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Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Friday, June 17, 2011
Dog Training
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Marking during force fetch

Live birds and young dogs
I personally enjoy having a puppy on my dog truck. It’s fun to watch them discover life’s mysteries as each day goes by. Because everything is new to them, it gives a trainer like me a wonderful opportunity to see to it that they learn things the way I think they should be learned. But, before formal education begins, I want to bring out their natural hunting instincts. It may take repeated tosses of the bird to pique their interest and a playful manner is important. This is the time you find out whether or not your pup got all the genes from his ancestors that he should have.


Just throw a dead pigeon out there and let your pup have fun with it for awhile. Most pups at this age don’t have any fear of anything, so picking up birds quickly becomes second nature to him. However, if your pup is interested but reluctant to pick up the bird, give him all the time he needs to investigate and become comfortable with birds, even if it takes a couple of weeks.


I do not introduce live birds until the pup is very secure with retrieving dead ones. 


I feel that properly introducing a puppy to birds is one of the most significant undertakings in the training of a hunting dog. Because if not done properly, a dog will never reach his potential and may not even be worth taking to the field. So, it’s essential that at some point early on your puppy should become CRAZY FOR BIRDS. That desire to get the bird is the motivation behind all hunting dog’s actions.


Here’s the point: getting birds is the reason dogs put up with all the discipline you’ll need to apply to reach your goals and have an adequate hunting dog.


Introducing a young dog to live birds is especially important, because picking up a dead bird does not necessarily mean your pup will pick up a live one.


I like to introduce my pups to live birds by first holding the bird’s wings between my fingers where I can control the flapping. Then, I begin teasing the young pup with the pigeon playing a game of keep away. As the pup becomes more and more comfortable with the live bird, I slowly release some of the pressure on the wings allowing them to flap a little.


If the youngster is not intimidated by the flapping wings, I put the bird on the ground holding it by only one wing hoping the pup will continue to aggressively pursue his prey. When I feel the pup has no fear of the bird, I pull the flight feathers out of one wing and throw the bird on the ground for the dog to chase.


There you have it fellow trainers, the method I use to introduce my young dogs to live birds. Anything along those lines will work quite well, if you just use a little common sense and remember to keep pressure out of this process.


It’s up to you to evaluate all your dog’s natural instincts and not rely on his genetic makeup. You want to avoid having him refuse a bird someday just because you neglected working with him at a critical time of his puppyhood.


Have fun training!


Grady Istre can be reached at



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