just hope next year there will be some vegetation to hold birds. I've employed some of the ideas given by all of you, mainly taking the pressure off. Jace is responding well and actually brought his Dokken duck to me today to hide for him again.
Please pray for all the families in Ventura and Ojai areas who lost their homes (over 400).
Merry Christmas to you all. I hope for endless fields and heavy game bags for everyone.

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Re: Hunting With a Pup

Postby Kiger2 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:03 am

Quailguy,

Glad your place survived. so sorry for those that didn't.


My former department sent crews down a few days ago. We often send crews to wild land fires, but rarely out of state. Twice this year they have been sent to california, this time they think they may stay two weeks!!

Merry christmas to you and family, wishing california a beautiful rain storm soon!!!
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