Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

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Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby reader4 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:09 pm

Been a little unsure about progression at this stage... pup is doing very well with basic obedience including recall, stay and heel, has a very good search and a solid point. Very birdy. He's worked on retrieving bumpers and dead birds in the yard and in water. Ready for NA test. In training we've been cutting out chase after point and a partner points. I usually need to queue steadiness with a check cord (only after staunch point of course). I do not yet use whoa. My questions are (1) is it appropriate to flush, shoot and encourage a retrieve at this stage and (2) should I start using "whoa" after the point is established to queue the steadiness? Training partners and books I've been using are a little contradictory on this point. In following the "orange book" on this so far, the suggestion is to either flush and hold or heel away once point is established. I like this because it's working on a single goal -- developing a staunch point. But it also misses the opportunity to introduce an element of the hunt that is rewarding to the pup and necessary, which is to retrieve game. Another option of course is to just heel away, pick up the bird, then simulate a retrieve with a dead bird and gunshot to encourage success in marking. Would love to know what prereqs need to be filled before allowing shot+retrieve as we continue to develop steadiness.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby orhunter » Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:13 pm

Sounds like your “pup” is doing extremely well. Since he is a pup, you are allowed to be somewhat forgiving in what you’re trying to achieve in the long run. You’ve got an entire hunting season to work on stuff and let the pup mature. If you two are indeed ready for NA, let that be your immediate goal with little other pressure on the pup to do more.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby AverageGuy » Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:13 pm

You have asked a question which folks do not agree on - When to steady a pup?

There are two basic camps on the subject. One being let the pup chase when the birds are flushed through its first season and then steady it during the off season before its second season. I am in that camp. Other Camp being steady the pup now so you don't have to train through a breaking behavior which will be harder to change later (that is true in my experience).

If you watch the videos I posted in my new pup thread you see my pup hitting the scent cone, pointing solid well off the bird, holding point while I go and flush. The pup breaks and chases when the bird flies, when safe I shoot it and the pup retrieves it. It builds bird drive and the pup is consumed with all things bird related. She will be harder to steady up, but she will be a great bird finder is my belief and intent in using this approach. I fear taking too much fire out of her if I attempted to steady her to wing and shot now. I am steadying her to her waterfowl retrieving duties now. So a hybrid approach.

I learn from alot of sources but Jon Hann at Perfection Kennel is the most major source of information and training system that I use in my pointing dog/upland performance training. Jon's general case is he does what I am doing. Get the pup pointing and holding steady to flush, let it chase, shoot the bird when it is safe to do so, through the pup's first bird season and then steady them before their second season.

I also observed Jon working with a pup that was bold and already showing a natural willingness to remain steady to wing. He stated with that particular dog he was going to go ahead and steady the dog ahead of its first season. I understood a key reason being that particular dog was not going to need a lot of pressure to do so.

I would not presume to tell you what to do, but that is how I approach it and I have been very pleased with my finished dogs.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby Willie T » Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:32 pm

Reader4, is your pup conditioned to gunfire? I don’t whoa or talk to a dog that is on point or working upland birds. I am of the opinion that the point is a dance between the birds and the dog. I like a bird savvy dog that relocates as needed to work runners. When the dog staunchly holds and allows me to flush the pointed birds, I start killing some for it. Teaching that getting the bird in its mouth comes through me.
Similar to what AG described, I teach steadiness on the retrieve independently for dove and waterfowl. It is then a simple matter to link to the point when the dog is ready. If you are thoughtful in your training and cue the dog with a command such as “mark” to mean hold your ground and look for the fall, you can overlay snapping off a safety and mounting a shotgun to mean the same, thus reinforcing the steadiness each time you mount your shotgun, if you go about things from the start with a logical progression.
Good luck working with your pup. The importance of putting it on as many birds as you can can not be overstated.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby reader4 » Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:15 am

Excellent thoughts -- thank you. Dog is conditioned to gunfire. We've not yet worked on gunfire + marked retrieves.

