Getting a dog pointing

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

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Getting a dog pointing

Postby IDHunter » Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:14 pm

Hate to jump right in with a first post question, but it is what it is.

I've got an 11 month old male GWP. Long story short is he has all but stopped pointing in the last two months. My best guess is that this is because unfortunately he caught a couple of wounded birds on some public ground we were hunting. These were birds that someone else had shot but not recovered from earlier in the day or a different day. He caught them both alive, at different times, and as far as I can tell that has been the experience that most closely coincides to his reduction in pointing. To be fair, he's never been a "point crazy" dog by any means in his short life. He has loved to get on scent and go more into tracking mode than pointing mode pretty much this entire first year. Although he has pointed staunchly on birds at times, more often than not this first year has been many more missed opportunities for a point. He finds birds decently well, but lately he's just been running right in and flushing anything from singles to entire covey's of chukar and huns. He loves to chase, and I've been letting him chase a ton of birds this year (pretty much since day 1), but he doesn't seem to have yet learned that he can't catch them, and he'll chase a flushed chukar 300 yards if I let him. This pup has been run in fields all spring and summer as a youngster, and now has been hunted at least 2-3 time per week all fall, so I don't think it's a lack of exposure or opportunity that is the problem here. I could be wrong, but I think I've given him more than enough opportunity to let the birds teach him. So my question for you all is what would you do at this point? I'd love to be able to actually kill some birds over him this season. We are getting into good numbers of wild birds with each outing, but because of the lack of pointing we are just watching bird after bird fly away without firing a shot. I've got until the end of January to make that happen before things close here and we get into what I can only assume is going to be a busy off season/training season.

Would you just keep hunting him and hope that things eventually click? Would you hunt him but stop letting him chase so that he starts to learn that he doesn't get his reward of chasing the bird, which he seems to love? Would you take some time off from hunting and work him on launchers to get him pointing more consistently before hitting the field again? Something else all together? Again, I just want to get him pointing. Not worried about steadiness, just getting some more points. We'll work beyond that once we tackle this hurdle.

Any advice/opinions are welcome. Thanks!
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:03 pm

Launcher work might help but it might not. My pup Tess will point at first scent consistently on pigeons and hold for me to be in front and launch the bird, at some pretty good distances.

She is far less reliable to do that on wild birds and I do not think any amount of additional launcher work at this stage is going to change it.

She too enjoys the chase when the birds fly. I use the trained ecollar tone for recall. When she chases I give the tone first then stimulate her when she does not heed it and break off her chase. I do not want to just stimulate her for chasing birds as she could easily get the wrong impression about birds. Since she knows what the tone means it is fair play for me to discipline her when she ignores the tone during the thrill of chasing a bird. Her chases become far less distance with this approach and she does not associate any negatives with the birds she wants to pursue.

Tess points best on birds she finds in heavy cover. Birds that do not move as the ones she holds best on. If the birds she is pointing move and she detects the movement, she will break and take them out. I hold fire, grin and bear it.

My plan and expectation is Tess is not going to be reliable in pointing all the birds she encounters until I break her of chasing flushed birds. She enjoys chasing and so breaking point and taking them out is not a bad outcome in her mind at this stage.

I am working on teaching her the Whoa command around the house, yard, truck. Once the seasons close I will use that command to train her to stop to flush and put an end to her chasing flushing/flying birds. I will do this training with pigeons first. I expect her pointing will become much more consistent once I do that and I will then enforce it around wild birds.

My plan now is to hunt her on bobwhite quail for the rest of the season, which will not run and flush wild nearly as bad as the steady diet of pheasants she has been seeing. I am not willing to stop hunting her at this stage because she points enough birds to make it worthwhile and she is learning a whole lot about where to find them.

I share all this because I think our pups are similar at this stage of their development and hope this will be beneficial to your work with your pup.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby IDHunter » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:01 pm

Thanks AG. I remember chatting with you on a different forum earlier this year, and yes our dogs are similar in age and it sounds like not too far apart in development.

One question, would your approach be different if your dog wasn't pointing at all? I feel like if my pup was pointing intermittently but not always, I wouldn't be as worked up about this. But like I said, I'm seeing ZERO points lately, and that's on several coveys per hunt of birds that are holding pretty tight. Today I didn't detect much/any running birds, as we were hunting chukar and huns in cold weather and fresh snow. Most flushes were 60-100 yards in front of me, but as far as I can tell the birds weren't running or anything. They all seemed to be holed up pretty tight in the rocks and sagebrush, as you'd expect for these birds and these conditions. I have really backed off on pheasants in the last couple weeks, because I know we were getting a lot of running birds which was probably a bad thing for a dog that already has a strong tendency to bust birds before pointing. It will be chukar, huns, and quail if we can find them for the rest of the season for us. Again, I don't expect reliable pointing... but I have expected SOME pointing at this point.

