Training for NA test

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

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Re: Training for NA test

Postby Hunters Edge » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:51 am

SERE Nate wrote:I have a 16 week old WPG pup and I am planning on running him in the NA test this summer.

I am in Whitefish MT, and we have one of the largest snowpacks in the US right now. Great for skiing, not so great for training.

Is there a recommended training program to start following?

So far I have been working on HERE and WHOA. He does very well when on leash or in the house with treats. Off leash is a different story. I have a Garman collar, but figure that it's still way too early to use it. He wears it when we go out of the house.

SO far our outdoor exploring has been snowshoeing and cross country skiing. He is very comfortable exploring and naturally quarters.

He is a retrieving machine. Very willing to retrieve as long as I will throw for him. I try to limit to no more than 10 throws to keep him interested.

I have access to live birds, but have not tried top get him on birds yet due to the snow.

Water is not an option as everything is frozen or freezing cold. Hopefully this wont be an issue as he will get plenty of exposure once things warm up.

For tracking I use a small chunk of hot dog on a string and drag it all over the yard and he does excellent with this. Its really amazing how good his nose is. I am not too worried about him finding a live pheasant at this point.

What else should I be working on? Should I get some quail and plant them along the brush on the logging roads that we snow shoe / ski along?


I would first contact your breeder. Second I would contact a NAVHDA chapter near you. Looking at chapters in Montana they have a chapter in Whitefish MT and a contact person and phone number.

Being the breeder would want your pup tested and passing. The chapter would also want to see you and the pup succeed and hopefully to not only test for NA but eventually UT or even VC. Both have a vented interest, also local chapters are beneficial for advice, training aids and hands on help, along with much more understanding of terrain, weather issues than myself or others not living, training, testing in Whitefish MT. Hopefully you will also be there to help others or setting up training, testing etc..
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby Meridiandave » Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:47 pm

orhunter wrote:
When it comes to pointing, it's all about what the judges want to see, this is not about steadiness. When guys start dragging out launchers and strapping on check cords, they're teaching steadiness. Completely unnecessary for NA and has nothing to do with pointing. Pointing is developed through opportunity, not training.


First, I am not talking about steady to wing and shot here. In fact let your sog chase the birds.

I am just gonna say trust me on this. I know the logic behind it and I trust the person who it originates from. If you are at our NAHVDA chapter the training for track, the pheasant will be attached to harness and a fishing pole. As a result you will be expected to stop the dog during a track. The dog will be on a lead. You might as well use that stop to reinforce the point.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby orhunter » Sun Feb 11, 2018 2:02 pm

The Sharptail Chapter is not having a spring test this year.

But if you need help, you have a Griff guy, breeder/trainer, close to you, Swift Creek Griffons.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby Densa44 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:17 pm

We will have a test in Alberta at the end of August and you can run your dog with us. Prairie Vista NAVHDA we'd be glad to have you both come for a visit.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby SERE Nate » Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:27 pm

orhunter wrote:The Sharptail Chapter is not having a spring test this year.

But if you need help, you have a Griff guy, breeder/trainer, close to you, Swift Creek Griffons.


Do you have a contact for them? I tried calling and it's disconnected and no reply to email
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby marysburg » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:34 pm

Just wanted to make sure that you know there is no water retrieve required in the NA test, it is just a couple of short swims. Relax, and enjoy your pup. You've gotten a ton of good advice, and if you can attend some NAVHDA training days with your nearest NAVHDA chapter, you and the pup will do just fine.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby SERE Nate » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:27 am

marysburg wrote:Just wanted to make sure that you know there is no water retrieve required in the NA test, it is just a couple of short swims. Relax, and enjoy your pup. You've gotten a ton of good advice, and if you can attend some NAVHDA training days with your nearest NAVHDA chapter, you and the pup will do just fine.


Doesn't seem like there are many training days anywhere near me. Looks like my 1st meeting will be the test
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby Urban_Redneck » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:04 am

Field- Pup only needs to point 2 birds for 4 or 5 seconds each. Most important is that the pup searches well and responds to changes in direction. Time in the field is the only way to develop trust and cooperation. Judge will want to see pup chase a flushed bird, be sure you can recall pup. While NAVHDA judges are all-knowing, raise your hat when pup goes on point ;)

Track- Don't overdo training for the track. Once the pup has got it, refresh it a week or two before the test and stop, you don't want pup ground scenting the entire field search. Use a "slip lead"- a snapless lead that you thread under pup's collar and hold the tag end for the track. Relax your grip and pup will release smoothly at the moment he has the scent. On test day, be certain to keep an eye on where the judges release your bird as they will move further away after each release as not to confuse tracks. You want a fresh track, get as close as they will allow ;)

Water- Definitely swim pup at the test water before test day.

I tested last year for the first time, we had 1 deduction for cooperation when pup went on an 400y chase after a flushed bird (she got it :lol: ) and one deduction on the track when I didn't notice the judges moved 100y further down the road. Track was coldish, pup TWICE (her first release resulted in a couple bee stings to the face) air scented/searched the first 15 yards or so before getting her nose back to the ground. While the host club has field marshals and volunteers to shepard the dogs and handlers through, you need keep an eye on what's going on.

"Relax and have fun" is easier said than done, I don't think I blinked during the field search. At the water with my benadryl zonked dog ( I had to wake her up) , the judge said "throw the bumper 15 feet", it sailed like 40.... "half that", I did it again. :oops: What seemed like a disaster of a day ended up 108/Pz1. All told, it's a great experience.

