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Steadying to flush

A friend is looking for help on how to steady his 2 1/2 year old lab for upland work. The dog is very birdy and has lots of drive. She is used primarily for grouse hunting and her owner is tired of birds flushing out of range when she chases a flush. I've always been told to do it a certain way, but have not had the chance to try it myself and don't want to pass along bad advice. Is their anything wrong with the following approach?

There are 4 parts to steadiness; steady to flush, wing, shot and fall. Steadiness is taught in reverse, with fall being first. Due to its retriever training, the dog it already steady to fall, meaning it won't break when it sees the bird/bumper fall to the ground. The next step would be steady to shot - in this case meaning the dog will sit on shot. As the dog already knows a whistle sit, the next step would be to fire a shot, followed by an immediate whistle resulting in a sit. Eventually the whistle would be removed, resulting in a dog that sits on shot. The third step is steady to wing - the dog will sit when it sees a flying bird. This would be accomplished by having the dog checkcorded, to prevent chase. The trainer would release a bird when the dog wasn't directly looking at him and give a sit command when the dog sees the flying bird. Through repetition, the dog learns to sit whenever it sees a flying bird. The last step, steady to flush, is the most difficult. Once again this would be accomplished with the dog on a checkcord. The dog would be corded into a bird, and given an immediate sit command upon the flush. Again, repetition is the key.

What are the pros/cons to using this method? Would anything work better?

Steady for the flushing retriever;

The process you describe would be effective for teaching a flushing dog to be steady.

It is clear that you have given this some thought and have a good grasp of how to apply the technique.

The only caution that I would offer is to take your time and make sure each step is completely understood before moving on. Take the time to make sure the taught behaviors become habit before exposing the dog to wild flushes and in an uncontrolled environment.

Best of luck,

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel

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