I too use the ecollar tone for recall, and he has learned that well. I will be trying to break off his chase with the same method you described, while trying not to associate anything negative with birds for him.

May still work some launchers with him, but could primarily do it with chukar to hopefully get a little more of the same scent that he will experience in the field.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby orhunter » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:21 pm

I do it same way as AG. Tone then stimulate. I introduced the tone during whoa training at an early age so pup knows the drill. It's a little late for you now but something to work on after the season closes. I withold stimulation until pup reached the area of the flush. A couple of nicks to begin with and if no reaction, got to continuous at a low discomfort setting till pup stops. Discontinue stimulation immediately when pup stops. Don't increase stimulation level unless you need to. Sometimes we need to take our dogs off birds completely in order to break bad habits.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby IDHunter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:26 am

orhunter wrote: Sometimes we need to take our dogs off birds completely in order to break bad habits.


I've considered this, at least in regards to pulling him from hunting and just doing some training with chukars and pheasants in launchers until we are getting real consistent points. Or do you mean no bird encounters at all, including training birds? I assume that's not what you mean since I don't know how we'd work on pointing without any birds at all.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby orhunter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:47 am

"off birds completely." That's pretty clear. We don't want to provide any sort of opportunity for the dog to continue doing it wrong. Correct, you don't know how you'd work on pointing because you won't. NO BIRDS. I'd probably finish out the season and see how pup responds to the e-collar vs chasing. You can cautiously get back into training in three or four months. Work on other stuff that may enhance the pups response to birds like place board training and your basic whoa with the e-collar tone. NO BIRDS.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Dec 29, 2020 11:49 am

There is no downside to working your pup on chukars in launchers other than the cost of the birds and it is worth a try. Enough reps your pup is very likely to understand that pointing is the only way to get the bird. I start with homing pigeons which I can recover and thus keep the cost down during the phase of training where a pup is least likely to point. If the pup will not point the pigeons I doubt he will point the chukars. Hence my thought of starting with the pigeons before you start turning loose $8-10 dollar chukars.

The thing about this high prey drive vs pointing instinct is a pup like yours can turn on to pointing on a single bird, which when shot can lead to a string of more pointed birds. So I favor continue hunting the pup hoping for that one solid point that can lead to others. As we discussed using some trained/understood ecollar corrections for excessive chasing is in order in my opinion and actions with my own pup.

What does his Breeder suggest?
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby orhunter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:04 pm

If you need Place Board training instructions, I have that and can e-mail you if you PM me your e-mail address.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby reader4 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 2:11 pm

I think you already have some good advice, especially on trying the launcher and discouraging the chase. I'm not sure I'll offer much but I did have a couple of other thoughts.

Chasing is rewarding for many dogs. I think it's reasonable to use the whoa command if that's well-trained to break a chase on running birds (not flushed). This is not training to point -- it's movement control in the field. You don't want to overdo it but proofing in the field should be part of developing that queue anyway. If whoa isn't developed then it sounds like you have something to work on. For chasing flushed birds I think recall and hunting on in another direction is maybe your best bet.

In terms of stepping backwards and simplifying... I wonder also about resetting him back into the scent cone. If not in the hunting field, then in training with planted birds and a long lead for control. On the flush you can physically prevent a chase and then pick him up and reset him back to where you believe he first got scent. Depending on your hunting conditions, this might also be possible in the field. It would be best with you devoted entirely to maintaining the lead and someone else doing the shooting. The goal is similar to using a launcher but with less equipment and potential translation onto wild birds, if possible.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby IDHunter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 6:47 pm

AverageGuy wrote:There is no downside to working your pup on chukars in launchers other than the cost of the birds and it is worth a try. Enough reps your pup is very likely to understand that pointing is the only way to get the bird. I start with homing pigeons which I can recover and thus keep the cost down during the phase of training where a pup is least likely to point. If the pup will not point the pigeons I doubt he will point the chukars. Hence my thought of starting with the pigeons before you start turning loose $8-10 dollar chukars.

The thing about this high prey drive vs pointing instinct is a pup like yours can turn on to pointing on a single bird, which when shot can lead to a string of more pointed birds. So I favor continue hunting the pup hoping for that one solid point that can lead to others. As we discussed using some trained/understood ecollar corrections for excessive chasing is in order in my opinion and actions with my own pup.

What does his Breeder suggest?


He has had a little pigeon work, both in launchers and directly on the ground. At first he tried to rush them, but he was on a checkcord and I applied enough light pressure to get him to stop his rush and lock up on point. After 2 birds like that he proceeded to point the next 3-4 and hold point for several seconds, including the final bird which was concealed in heavy cover and he was "hunting" without a checkcord. He worked that very much like I'd like to see him do in the field. So he does have it in him.

