The tail of a bird dog

These two dogs--a pointer and a setter--have 14 championships and runner-up championships between them in horseback and cover dog venues.

These two dogs–a pointer and a setter–have 14 championships and runner-up championships between them in horseback and cover dog venues.

Much attention—too much, in my opinion—is focused on the tail of a bird dog. I refer not to what the tail indicates about a dog’s thoughts or emotions but rather how the tail looks when a dog is on point and, in particular, how straight and vertical it is.

“Poker straight,” “I like a straight stick” or “My dog points with a 12 o’clock tail” are familiar phrases used by those fixated on tails. Usually, they are inexperienced or demand little of their dogs. I recently spoke with a successful handler of horseback shooting dogs about a prospect. In our entire conversation, he never once asked how the dog’s tail looked on point.

In my experience, when bird dogs are used to pursue wild birds, whether in the open, the grouse woods or the southern piney woods, birds are rarely plentiful. In addition, the terrain can be rugged and the conditions tough. Most of the dog’s time is spent in the search for game. In these places it’s not the tail that finds birds.

On a dark, damp day in October, the pointer took me and my guiding clients from grouse to grouse to grouse.

On a dark, damp day in October, the pointer lead my guiding clients and me from grouse to grouse to grouse.

Instead, what finds birds is:
1)    intelligence combined with experience that chooses the most likely places;
2)    an efficient gait that allows the search to continue over long periods of time through punishing cover and circumstances;
3)    a superb nose that draws the dog towards the faintest scent of birds and allows it to locate and point accurately.

Finally, at the conclusion of all that work and for a brief time, I see the dog on point. I notice its posture, intensity and focus on bird location. And, oh yeah, I look at the tail. Very often and especially under trying field conditions, the tail isn’t “poker straight” or “12 o’clock.”

And it doesn’t have to be. The tail needs to be good enough so it doesn’t detract from the essential qualities that brought the dog to that place. On the other hand, if the dog has the intelligence, the gait, the nose and a beautiful tail, then that’s like the cherry on an ice cream sundae.

The setter has it all--intelligence, gait, nose and perfect tail......a cherry on a sundae.

The setter has it all–intelligence, gait, nose and perfect tail……like a cherry on a sundae.


    Spotlight:  Northwoods Chalcedony

    Northwoods Chalcedony (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016)

    Callie did a stellar job for her first season on the prairies, under some very tough conditions. All birds were pointed and retrieved to hand. She blew me away. I love this dog and cannot get enough of her.
    ~Tom Massaro, hunting in Montana

    Good stuff about puppies

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    A pointing dog’s first hunting season
    Bird and gun introduction
    Early development of puppies
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    How to pick a puppy
    Patience and puppies
    Picking puppies: the unimportance of picking order
    Puppies and fireworks
    Puppy buying mistakes
    Raising puppies at Northwoods Bird Dogs
    The pointing instinct
    Training puppies on a stakeout chain

    Good stuff from previous posts

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    Finer points on...

    A brace of bird dogs
    Accuracy of location
    Bird finding
    How to flush grouse and woodcock
    Hunting pattern
    Running grouse
    Scenting ability
    Speed and scenting
    To point a bird, first a dog has to find it
    Using grouse dogs on pheasants


    A bump or a knock
    Backing point
    Bird dog basics:  hunt, handle, point birds
    Bumping grouse
    Electronic training collars...a little perspective
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    Patience and puppies
    The pointing instinct
    Transition to wild birds
    Unproductive points
    WHOA and NO


    Dogs, not averages, matter in breeding
    Evaluating litters
    Pointers of Northwoods Bird Dogs
    Proper conformation
    The tail of a bird dog


    Bird dogs and hidden traps
    Feeding bird dogs
    Feeding for ideal body condition
    First aid kit for bird dogs
    Get your dog ready for the season
    Hazards in the grouse woods
    How to maintain a good weight for your dog
    Quick lesson on poisoning and how to induce vomiting
    Tick-borne diseases in dogs


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    Sandy Oaks Art

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