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Big running dog

We adopted a five year old English Setter that has not been used in hunting, but I would like to get him trained enough to go on bird hunting trips, even if he is never an accomplished retriever. Our big problem now is that when a gate or door is open, he is off to the next county. I have started with a check cord and we're working on stay and come with some progress. When off a leash though, he just runs off. Do you recommend a shock collar, continued work with a check cord, or what?

Dear Sirs,

I have a 3 year old English Setter Female that comes from a great line of field trial dogs. She has a tender spirit, shows an unquenchable desire to hunt and desires to please. I have worked with her in yard basics and she seems to follow commands very well. I have worked with her in the field on pigeons and quail and by the third flush, her first time out, she was holding points very well. However, when I put her in the field she is very difficult to control. She ranges too far. She has a tremendous nose and seems to find all kinds of birds but runs right over the top of most of them. I have placed dead birds in bushes and worked her over the area and she'll come to a solid point ten to twenty yards away. I can't seem to figure out whether she is doing it intentionally or if maybe she just hasn't quite figured out how to handle the wild birds. Until this year, she has always hunted pheasants in eastern Colorado but, this year we have moved to the desert in southern California just west of Phoenix where there is some good hunting for valley quail. I was excited to think that the quail would be a little easier for her to work and point more consistently but, the dry desert conditions I think make scenting a real problem along with the fact that most of the quail congregate in very thick tree patches which are impossible for a human to walk through. She works the thick brush and trees like a trooper but, when the birds flush I can't tell whether she is on point or just pushing the birds out. She also has been incredible in finding dead birds. I think she has alot of potential but I am lacking the experience to know what to do to finish her up so that she will be more than just a good hunting dog with excellent breeding. I have read several books and have been a subscriber of Gun Dog Magazine for over fifteen years, so I'm not totally in the dark. I think all I need is just a few tips of advice. It would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You
Mike Greenwood

Dear Mr. Greenwood:

I'm guessing her breeding is from "Tomoka" or the "Bosean Mosley" boodlines, since you mention her "field trial lines." That in itself may be your biggest problem. Field Trial dogs are bred for the purpose of running with the wide-ranging English Pointers for competition. Unfortunately, that is usually in the "next county." Don't fault her for running wide, for that is what she was bred to do. You can quite easily remedy what sounds like her biggest problem...getting her to stop!

Get her staunch on "Woah." If you can't control her in the field by getting her to stop on a dime, most likely she will continue to do what her genes tell her to do; Move on!!!

Now that you are in a different climate and hunting different species of birds, learn to read her signs for birds when she points. It will probably be more subtle than when pheasant hunting in the mid-west. Pheasant will naturally give off more scent than quail simply because it is a bigger bird. Most people don't know that the majority of scent a dog gets from a bird is from it's breath, not it's body.

You say she is good at finding planted dead birds, a trait that is commendable to her, since it also has your scent on it. Since she has taken well her other obedience training I would suggest putting her back on a check cord and getting her "rock-solid" on woah. Once you have accomplished that with her, let her hunt with the check-cord for a while, so you can control her if she makes mistakes.

Since you have a problem with her wanting to run wide, you might want to transfer her commands over to the electronic collar. This will keep her within you're range. I would suggest you buy Delmar Smith's Volume III, "Use of the Electronic Collar." It could prove to be the best $50 you will ever spend in "fine tuning" what sounds to be a wonderful bird dog. Hope this information is helpful and feel free to ask what many folks call dumb questions; the only dumb question is the one's people fail to ask.


Ted Wigglesworth
Houdini Kennel

For more information on Running Big, try:
Running Big II - Steve Harmeyer
Roaming too Far - Ted Wigglesworth

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