To your recommendation, I will continue to hunt him through the remainder of the season and hopefully get a few points that we are able to capitalize on. I'm cautiously optimistic that if he gets a few pointed birds shot over him the light bulb might just turn on. He has not had that happen yet, as he hasn't held a point long enough in the field for me to do my part. And I will work on your method of breaking the chase as well during this time and see how he takes to that.

His breeder provided some pretty general guidance...."read books, watch training vids (done alot of both already), and then overlay whoa into some training and hunting situations". He certainly doesn't seem concerned about the lack of pointing yet, although I'm not sure he would express it if he was, since the pup came from him. Luckily the breeder lives pretty close, so if this continues to be a problem I will be taking the dog there in the spring for a more thorough evaluation and recommendations by the breeder.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:12 pm

Another thought.

Have you tried hunting your pup with a well trained stylish preferably white visible dog?

Sometimes a pup can get some positives influences from being around a staunch honest pointing dog. I have had pups creep up beside them to get into the scent cone and them be positively influenced by how staunch the dog beside them is.

Might be worth a try if you have such a dog available to hunt with.

What you describe in your launcher work suggests to me the pup would benefit from more of it. If you have pigeons now taking a weeks break from the wild birds and working on that several times might help the pup connect some dots pretty quickly. Launch the bird the moment he smells it. No downside in trying it.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby IDHunter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:44 pm

I really wish I had an option to hunt him with a well performing dog, but being new to this i don't have many contacts in the game yet. None of my close friends or family have pointers, let alone good ones. If it gets to the point of having the breeder evaluate him this spring I'll definitely ask about having him work some birds with one of his finished dogs.

I think the launcher work seems like it would help as well, given how well our last session went. Working launchers was my initial plan when I posted my question, but I was wanting to see if I was off base in that thinking. Sounds like maybe it is indeed a good option to work on. Thanks
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby slistoe » Tue Dec 29, 2020 8:05 pm

He is 11 mos. old in his first hunting season. He can do no wrong. He is learning to love being out in the field. He is fuelling his passion for birds. He is honing the connection between his nose and the quarry. He is learning how and where to find birds. A dog that will point, but doesn't know how to HUNT is not worth much as a hunting dog. Let the dog learn to HUNT, and to develop an intense love of it. Then you have all the spring and summer to work on teaching the dog your "rules" for the interaction between dog and bird. This year is not about you, it is not about the bag, it is about the pup and his learning the basics of what will be his job for many years to come.
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby Dmog » Wed Dec 30, 2020 9:10 am

If you haven't already, it maybe worth reviewing Perfection Kennels "Perfect Start". The launcher work with pup on check cord is what I would recommend trying. I would launch the pigeon as soon as the pup hit the scent cone. I would even do a few right before he hit the scent cone, check cord in hand but letting the pup run a few steps. Letting him naturally start shortening his chase but not letting him get the full reward of an all out chase. After hunting season, then the yard whoa training would be advised to which you work no birds all the way to flying pigeons in his face in the yard on whoa before you reinforce in the field. I would keep getting him wild bird contact and stay patient with your approach of only shooting birds he pointed. This may not be the year you get the reward of shooting birds over him but you are well on your way!
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Re: Getting a dog pointing

Postby Willie T » Wed Dec 30, 2020 12:02 pm

You don’t get a dog pointing. It is not taught it is instinctive. Once it starts flash pointing it is ready for your help steadying up. When a young dog catches birds on its own, it often sets them back. In this case no fault of yours. I would not sweat the chasing right now. If a young dog does not love birds enough to want to chase them, it is not one I want. That is taken straight from Ferrell Miller, the preeminent pointing dog man of our time. Google what he has to say and I think it will help your thought process.

I agree with Dmog. I would keep giving the dog a steady diet of wild birds. I would also go to the yard and teach whoa away from birds. When I had whoa reliable I would de chase. Whoa the dog and release a pigeon. Require the dog to hold it’s whoa. When it does it right, start shooting them and release him for the retrieve. Training a non slip retriever. This may be enough to turn the light on. If not, be patient. Don’t try to force it. He will tell you when he is ready for your help. When he flash points whoa him. When he complies, kill the bird for him. Once he starts holding point, lose the whoa and let him work the birds. There has to be something in it for the dog. Using birds in a well thought out progression is powerful. Don’t try to teach this on pointed birds. What I think will help your dog is adding it in after birds are pointed. Here is a picture of Cricket on point. He is wearing a pinch collar and is on point. The collar has slack. He had already been taught steady to wing and fall on retrieves. We are linking it to his point. He is not as old as your dog.

Edit to add: I am not big on trying to read a dog over the internet but I think simplifying may help your dog understand that getting the bird in its mouth comes through you. Right now he is self hunting.
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