What about those dewclaws?

The right front paw of Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) shows normal growth and wear on dewclaw and toenails.

The issue of dewclaw removal is worth re-visiting on occasion. It’s not a life-threatening controversy but there is general misunderstanding…beginning with the possibility of a dewclaw tear.

I’ve been training, hunting and trialing pointing dogs for almost four decades. I’ve watched hundreds of dogs work thousands of hours in all kinds of terrain and conditions. Yeah, I’ve seen dewclaws torn but much less than regular nails and not even close to injuries to limbs, tails, eyes, ears and skin.

Besides, dogs use dewclaws. I’ve seen dogs groom themselves and scratch using their dewclaws. And they are used in the field because dewclaws show wear just like regular nails.

Perhaps most importantly, dewclaws are natural parts of canine anatomy. Five tendons attach to each dewclaw. At the end of those tendons are muscles with a distinct function: to prevent torque on the leg. When a dog turns while cantering or galloping, “the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the leg and prevent torque,” Dr. M. Christine Zink, Director and Professor, Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote in the linked paper.

“If a dog doesn’t have a dewclaw, the leg twists,” she continued. After a lifetime of that abuse, carpal arthritis and injuries to elbow, shoulder and toes can result.

Betsy and I don’t remove dewclaws from our puppies. We base that decision on science—on research and clinical observation by Dr. Zink.

Most veterinarians admit that injuries to dewclaws are rare.

Again, Dr. Zink: “It is far better to deal with an injury than to cut the dewclaws off of all dogs ‘just in case.’”

http://www.caninesports.com/uploads/1/5/3/1/15319800/dewclawexplanation.pdf

The pointing instinct

Puppy points can be intense. Dixie (Houston's Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013) is utterly focused on bird scent.

Puppy points can be intense. Dixie (Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Highclass Kate, 2013) is utterly focused on bird scent.

The excitement associated with seeing a dog on point is likely what attracted most pointing dog owners. What is the pointing instinct, exactly, and how does it develop?

The pointing instinct.
Pointing is defined as freezing at the scent or sight of game. It is an inherited instinct most prominent in the pointing breeds but, to some degree, many sporting breeds and wild animals also display the pointing instinct.

Two terms are frequently used to describe points.  Staunchness refers to how long the dog holds point while steadiness describes a level of training, i.e., steady-to-wing or steady-to-wing-and-shot.

Puppy points.
A puppy’s first points are usually an instinctive response to the smell of game. These points are often called “flash points” and are short in duration. Some puppies, though, do point for a longer time because they’re unsure and aren’t bold enough to rush in. During these early points, the puppy is in a heightened state of emotion, its body posture intense and sometimes crouched as it focuses exclusively on the smell.

As a puppy learns what it is smelling, it points and then stalks toward the location of scent until it gets close enough to flush the bird. The puppy chases to try to catch the bird. This continues until the puppy realizes it can’t catch the bird and, therefore, its only alternative is to hold point. As the puppy becomes more experienced in pointing, the excitement wanes and its pointing stature begins to convey confidence and boldness.

Puppy points aren't necessarily the prettiest...the important part is the instinct to stop.

Puppy points aren’t necessarily the prettiest. The important part is the instinct to stop.

Developing point.
To properly develop a young pointing dog, it should be allowed to learn how to handle birds without interference. The best method is frequent bird (wild or liberated birds that can’t be caught) contacts. Two of the most important lessons are learned at this stage—how close the dog can get to the bird before the bird flushes and that the dog’s movement causes the bird to flush. (For more information, please view the post Accuracy of location.)

There is nothing the handler can do—or should do—to rush this phase. While the puppy is pointing, don’t talk to or restrain it and don’t be in a hurry to flush the bird.

By the age of two, Northwoods Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston's Belle's Choice, 2011) was fully trained on steadiness--steady-to-wing-and-shot. On a Georgie quail plantation, she displays a quintessential pointing posture--beautiful and confident.

