In thick cover on the barrens of northwest Wisconsin, Platinum (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Prancer, 2014) finds a covey of sharptails.
A lot (and I mean A LOT) of hours are spent training dogs on wild birds during August. Locally, woodcock and sharp-tailed grouse are plentiful while travel to the prairies of the Dakotas give dogs opportunities on both sharptails and pheasants from horseback.
On a misty morning in North Dakota, three pretty females find and point pheasants. On left, Frank LaNasa’s Claire (CH True Confidence x CH Lil Miss Sunshine, 2014), Paul Hauge’s Mocha (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014) and Tony Follen’s Lucy (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011).
Training on wild birds takes tremendous effort but there is just no substitute. As friend and training pal Jeff Hintz says, “The difference between planted birds and wild birds is like playing checkers versus chess.”
The woodcock have been plentiful in the pasture edges and Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) accurately locates a single.
Since it is so much work, we accept a limited number of clients’ dogs to train on wild birds. Setters Grits, Royce and Mocha have made every trip to North Dakota. On local sharptails, I’m fine-tuning the abilities of two-year-old pointer littermates Nutmeg, Smooch and Jaguar.
The beautiful fields of North Dakota are vast and can be a challenge for young dogs. But one-year-old Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014), on right, shares point with the veteran Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011) on a covey of sharptails.
For our own veterans, I sharpen up their staunchness and let them have fun in the woods while conditioning, too. And it’s one of the key ways Betsy and I evaluate young dogs for potential future breeding. Prospects from our 2014 litters—Carbon, Bismuth, Mercury, Nickel and Platinum—are gaining invaluable experience on wild birds.
From a long distance out, littermates Nutmeg, on left, and Jaguar (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) point a covey of sharp-tailed grouse.
In this case, Northwoods Aerosmith (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2011) receives only praise–not correction–from his owner Ken Taylor.
Even though Gary Larson retired from The Far Side daily cartoon 20 years ago, I still remember many. With clever drawings and simple prose, he succinctly satirized dogs, cats, cows, bears, doctors, scientists and Neanderthals.
Among my favorites was a two-panel cartoon depicting a man admonishing his dog. The panels had the exact same drawing but different headings and different cartoon bubbles.
What we say to dogs
Okay, Ginger! I’ve had it! You say out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!
What they hear
blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah…
Larson nailed it. Applying strictly human means and psychology when reprimanding a dog doesn’t work. We need to correct in ways that a dog understands.
A well-behaved dog is a partner that’s a pleasure to hunt over and a wonderful family companion. But for safety reasons too it’s essential that a dog responds to corrections. It behooves an owner to master this skill.
• Be consistent.
• Say the command once and then enforce. You are the leader and must make your dog respond.
• Timing is crucial. The dog needs to know why it’s being corrected. The best time to correct your dog is to anticipate when it’s going to do something wrong or when just starting to do something wrong. Don’t administer correction afterwards—rather wait until the next time.
• Administer the correction with the right attitude. Use a calm, confident, assertive manner. Don’t get angry.
• Use only enough correction to stop the behavior. Don’t over react or lose your temper.
• Voice: We use QUIT. It’s an easy, one-syllable word and when combined with a low, guttural tone of voice, it gets a dog’s attention. NO isn’t recommended for a pointing dog because it’s similar to WHOA.
• Tools: When the dog is close, try a tug on a leash, check cord or pinch collar. When the dog is a distance away, we prefer an ecollar. Even a rolled-up newspaper whacked near the dog will get its attention.
• Physical: Sometimes, this becomes necessary. Grab the dog by the scruff of the neck, look it straight in the eyes and sternly say QUIT. Never strike or kick a dog.
Some final thoughts…
Consider your dog’s temperament and understand there are differences in learning capability. Dogs can be bold and fearless or soft and timid or some can have a difficult combination of headstrong yet submissive.
Ultimately, you must make your dog respond—whatever it takes.
It’s unlawful to reproduce Larson’s panel but click here to see Ginger and her owner again.
Judging by the news and photos we’ve received from puppy owners, summertime and puppies belong together. From Colorado to Massachusetts, Oklahoma to Minnesota and Michigan, puppies are out and about with their owners.
