Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

Click here for Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

Thursday, June 15, 2017
The dirt clod drill
Friday, October 20, 2017
Getting ready for waterfowl

Work on your dog’s faults
The dove opener is always a great predictor of your dog’s preparedness for the upcoming bird season. I am a believer that actual hunting conditions will reveal the truth about how good a training job you did during the off season, and will tell you which of your dog’s faults you need to shape up to forge a productive team for the approaching hunting season.

If you’re breaking out a new dog, and this was his first hunt, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly. New circumstances and conditions such as the excitement of the first hunt, can be overwhelming for a young dog, so you need to exercise some patience.

This young pup is going to be your hunting partner for many years to come, so it’s worth putting in a little extra time doing what’s right to make him comfortable as well as educating him in his first field experience in a positive way.

This inexperienced dog knows nothing about birds coming in from all directions. So, it’s a good idea to team up with a hunting buddy and let him shoot as many birds as you think it takes to give your pup the general idea as to what’s going on before you move out on your own with your dog.

I teach all of my clients to give the “sit” command before raising a gun to shoot an incoming bird. This accomplishes two things for you and your dog, it will reinforce his steadiness, and, it will alert your dog to the fact that every time you say “sit,” a bird appears.

He will also start to notice that every time you raise your gun, he can follow its direction. In time, you will teach him to begin following the gun every time you raise it. It shouldn’t take long for him to begin identifying the dove before you do. You’ll be amazed at how quickly young dogs pick this stuff up. One caution: a wet dove is quite tasty too a dog so it’s not a good idea to shoot birds over water in the beginning.

If you’re working a dog that has one or more years of experience under his belt, your goal is to correct his faults, not necessarily to educate him. Seasoned dogs already know what they’re supposed to do to benefit the team of hunter and dog, so making them live up to their training level should now be your goal.

Many times, a simple correction while hunting will do the trick, but if not, finish your hunt and go back to the training field where you have controlled conditions to remedy the problem.

One of the best indicators to determine how well your dog is living up to his training level is his steadiness. How steady was he during the excitement of the hunt? Did he stay put until you sent him to make the retrieve? If not, there’s your starting point. In many cases by simply correcting one thing such as the steadiness, you will quickly regain his obedience and return to the level he has been trained. Remember, it’s not that they don’t know what to do, they just prefer to do it their way — which is not always good the team.

In my opinion, too many hunters accept far too low a standard of performance from their dogs in the field. Hunting with your dog should be fun, and hunting with an untrained or out of control dog is never fun, in fact, it’s work, and I haven’t met the hunter yet who’s looking for work in the field. So, be kind to yourself and your dog fellow hunters, and get your dog shaped-up before going afield.

Good Hunting!

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Grady Istre’s column appears every other week in W0N and he can be reached at

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