By the age of two, Northwoods Carly Simon (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) was fully trained, i.e., was steady-to-wing-and-shot. On a Georgia quail plantation, she displays the quintessential pointing posture–beautiful and confident.

Staunchness and steadiness training.
At some time, and after enough bird contacts, most well-bred pointing dogs naturally stay on point until the handler arrives. This is the minimum expected (the hunter needs to be close enough to shoot the bird) and is referred to as a staunch point or staunchness.

The next step is steadiness training. Many pointing dogs are trained to be steady to the flush of a bird, also called steady-to-wing. Very few are trained to the ultimate level–steady-to-wing-and-shot.

Pointing problems.
Faulty genetics, improper development, bad training or a combination can cause problems with pointing.  Here are some of the most common and their causes.

Blinking
The dog smells the bird but then avoids it and continues on. This is almost always a man-made fault from improper development around game. While some dogs may be soft tempered by nature, no dog is born a blinker.

Bumping
Whether before or after pointing, the dog intentionally jumps in and causes the bird to flush. This is fine in a young dog but should not be allowed in a mature dog.  These are usually bold, aggressive dogs that need to be corrected.

Circling
The dog smells the bird and maybe points but then tries to move around the bird instead of going directly towards it. In a mature, experienced wild bird dog, this behavior might be a learned response to stop birds from running away from its points. Circling in a young dog, however, is more likely an inherited behavior but could be caused by improper training and development.

Flagging
The dog points the bird but its tail wags and never stiffens. This can be inherited and/or man made.

Laying down
A dog points with low posture or even lies down on point shows a lack of boldness towards the bird and/or doesn’t want the bird to flush. This can be inherited and/or man made.

Unproductive points
The dog points and but no bird is flushed. Again, this can be inherited and/or man made. (For more information, please view the post Unproductive points.)

The "wing on a string" trick is sure fun to see but means absolutely nothing.

The “wing on a string” trick is sure fun to see but means absolutely nothing.

Final thoughts.
•    Sight points are not the same as scent points. The old “wing on a string” trick so often used to pick a pointing dog puppy means nothing regarding future scent-pointing ability.
•    All dogs will tend to point longer as they get older. Too, they get more cautious in the presence of game.
•    There is “too much point” and “not enough point.” Ideally, the young dog will have enough genetic point to stop but learn staunchness through bird contacts.
•    A precocious puppy with excessive staunchness doesn’t always turn into the best wild bird dog in the end.

Gucci co-wins derby of the year

Northwoods Gucci (CH Erin’s Hidden Shamrock x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2015)

Northwoods Gucci is the co-winner of the 2017 Minnesota/Wisconsin Cover Dog Derby of the Year. Her point total equaled that of Opie, a setter male owned and handled by Sig Degitz. In just three starts in trials this spring, Gucci placed in each one.

Gucci was whelped on April 15, 2015, out of Northwoods Chardonnay by CH Erin’s Hidden Shamrock. Betsy and I, together with Paul Hauge, co-bred the litter. Paul owned Gucci and entrusted her development, training and handling to us.

Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009)

Gucci comes from a long line of females winning this award. Consider this:
Dam: Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011
Great grand-dam: CH Houston’s Belle (owned by Paul Hauge), 2003
Great grand-dam: Blue Silk, 2001
Great great grand-dam: CH Blue Streak, Runner-up, 1997

Houston’s Belle’s Choice, one of Gucci’s grand-dams, didn’t win the award herself but produced, in addition to Chardonnay, Northwoods Highclass Kate (owned by Barry Frieler) who won in 2012. Gucci’s grand-sire, CH Ridge Creek Cody (owned by Larry Brutger), won the Bill Conlin Setter Shooting Dog Derby award in 2010.

Recently Gucci was bought from Paul so she’ll now spend her falls hunting birds in Montana. Betsy and I will still have her with us in Georgia during the winter. In 2018, we plan to breed her to the outstanding Northwoods Grits.