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Re: Training for NA test

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:47 am

Urban_Redneck wrote:
Track- Don't overdo training for the track. Once the pup has got it, refresh it a week or two before the test and stop, you don't want pup ground scenting the entire field search. Use a "slip lead"- a snapless lead that you thread under pup's collar and hold the tag end for the track. Relax your grip and pup will release smoothly at the moment he has the scent. On test day, be certain to keep an eye on where the judges release your bird as they will move further away after each release as not to confuse tracks. You want a fresh track, get as close as they will allow ;)


I Second the advice on not overdoing training on Tracking. First off the pup either has it or it doesn't. Exposure i.e. routine walks in natural cover/terrain where the pup encounters wild game will allow it use its nose and display an interest in tracking as opportunities arise. I use simple fresh short drags of dead birds to teach the Track hand signal pointing towards the ground at the start of the track, accompanied by the verbal "Track" command. Teaching this will allow you to communicate to the pup when you are asking it to run a Track vs do a Field Search (I use the command "Hunt em" when I release the pup into the bird field so it can learn to associate between which of the two tasks I am asking it to perform when I release it).

Assuming the pup has shown its NA to track the wild game it encounters e.g. pheasants, quail, squirrels, rabbits, deer, coyotes ... doing a very few drills on a released flightless pheasant will allow it to combine its NA tracking skills with the Track command as you start the puppy. Less is far better than more on working this drill particularly on pups which show strong tracking skills and catch the bird at the end of the track. Too much will have your pup looking to catch birds in the bird field, and set back its NA for pointing. Seen it too many times at Training days. Good bold puppies love to get birds in their mouth and will use whatever skills are available to them to do so, which is why too many tracking drills on live released flightless birds easily leads to puppies trying to catch birds in the bird field vs pointing them.

The judges will show you specifically the feather pile at the start of your track.Take note of the wind (I carry a bowhunting wind checker small bottle of fine colored scentless powder for this purpose), and if it is significant start your pup so that it will be at least slightly on the downwind side of where the track starts as that is only way it will get scent. All dogs are eager to work with their noses into the wind, if you start the dog directly over the track when the wind is taking the scent downwind of there, it runs the very common risk the dog will pickup its head and search into the wind vs catching the scent of the track and working down it. That is also why you use the slip lead to ensure the pup is taking hold of the track scent before you release it.

Hope I have helped vs confused.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby Stretch » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:23 am

I’m new to this site and bird hunting all together first off. I’m not trying to take over this post but I have a four month old Griff. I haven’t done any formal training to speak of but with that being said he’s pointing and retrieving to hand the better half of the time. He is also tracking cripples. What do I need to work on before the na test in June and when do I start formal training.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:28 am

Keep in mind that most dog's that fail or get low scores in NA do so because of the track.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby JONOV » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:26 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:Keep in mind that most dog's that fail or get low scores in NA do so because of the track.

At a training day this past weekend, a guy mentioned training with a 1/4 or 1/2 hot dog, basically starting with a young pup and dribbling the juice for a track. Does anyone recommend or think this works well?
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby orhunter » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:58 pm

Yea, I've heard of that but never did it. I can understand the merit of doing so because pointing dogs sometimes have trouble putting their noses to the ground in search of game.

A lot of breeders just toss some kibble out on the lawn and get the pups searching for their dinner. That works pretty good too and can be integrated as soon as the pups are weaned.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:18 pm

SERE Nate,

I encourage you to make developing your puppy to hunt wild game for the next 14 seasons as your top priority vs it's upcoming NA test. That is always how I approach it. Of all the NA skills, tracking is the one most determined by genetics and the one we humans have the least ability to alter through training methods. What we can and should do is provide a bunch of opportunities for the puppy to track wild game in wild settings. They learn to use their nose without catching birds.

The number one problem people hunting their puppies in their first season post about is the dog crowding and or taking out birds. Unless associated with an NA test, I have never seen a single post from someone pertaining to their young dog not tracking wild game.

Last summer I saw a young man at training days working with his well bred WPG associated with its upcoming NA test. The pup had been hunted on wild pheasants and quail its first season and shown good search, nose, point and cooperation. So he set about doing too many tracking drills on flightless released pheasants at training days in preparation for the pup's NA test. He then spent the next 2 months tearing his hair out, watching his pup rip around the bird field taking out half of the birds it smelled on a run and flash pointing at best on the others.

Classic example of the downside of too many artificial flightless released bird setups leading to caught birds. I have seen it a bunch. Do not fall for it!

And yes hot dogs bits set along a short simple drag are a good way to wake up a very young puppy's nose, introduce the Track Hand Signal and Voice command. But opportunities on squirrels, rabbits, deer, coyotes, quail, pheasants are where the best development occurs and it avoids any downside of overused artificial approaches.
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Re: Training for NA test

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:34 pm

JONOV wrote:
GONEHUNTIN' wrote:Keep in mind that most dog's that fail or get low scores in NA do so because of the track.

At a training day this past weekend, a guy mentioned training with a 1/4 or 1/2 hot dog, basically starting with a young pup and dribbling the juice for a track. Does anyone recommend or think this works well?


That's how I start them. I put a piece of hot dog on a fishing rod with 6'of line and a swivel and imbed the hot dog on the swivel. I drag that around the yard. The pup's love it and get a reward at the end.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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