AverageGuy: My pup is about 2 months behind yours in age and, by the looks of it, development as well. He's still pointing a bit close (our training grounds have pretty heavy cover) so we're working on increasing his confidence in an earlier point. The approach you describe is the direction we were moving... I do work with a training group so it's reasonable for me to have my hands ready to hold him steady to wing and fall (or to use a checkcord) while someone else flushes and shoots. I suppose the underlying question was simply whether it would be beneficial to do so. The hybrid approach seems logical to me.

I'm curious about the approach of not ever using "whoa" on point. I understand we aren't training a point, we are developing the natural instinct to point. I also believe we should teach by example more than command. That said, isn't the purpose of working so hard to establish a steady "whoa" so that it can be used to enforce steadiness once point is established? It's one thing to allow relocating, and wild birds certainly help him understand the need to stay put, but at the moment these are planted chukar that aren't running. Isn't that the ideal time to reinforce with "whoa"?
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby Urban_Redneck » Tue Aug 18, 2020 2:33 pm

I would say it depends how far off the NA test is.

Once you start shooting birds and allowing a retrieve for a pup, you run the risk of entering a phase that doesn't end until formal training (breaking) is well underway. I don't think it's necessarily bad to shoot a bird once in a while prior to the test if the pup let's you flush the bird. What you are trying to avoid is pup forgetting about you and flushing/catching every bird for himself. It's becomes even worse when it's wet and the birds aren't flying well.

My next pup, I'll follow the above advice and find a test when the pup is ready to test. My first pup, I shot too many summer training birds that I shouldn't have while waiting for my chapter's late August test days. That summer she developed into quite a takeout artist making the test a nail biter. I should have found a test in the spring as I can see now, she was ready.

Best of luck to you and the pup.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Aug 18, 2020 4:20 pm

reader4 wrote:Excellent thoughts -- thank you. Dog is conditioned to gunfire. We've not yet worked on gunfire + marked retrieves.

AverageGuy: My pup is about 2 months behind yours in age and, by the looks of it, development as well. He's still pointing a bit close (our training grounds have pretty heavy cover) so we're working on increasing his confidence in an earlier point. The approach you describe is the direction we were moving... I do work with a training group so it's reasonable for me to have my hands ready to hold him steady to wing and fall (or to use a checkcord) while someone else flushes and shoots. I suppose the underlying question was simply whether it would be beneficial to do so. The hybrid approach seems logical to me.

I'm curious about the approach of not ever using "whoa" on point. I understand we aren't training a point, we are developing the natural instinct to point. I also believe we should teach by example more than command. That said, isn't the purpose of working so hard to establish a steady "whoa" so that it can be used to enforce steadiness once point is established? It's one thing to allow relocating, and wild birds certainly help him understand the need to stay put, but at the moment these are planted chukar that aren't running. Isn't that the ideal time to reinforce with "whoa"?


Some will say yes, some will say no. I am in the No camp.

I use strong flying pigeons in launchers and remain silent as you can see in my videos. I am letting the pup interact with the bird however it chooses, but if it advances into the scent cone, I launch the bird and it flies away. No retrieve for the pup. That approach is why you see my pup pointing hard at first scent maybe 30 yards off the bird. And it is why she started holding while I flushed even as I draw it out, kicking around a good bit before I launch the bird. I consistently launch the bird if she moves before it flies. So now she understands the only way she gets the bird in her mouth is when she remains on point while I flush. All done in silence. I have taught the Whoa commmand from an early age which is also posted in that thread, but I have never used while the pup is working a bird. Pointing is for the pup to learn by interacting with the bird, Whoa is for downstream steadiness training.

Which is why I was able to shoot birds for her without the problems Urban Redneck speaks of his post. The key is to never shoot the bird if the pup moves after pointing and always launch the bird the moment the pup moves after smelling the bird in the first place. The whole process is really simple and centered on using pigeons in a presentation that is as close to how a wild bird behaves as we can setup and still have control over where the bird is and the bird always flushing and flying away strong, (thus avoiding caught birds).