Northwoods Highclass Kate (Northwoods Blue Ox x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2010)

CH Houston’s Belle (Houston x Forest Ridge Jewel, 2001)

Blue Silk (CH First Rate x CH Blue Streak, 1999)

CH Blue Streak (Spring Garden Tollway x Finder’s Keeper, 1995)

Spring 2017 field trial winners

A. J. Kalupa, flanked by Rochel and Dave Moore, happily poses after an open shooting dog placement with I’m Blue Skye.

The spring field trial season is winding down across the country and here are some dogs out of our kennel that placed.

Congratulations to dogs, owners and handlers!

A special combination of dogs/owner/handler is happening on the western field trial circuit. Bill Owen campaigns two dogs he bought from us as puppies—one setter and one pointer. Bill handles them in amateur stakes but has entrusted Travis Gelhaus to handle them in open stakes.

Handler Travis Gelhaus poses with first place derby Northwoods Blackhawk Sage (first dog on the right). Sage is owned by Bill Owen, the guy in the cowboy hat on Travis’ left.

Northwoods Blackhawk Sage (CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen, 2015), a big, handsome liver-and-white male, won the National Chukar Derby Classic. Bill’s setter, Northwoods Charles (CH Ridge Creek Cody x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2013), was named champion in the National Chukar Shooting Dog Championship. The stakes were held in Sunnyside, Wash.

Newly crowned champion Northwoods Charles is posed by handler Travis Gelhaus while owner Bill Owen, in the green hat behind Travis, wears a nice smile.

In Wisconsin, I’m Blue Skye (Northwoods Grits x CH I’m Blue Gert, 2014) placed third in a Chippewa Valley Grouse Dog Association open shooting dog for A. J. Kalupa, her new owner. A. J. had recently bought Skye from Dave and Rochel Moore, who also own Skye’s dam, CH I’m Blue Gert. Amazingly, this trial was the first A. J. had entered.

Winners pose after a Moose River Grouse Dog Club open derby stake held in Wisconsin. From left: Rod Lein with his third place setter, Jerry with second place Northwoods Gucci and Sig Digetz with his winning setter.

Northwoods Gucci (CH Erin’s Hidden Shamrock x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2015), owned by Paul Hauge, had never competed in a field trial. But this spring, Paul thought she was ready so I handled her in three open derby stakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She won one and placed second in two. In those outings she earned enough points to share the derby of the year award with Sig Digetz’ setter Opie.

Northwoods Nirvana (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011) continues to produce winners. The latest is Phillips Spitting Image, owned by Matt Phillips, who placed fourth in the U.S. Complete Shooting Dog Futurity.

Spring puppy training in Georgia and Minnesota

On a spectacular, late afternoon workout, Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) found and pointed six grouse and one woodcock. As Bob Wehle might have said, “This is my brag dog!”

Wild bird contacts are essential when developing our puppies. I’m exposing them as much as possible to wild birds so their hunting instincts, natural abilities, style and poise can be fostered. All are key considerations when selecting future breeding dogs.

Showing impressive style and poise for a 13-week-old puppy, Northwoods Hercules (RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2016) points a single bobwhite in native wiregrass.

As soon as the Georgia quail season ends in late February, dog trainers on most plantations focus on working their puppies. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know several of them and so I spend most mornings in March bracing our young dogs with theirs.

During a morning training run on a beautifully maintained private quail plantation, setter Northwoods Mica (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Nortwoods Carbon, 2016) and pointer Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) share point.

When back in Minnesota, I can’t wait to get our puppies in the woods on grouse and woodcock. Amazingly, the transition is usually easy for them.

In a scene reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting, Northwoods Gabbro (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) sticks a woodcock.

By the time nesting begins and training season ends, I have a good idea of the abilities of each pup. And yeah, it’s a lot of fun, too!

Northwoods Slate (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) stopped in mid-stride, ear flipped back, when he caught scent of a quail.

In a picturesque setting of broom sedge, Northwoods Chalcedony (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) points a covey of bobwhite quail.