We are both having the best time, and he could not be a better puppy!
Northwoods Blue Skye is sight pointing pigeons and has been demonstrating a natural retrieving instinct. She has adapted well to her new family and has shown to be a very intelligent and affectionate pup.
Bandit is…great fun. He is a wonderful addition to our family.
And owners are eagerly anticipating this first fall in the woods and fields with their puppies.
I can’t wait for the fall with her. So far we are set for 6 states and 9 or 10 different upland birds.
NW Smooch (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) nicely executes the essence of a bird dog. She hunts, handles and point birds during a training session in Georgia. Photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet.
The essential duties of a bird dog are simple. Hunters and field trailers might endlessly discuss other traits but, truly, there are only three basic characteristics.
While these three are genetic, refinement through good training is necessary to bring each to the highest level.
A bird dog must hunt, handle and point birds.
The dog should hunt for birds all the time, under all conditions and never quit. It should always seek out the slightest wisp of scent. As Sherry Ray Ebert once said to me, “A dog should be hunting for bird scent every time its feet hit the ground!”
The opposite is a dog that just runs—and it’s easy to tell the difference.
While hunting for birds, the dog should keep track of the handler’s location and direction. This involves good hearing, good eyesight, good sense of direction and a want-to-please attitude.
Some dogs focus too much on their handlers and don’t hunt enough. They might find easy birds in their path but never really dig them up. Others are so intent on searching for birds that they disregard the whereabouts of the handler. At best, these dogs can be hard to find when on point and, at worst, they could get lost.
This is the epitome. When the dog smells body scent of a bird, it should stop, point and stand still until the handler arrives. If the dog points too soon, the bird can be difficult to flush. If the dog points old scent, there is no bird. The bird can flush wild if the dog crowds the bird searching for stronger scent or if the dog doesn’t stop at all.
Veteran Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) makes it look easy.
Much of Minnesota’s woods are thick and hot now during high summer but whenever I have an opportunity to work dogs on wild birds, I say, “Let’s go!”
Northwoods Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) found a woodcock on the edge of a grazed cattle pasture.
Just to the south of our kennel are great woodcock covers. Young and old aspen mix with alders and field edges and there is plenty of damp ground. I’ve worked one or two dogs almost every morning. This summer is especially fun as woodcock are abundant and we’ve even encountered a brood or two of pheasants.
Northwoods Jaguar (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) pointed a woodcock in older aspen with an understory of ferns.
It’s interesting to watch the dogs naturally shorten up in thick vegetation. Our dogs usually range 100 – 150 yards in mid-October but, now in July, they’ve hunted 20 – 40 yards from me.
One-year-old Northwoods Bismuth (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) pointed the first woodcock she smelled and let me flush it!
Jerry and Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009). Photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet.
Many of our clients have met our neighbor, friend and training helper Jeff Hintz. Besides his devotion to pointers and hunting wild birds, Jeff is very active online. He emails and texts to people all over the globe and has 1,145 Twitter followers. He recently sent me this post from an outdoor blog on the Garmin website. While its focus is dog training, clearly the principles apply to life in general.
Here are some highlights.
“Every day, in every way, our attitude greatly affects how each project, idea, communication, or dog training session will turn out. A calm, compassionate, yet gung-ho and positive attitude can achieve amazing results.
“Having a good attitude is very important when we want to communicate. The way we communicate with people or dogs could be the bottom-line reason things generally go well for us . . . or not.
“Using a calm voice and a steady, consistent demeanor will help our dogs…
“…use our happiest voice, even if it sounds like a gushing teen-aged girl, when we’re letting our dogs know how thrilled we are with something they just did or learned.
“…use our mean voice when it is clearly required…
“The person who allows his attitude to get bent out of shape when bad things occur, or when things don’t go his way is going to bring heaping helpings of unhappiness upon himself. And he certainly will not achieve excellent results with his dogs, goals, or the folks around him. It pays all of us to frequently think about our attitude and resolve to keep it at its best.”