Also seen is I am allowing her to break and chase when the bird flies. That is where Whoa will come in when I start requiring her to remain steady through shot and fall after her first hunting season. Whoa is for after the bird is flying and will not be given as a precaution. Rather the command will be completely trained in many situations but away from birds. Then I will fly birds in front of her but not pointing or in a scent cone and use the trained Whoa command to teach her she must remain still while the birds fly away. When she does that is when I will start requiring her to do the same on a bird she is pointing.

The Perfect Start and Perfect Finish DVDs are where I learned the approach I am summarizing here.

The approach I used as seen in my videos was done prior to my pup's NA which was just run this past Saturday. NA Prize 1 112 so it seemed to work out fine for us. We will now start hunting wild birds September 1st. I acknowledge she will have a habit of chasing flying birds which I will have to break. I did with both of prior two pups. The last went UT1 at 17 months of age and I posted a video of him slamming on point, standing to WSF and retrieving to hand a couple of weeks ago on this board. So I know the approach works and also know it is not the only approach that works.

Best of Luck. Your pup would learn to point with exposure to wild birds, so make sure your use of training birds is very productive or otherwise you are better off not doing it at all. I see too much unproductive use of training birds on puppies. The reason is not because it can't be done but rather because it must be done correctly. Which is actually simple to do. The single most common error is people want to see their puppy point so bad they let it road into the scent cone instead of flying the bird the moment the pup indicates it smells the bird but does not point and remain pointing. That simple.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby Dmog » Wed Aug 19, 2020 8:48 am

I concur with what AG says. My use of whoa is only on birds or other critters that are picked up on by sight and the rare occasion where danger is present. In training my pups, I never speak to them while they are working scent. It is usually a command from healing to hunt them up and that is it. I change direction I keep going or slow down for a pup to realize its time to change directions. When the pup gets bold enough to get out of sight. I will hide from them to encourage checking in. My first pup I did not have a gps collar and did this too much because of my insecurity and comfort level and it hurt range I think. Second pup, the insurance of a gps collar has me much more comfortable allowing the pup to get out there. I have released many a pigeon when the pups have given me the slightest indication of picking up scent and many times when I was not sure of scent but was trying to simulate a flushing bird that the pup did not scent. It has worked very well for me and I also learned it from the "Perfect Start" dvds and tips from this forum.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby orhunter » Wed Aug 19, 2020 9:04 am

I always like the flexibility in AG’s approach. There are several roads to success.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby reader4 » Thu Aug 20, 2020 12:29 pm

Thanks again -- helpful clarity.

Access to launchers and pigeons is sporadic, so that's a limiting factor. I've used them exactly as you've described when available - would love to have the space and homers to do it more. Otherwise, I've been resetting him to the position he first scented the bird if he moves closer before pointing. It doesn't have the same impact as a launcher nor a wild bird, but it has prevented caught birds and seems to be helping him learn to point a bit earlier.

I would never permit the pup to flush or catch for himself, and would never shoot a bird he's broken point on. What I'm hearing is that it's okay to start shooting a few when he gets it all right.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby orhunter » Thu Aug 20, 2020 4:36 pm

Yup...
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby Willie T » Thu Aug 20, 2020 5:45 pm

reader4 wrote:Thanks again -- helpful clarity.

I would never permit the pup to flush or catch for himself, and would never shoot a bird he's broken point on. What I'm hearing is that it's okay to start shooting a few when he gets it all right.


Yes, and don’t miss when he starts doing it right. Cooperation is a two way street.
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Re: Shoot + retrieve or not for pointing pup?

Postby Densa44 » Fri Aug 21, 2020 12:12 pm

Gunfire; This is an area where do do not want anything to go wrong, as many others have said. I carry one of those cap pistols I get at the dollar store. I fire it when I flush the birds. I do not use a shotgun because I think that I'm too close, and it is heavier to carry. In the test the gunners are farther away and I've never had a problem.

Good luck.
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