How older dogs adjust to new homes

When Jerry and I sell a started or trained dog, two questions are always asked.

•    How do they adapt to living in a family environment?

•    How well do they bond with new owners?

The answer:  very easily. Judge for yourself.

Northwoods Led Zeppelin, call name Gus

Gus is a setter male by Blue Shaquille and Houston’s Belle’s Choice whelped June 18, 2011. He was one of several from last year’s breedings that we kept to start and train. Gus was taken for group walks in pastures and in the grouse woods. He was worked on bobwhite quail in Minnesota and Tennessee as well as local grouse and woodcock. He had birds shot over his points. We introduced him to all kinds of other experiences such as being in a dog crate, being on a stake-out chain, riding in dog trailers and pickups and interacting with other dogs and people.

David and Pam recently bought Gus and have sent two messages—one after Gus’s first night and, about 10 days later, the next message.

We made it home with no problems. He didn’t make a sound the whole way home and no fuss during the night. We are spending most of our time letting him explore and adjust to the house. The picture was after getting back from a thirty minute run.

Thanks for all the time you spent with us. It was sincerely appreciated.


Gus is doing very well. He is adjusting to the sights and sounds of the house, he sleeps through the night, he has learned to ask to go outside, we have not had an accident in the house, and we did not hear him bark until this weekend. I am very pleased with the way he is responding to his name in the field and his rapid response to “here”.

Thank you again for our opportunity to purchase Gus. We could not be happier.


Jerry and I say we couldn’t be happier.

This is a win-win-win situation. David and Pam bought an older puppy whose size, personality and strengths are readily apparent. Gus will have a wonderful life in a loving family situation and will have ample hunting opportunities.  Jerry and I are able to breed good dogs, train them and move them on to good homes.

Backing point

Backing is one of the finer aspects of a bird dog’s performance and can be among the prettiest. When hunting a brace of dogs, it’s pretty cool to find one on point and the other backing.

Backing is a natural quality. A lot of dogs will back properly without any training.
~Er M. Shelley, Bird Dog Training Today and Tomorrow, 1921

Backing is simply one dog honoring another dog’s point. A true back doesn’t involve scent; rather it’s strictly by sight. Like the ideal point, the ideal back isn’t too far away or too close. A dog should back so it doesn’t inadvertently flush the birds. Finally, the backing dog should to be close enough to the action so it can mark where the birds fly or find dead birds if necessary.

However, it is a fault for a dog to back a long distance away and remain there.
~Er M. Shelley, Bird Dog Training Today and Tomorrow, 1921

Like pointing, backing is an inherited instinct but it varies quite a bit. Some dogs look for opportunities to back and, the other extreme, a few do everything to avoid backing.

Backing can be refined through exposure and training.

We introduce puppies to backing beginning at about four months of age. We work them in groups where they learn to read each other. They start to understand how other puppies act when they smell birds. In addition, the action attracts other puppies and then everyone gets in on the flush of the bird.

The next phase is when the flush is preceded by a brief point. Puppies recognize that a point means a bird and so naturally start to back on their own.  Of course, they don’t back for a long period of time but they have learned the basic concept.

For older dogs, we use two different methods. The first involves two dogs, one working ahead in the bird field and another on a check cord behind. When the lead dogs goes on point, we stop the second dog, style it up but say nothing. It probably doesn’t understand what’s happening at first, but after it has seen birds flushed in front of the lead dog a few times, most start to back on their own.

Another method is to use a backing dog silhouette, a piece of equipment that’s a life-sized cutout of a dog on point. I have an older one on spikes that needs to be manually raised and lowered and a fancier version that’s remotely controlled.

We use the silhouettes to create an association between a dog on point and birds. We place the silhouette in the field with a pigeon in a bird launcher behind it. We lead the dog into the field and, as soon as it sees the backing dog and doesn’t stop, we flush the pigeon. After several repetitions of this, most dogs stop and back as soon as it sees the silhouette.

Backing drills are often overdone. Even dogs that back well can sour on too much training. My experience is that if the dog backed last time, it’s likely to back the next time, too.

Once a dog has shown it will back, the best way to reinforce the behavior is to work dogs in braces and let backing happen naturally.

Northwoods Classy Kate wins derby award

Northwoods Classy Kate, setter female owned by Barry Frieler of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, put together a string of impressive placements this spring to win the 2012 Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby of the Year.

Consistency is the the essence of Kate’s performances. Trial after trial, she put down competitive races. Her drive to find birds, classy way of going, intensity and style on point combined with a strong desire to please were her trademarks.

Kate placed three times in four starts and had finished bird work in two of them.

2nd Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association Open Derby

1st Minnesota Grouse Dog Association Open Derby

2nd Minnesota Grouse Dog Association Open Derby

What’s even more impressive was that Kate wasn’t trialed at all last fall. Barry is a very serious grouse hunter and he preferred to be in the woods with Kate, working her along with his other two English setters. Barry sent Kate to Tennessee with us for training on quail for the past two winters which, along with her experience on wild birds, proved too much for the competition.

Kate was sired by Northwoods Blue Ox out of Houston’s Belle’s Choice. It appears to be all in the family as she is the second winner of this award produced by Choice. Last year, Northwoods Chardonnay, out of Choice by Blue Shaquille, won. Too, both of Kate’s grandmothers, CH Houston’s Belle and Blue Silk, won this award previously.

Congratulations to Barry and Kate!

Minnesota 2012: spring training on grouse and woodcock

Spring is a great time to train on grouse. Scenting can be tough, though, and savvy winter survivors often use their legs more than their wings to escape.  Finding the birds is one thing; getting them pointed, much less pinned, is another. Spring grouse make fall birds seem easy.

Dan and I had some excellent sessions in the woods with dogs here for training. Enjoy our photos.

Buck (a Ryman setter) can find birds!

Houston’s Belle’s Choice (Gusty Blue x CH Houston’s Belle) points a grouse in a black ash swamp.

15-month-old Northwoods Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis) finds a grouse.

Northwoods Lager (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) points a woodcock. Paul Diggan stands by.

Northwoods Blue Ox (CH Peace Dale Duke x Blue Silk) pins a grouse.

Northwoods Porter (sired by Blue Shaquille) backs his mother, Houston’s Belle’s Choice.

Northwoods Magic Man (Houston x Northwoods Blue Babe) backs Houston’s Miss Liddy (Northwoods Blue Ox x CH Houston’s Belle).

The handsome Northwoods Magic Man points.

9-month-old Northwoods Aerosmith (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) points a woodcock and Gigi (Ryman littermate to Buck) backs.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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