Final hunt of the season–on the Dixie Plantation with two National Champions

Gary Lester, an all-age handler with numerous championship titles, watches while Miller’s Creative Cause backs.

Even though the bulk of the business of Northwoods Bird Dogs is training and breeding, I really like to guide wild bird hunts. Not only does this get me into the woods but I get to see how our dogs stack up against others.

While here in the Red Hills region of southwest Georgia/north Florida Georgia during the winter, I handle dogs off horseback on wild bobwhite quail hunts. It gives me ample opportunity to compare our dogs to others on the hunts.

The last hunt of this season was held on the prestigious, historic Dixie Plantation, near Monticello, Florida. First farmed as a cotton plantation in the early 1800s, the property eventually was purchased by the Livingston family, magnates in the railroad industry, in the 1920s. They turned it into an 18,000-acre wild quail hunting plantation, definitely one of the premier plantations in the area.

The main house of the Dixie Plantation is landscaped with boxwoods pruned in the shape of horseshoes. The entrance way features a life-sized bronze statue of a Tennessee Walking Horse, the favored horse for quail hunting plantations.

Ownership of the Dixie has since been turned over to Tall Timbers Research and Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fire ecology and wildlife management in the Southeast. The plantation, now 9,100 acres in size, is used primarily for quail research. But Tall Timbers also leases hunting days during the quail season and continues the tradition of hosting the Continental Field Trial Championship, an all-age stake now in its 119th year.

2015 National Champion Miller’s Dialing In has a covey find in a clearing of longleaf pines and live oaks.

Joining our client and his two friends on this final hunt was Gary Lester, professional, all-age field trial competitor. Gary has been wildly successful in field trial placements. Besides numerous championships, he has handled three dogs that won the three-hour National Championship at the Ames Plantation in Tennessee.

How fortunate that two of those champions were with him on this hunt: CH Miller’s Dialing In (2015 winner) and the recently crowned 2017 National Champion Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo. It would be fabulous to hunt with just one of those dogs…but here were two!

In addition to Dialing In and Jo, Gary brought CH Miller’s Creative Cause, another dog he ran in the 2017 National Championship, and three winning, derby-aged dogs.

All pointer males, these dogs are big and muscular—weighing more than 55 pounds—and they are powerful, athletic animals. They moved with strength and class but were also extremely responsive to Gary. Very impressive!

Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo shows his championship style on covey find and a hunter moves in for the flush.

I was both thrilled and humbled to see our dogs braced with some of the best in the nation—so I wanted our best in my string.

On the truck were setters CH Houston’s Blackjack, RU-CH Northwoods Nirvana, Grits, Rolls Royce, Jeter, Carly Simon, Nickel, Carbon and Anhiwake Grace and three pointer females, Vixen, Platinum and Audi. I also had two English cockers, Yoshi and Arrowhead Penny, to retrieve dead birds.

The hunting party readies horses, dogs and equipment for the morning hunt.

The first morning brace was a good one. Gary ran Dialing In (the 2015 National Champion!) and I chose Rolls Royce. Both dogs were on a mission to find quail and, to my delight, they ended their hour equal in bird finds.

The highlight for me, though, was the last brace of the day when I ran Grits, a strong 50-lb. male that always hunts hard and stylishly, and Gary ran one of his winning derbies. The open, rolling terrain allowed us to see them on big, beautiful casts. I was so proud that Grits compared favorably on the ground with Gary’s all-age dog. Even better, Grits out-birded his bracemate and pointed four coveys in the hour, giving the hunting part plenty of action. I think Gary was impressed because he asked me to call him if I get another setter like that…and he’s a pointer guy!

The next morning was foggy and warm. Gary braced CH Lester’s Sunny Hill Jo and CH Miller’s Creative Cause. These two all-age champions put on a show of strength, class and bird finding with five covey finds in a bit more than an hour. Again, very impressive!

At about noon that day when the temperature was 82°, I ran two of our dogs. I braced Royce with female setter Nickel (out of 2X National Champion Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay). I was so proud that both dogs ran well, and found and pointed birds.