Northwoods Grits, age 4
Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis
photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet
Saturday is the Fourth of July holiday when our nation officially celebrates independence from Great Britain. We observe it in many ways—from parades, festivals and barbeques to fabulous displays of fireworks. While Jerry and I love a good show, we believe firmly that puppies and fireworks don’t mix.
We have heard many tragic stories of young dogs that were badly frightened—or worse—by loud fireworks. Puppies have become so scared that they panic, run away and are lost or hit by a vehicle. Others have chewed out of crates, sometimes breaking teeth and scratching until their paws are bloody.
Even if your young dog has been exposed to gunfire, you still need to be careful. Here are two easy precautions.
• Put a crate in a protected, quiet place and put the puppy in it.
• Provide background noise such as a TV or radio.
If your young dog will be exposed to fireworks, consider these actions.
• Go about things normally during the fireworks. Act as though nothing special is going on.
• Don’t comfort the dog or give it any attention. Don’t look at the dog; don’t talk to it; don’t touch it.
• If your dog wants to be close to you, let it; but again, don’t comfort it. Comfort will most likely reinforce the behavior and make things worse.
In fact, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Consider older dogs, too. Let me amend the caution.
Dogs and fireworks don’t mix.
Photo at top by fortbragg.com.
Photo by Chris Mathan
Is there such a thing as too much exercise for a young dog?
Jerry and I think, yes, there is. So does Turid Rugass, Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist.
“It’s a common misconception that energetic dogs need a lot of activities and exercise, but in general the rule is that too much physical training and activities doesn’t use up excess energy, but creates more of it, leading to stress.”
In addition, the more exercise a dog gets, the more it needs. When the excessive activity level begins at a young age, the pattern can carry into adulthood and the result can be a stressed-out, high-strung, wound-up dog.
That stress can manifest itself in a couple ways in dogs. Some can’t maintain a healthy weight despite the proper amount of food. Poor digestion can lead to intermittent bowel problems.
We allow groups of puppies to spend half of each day in the exercise pens. They sleep as much as they play. Both rest and exertion are necessary for good health, mental stability and physical development.
Fenced-in back yards and invisible electric fences are wonderful options for dog owners. It’s easy to simply open the door and let a dog out. But it’s not healthy to allow it to free run all day.
As with most things in life—whether for people or for dogs—balance is essential.
The past couple months, I’ve been using a PE-900 Pro Educator training collar manufactured by E-Collar Technologies, Inc. I bought a one-dog collar but the PE-900 can be expanded to three dogs and features seven stimulation modes, including momentary and continuous, seven vibrations and four tones.
The cool thing is that these options can be programmed and combined in almost any configuration and can be customized for each dog. There are many other innovations—some quite complicated such as Level Lock and Boost.
For basic training in a defined area, the PE-900 is the best ecollar I’ve used.
My favorite capability is the patented “Instant” stimulation mode. It lets me use one hand to dial the intensity up and down while training compliance to known commands. The small increments of low-level stimulation help the dog make the right choice without causing the stress of hard corrections. This “Instant” mode can be applied for up to 45 seconds.
Another feature I like is the small size of the receivers. At only 2.4 ounces, they can be used on a very small or young dog.
For Whoa training, the PE-900 is perfect for use on the flank. The small bungee allows for a snug fit without inhibiting movement. (Houston’s Cappuccino, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
E-Collar Technologies also improved another issue for me. When training compliance to the Whoa command, I use an e-collar on the dog’s flank. The collar must be snug enough to make contact with the skin but not so tight that it restricts movement. The PE-900 has a biothane buckle collar with an elastic bungee incorporated into the strap which allows a good fit with easy expansion and contraction.
The PE-900’s range is only ½ mile and I wonder if that could be further limited in dense woods or hilly terrain. Too, since I haven’t used the collar under actual hunting conditions I can’t vouch for its durability.
E-Collar Technologies is the brainchild of Greg Van Curen, co-founder and former president of Innotek. Another Innotek alum, Kim Westrick, is in charge of sales and customer service.
For more information on the PE-900 and other e-collars made by E-Collar Technologies, visit their website at www.ecollar.com.