Both days were great hunts…and it was a special honor to watch Gary and his championship dogs.

RU-CH Northwoods Nirvana back at Northwoods Bird Dogs

Northwoods Nirvana (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011)

Northwoods Nirvana (CH Houston’s Blackjack x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2011)

Some things seem meant to be.

When Betsy and I bred Northwoods Chardonnay in 2011 to CH Houston’s Blackjack, owned by Frank and Jean LaNasa, the pick of the litter was an extremely handsome, dark-headed male. We raised him but sold him as a 10-month-old to Frank and Jean. Now five years later, in partnership with Paul Hauge, we bought him back.

And it’s wonderful to have him with us.

His registered name is Northwoods Nirvana (2011 was the year of naming dogs after rock stars) and his call name is Pete. But everyone always calls him Perfect Pete because…well, he is. He truly has it all—excellent conformation, style on point and the characteristic, long, easy gait of the Houston dogs. Plus he has an easy disposition and is just nice to be around.

In 2015 on a North Dakota prairie, Frank LaNasa flushes for Northwoods Nirvana; Northwoods Rolls Royce backs.

In 2015 on a North Dakota prairie, Frank LaNasa flushes for Northwoods Nirvana; Northwoods Rolls Royce backs.

Not only was Frank interested in Nirvana because he owned the sire but also for his potential. Frank groomed him on the prairie for horseback competition on sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken.

Frank’s work paid off this fall when Nirvana was named RU-CH at the National Amateur Prairie Chicken Championship held at the Buena Vista Marsh near Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, in a field of 47 dogs. This prestigious trial is run from horseback on native prairie chickens.

2016 National Amateur Prairie Chicken Championship placements: Frank LaNasa, on right, with RU-CH Northwoods Nirvana; CH Skydancer Triple Nickel on left.

2016 National Amateur Prairie Chicken Championship placements: Frank LaNasa, on right, with RU-CH Northwoods Nirvana; CH Skydancer Triple Nickel on left.

Pete has quite a pedigree. He is line bred to Houston through his blue-hen dam Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice) and sire CH Houston’s Blackjack (CH Can’t Go Wrong x CH Houston’s Belle). He is a first cousin to winners CH Erin’s Hidden Shamrock and RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus, who were sired by Blackjack’s litter brother, CH Ridge Creek Cody.

Now at just five years of age, Pete is himself a noted sire. He has been bred to about 12 females and produced 11 winners so far including the following:

  • His son CH Skydancer  Flash Forward won the 2016 Region 19 Amateur Shooting Dog Championship held at the Namekagon Barrens near Danbury, Wisconsin, on native sharptails.
  • His grandson CH Skydancer Triple Nickel won the 2016 National Amateur Prairie Chicken Championship (when Pete was RU-CH).

Pete is certified OFA GOOD and his DNA is on file with the American Field. He is available for breeding at both our Minnesota and Georgia kennels. The stud fee is $1,000.

P.S. Two weeks after we bought him back, I took him into the woods for a guided grouse and woodcock hunt. Though he had not previously pointed either bird, he did a bang-up job and took to it easily and naturally.

How to flush grouse and woodcock

An accurate location by the young pointer Pesto and a proper flush and good shot by hunter Mike Powers will result in this happy scene.

An accurate location by the young pointer Penny (Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) and a proper flush and good shot by hunter Mike Powers will result in this happy scene.

Flushing grouse and woodcock in front of a pointing dog might seem like a simple concept. It can make the difference, though, between a bird in the bag and an empty shot shell. In more than 20 years of guiding ruffed grouse and woodcock hunters across the northern Great Lakes region, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Some mistakes I attribute to excitement; others are downright comical; and most are merely naïve.

Here are some tips on how to properly flush for grouse and woodcock over a pointing dog.

Grouse or woodcock.
First of all, try to determine which bird is being pointed. Woodcock tend to be closer to the dog while ruffed grouse are usually farther away. Of course, if it’s late in the season and the woodcock have migrated, the bird is a grouse.

Read the dog.
Most dogs will convey bird and bird location by its intensity and body posture.  A really intense posture combined with a lowered head and/or body means the bird is right in front and, therefore, likely a woodcock. A dog that stands taller with a higher head and is more relaxed on point indicates the bird is off a distance and likely a grouse. When the dog is twisted due to a sudden point, that means the bird is close and could be either a grouse or woodcock. If a dog is moving its head or looking around or if the tail is ticking, it doesn’t have the bird accurately located.

Two hunters pass the backing dog and move into position to flush for the lead dog in good-looking grouse cover.

Two hunters pass the backing dog and move into position to flush for the lead dog in good-looking grouse cover.

Assess the cover.
Look at the vegetation. Young aspen cuts with scattered woodcock splash would be a good indicator for woodcock. On the other hand, a 20-year-old aspen stand with deadfalls and thick, grassy edges is more likely grouse cover. If you’ve found woodcock or grouse in the surrounding cover, that can be a good clue, but not always.

Flush the bird.
Ideally, two hunters should position themselves a few yards on either side of the dog and steadily walk forward in unison, looking for likely places a bird will sit, until about 10 – 15 yards in front of the dog. Be prepared when stopping as this often causes a bird to flush.

If a woodcock is suspected, you can go back and flush more thoroughly in front of the dog. Some woodcock will sit very tight and be difficult to flush.

Also, flush beside or behind the dog. Discern wind direction and flush upwind of the dog.  And even if the dog is pointing on one side of a trail, flush on the other side. Finally, look up into the trees.

Be ready for a second bird.
If one bird flushes—whether grouse or woodcock—always be prepared for another flush. If you do shoot, reload immediately. Many times I have watched a hunter shoot both barrels, only to stand with an empty gun while another bird flushes within range.

What not do do.

•    Never walk a few feet in front of the dog and stop. The dog isn’t going to flush the bird. Keep walking to flush the bird.

•    Never walk up closely beside the dog as this might break its concentration and encourage it to move.

 

 

A puppy’s first season in the grouse woods

Nick Larson could hardly wait to get his three-month-old setter puppy, Hartley (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014), into the woods.

Nick Larson could hardly wait to get his three-month-old setter puppy, Hartley (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014), into the woods.

Developing a puppy into an experienced grouse dog begins with the all-important first season. The dog is at an impressionable age and lessons learned will set the foundation for future success.

To begin, this fall is all about fun. There should be no pressure on dog or hunter. Instead, it’s a time for exposure and gaining experience. Too, let this season be for the puppy. You’ll have many years and shots at plenty of birds over the course of your dog’s life.

Here are some tips to get most out of this autumn.

Hunt as much as possible. The goal for this first year is simply to let your puppy hunt for and find grouse—and as many as possible. Don’t worry if it doesn’t point many; that will come with repeated exposure, maturity and training.

Most of what a dog needs to know about is learned from the birds themselves. Your puppy will learn where grouse live and what they smell like. It will learn how close it can get before the bird flushes, that it can’t catch the bird and how to follow running birds.

The only caveat? Shoot birds that are pointed but let the rest fly away.

At five months of age, Izzie (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) was finding and pointing plenty of birds for owner Jeff Hintz. Photo by Chris Mathan.

At five months of age, Izzie (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) was finding and pointing plenty of birds for owner Jeff Hintz. Photo by Chris Mathan.

Allow your puppy to learn by experience. Let your puppy figure things out at its own rate, by itself and to learn by consequences. As long as a situation isn’t dangerous to the puppy, leave it alone. This is the best way for it to develop good thinking skills. By over-protecting and over-controlling, we’re basically training the puppy not to use its brain.

In other words, keep your mouth shut in the woods. Over-handling—too much calling and whistling or constant encouragement—can distract and confuse the dog.

Be patient. Developing an experienced grouse dog will take several seasons and your puppy has a lot to learn. Expect it to make mistakes — flush birds, chase rabbits and other indiscretions—this first year. Also, consider its mental limitations and relatively short attention span and remember that, at this age, your young dog has far more energy than knowledge.

Be realistic about your young dog’s physical limitations. Don’t overwork it. Several shorter hunts are better than one long outing.

Be careful when hunting over another dog and your puppy. While there can be advantages to bracing your puppy with an older, experienced dog, don’t overdo it. Your puppy needs time alone, too. Don’t let it get intimated by a larger or dominant dog.

Some parts of this post are taken from a piece Betsy and I wrote for the September 15, 2013, issue of Minneapolis-based StarTribune. http://www.startribune.com/a-hunting-dog-s-first-grouse-season-is-vital/223773411/

Start ’em young!

Callie, on left, and Blitzen share point on a bobwhite that landed in the willows.

Callie, on left, and Blitzen share point on a bobwhite that landed in the willows.

Starting puppies on birds is right at the top of our list as a fun part of our work. And it’s something Betsy and I believe in beginning when they are quite young. Puppies at three to four months of age are much easier to start than eight-month-old pups.

When we work puppies on birds, we head out into the pasture to one of our four recall houses. The pups watch as I flush a good number of quail from the house and, then excitedly, they are off. They chase the quail wherever they fly—into the woods, alders or willows.

These bobwhite quail act much as wild birds do and hit the ground running. Puppies learn to use their nose to follow the scent until they come upon the bird. When they find it they might point briefly or just jump in and flush it. Either way they then chase the bird with our high praise echoing in their ears.

Murphy displays remarkable poise, intensity and style on one of his first puppy points.

Murphy displays remarkable poise, intensity and style on one of his first puppy points.

Betsy and I never flush the birds. Instead we let the puppies point until they move in. From this, puppies learn when they have the bird, and importantly, when they don’t.

A key part of this whole exercise is that we don’t interfere or make any effort to restrain the pups. We do loudly praise the puppies when they flush a bird and will call or sing to direct them a bit. We think it’s crucial, at this time anyway, for puppies to learn—to find the bird, point it and then flush it—all on their own.

All puppies pictured above and below are 12 – 14 weeks old and all are pointers out of Northwoods Vixen by Elhew G Force.

Pearl pointed her first wild birds today. One grouse and two woodcock. I was walking along and looked down at my gps to see where my older dog was and when I looked up, Pearl was on point about 30 feet in front of me with a 12- o’clock tail and a high head. I walked in and flushed a woodcock about 10 feet in front of her. She then proceeded to point a grouse and another woodcock before I decided it was enough for one day and carried her out. ~ Caleb, Minnesota, August 14

Pearl pointed her first wild birds today. One grouse and two woodcock. I was walking along and looked down at my gps to see where my older dog was and when I looked up, Pearl was on point about 30 feet in front of me with a 12- o’clock tail and a high head. I walked in and flushed a woodcock about 10 feet in front of her. She then proceeded to point a grouse and another woodcock before I decided it was enough for one day and carried her out.
~ Caleb, Minnesota, August 14

Our puppy is doing very well and healthy. We named him Bandit. He is very birdy and outgoing. I’ve started his puppy program and he is already learning the fetch command. He loves getting around the quail pen and tries to break in every chance he gets. LOL ~ Tim, Florida, August 17

Our puppy is doing very well and healthy. We named him Bandit. He is very birdy and outgoing. I’ve started his puppy program and he is already learning the fetch command. He loves getting around the quail pen and tries to break in every chance he gets. LOL
~ Tim, Florida, August 17

Coop is coming along great. He’s had some clipped wing pigeons and I’ve started him with the cap gun—no problems there at all. His prey drive is off the chart. I have him standing still on the bench. Also been working on recall with check cord.
~ Tim, Massachusetts, August 16

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
Follow us:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed
©2017 Northwoods Bird Dogs  |  Website: The Sportsman’s Cabinet