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Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
The small things
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Using indirect pressure


Preparing advanced dogs for the hunting season
While we still have a few months before dove season opens, it’s a good idea to start preparing your dog for the long hunting season ahead. A hunting dog’s discipline level can slip during the off-season, especially if he’s acting as a pet and not focused on his duties as your hunting companion. Instead of working on already-learned drills to improve a dog’s discipline level, I think it’s more effective to teach your dog something new that can be useful in the field. I’m a big believer in drill work when teaching any dog a new skill, command or technique and, I teach everything in the yard before taking it to the field.

There are quite a few drills that will add to any advanced dog’s repertoire, but here’s one you may not know. It’s actually an anti-“switching” drill, used for competition dogs, but adapted for hunters.


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THE ANTI-SWITCHING drill in action.

First, let me give you a hunting scenario where this drill will come in handy. Have you ever had your dog bringing in a shot bird when all of a sudden another bird flies by, you shoot it, and your dog drops the bird in his mouth and “switches” to go for the fresh shot bird? I’ve had clients ask me, what’s so bad about that? Well, just suppose the bird in the dog’s mouth is still alive. You might get lucky and find that elusive winged bird later, but the odds are not in your favor. And, think of the time you can waste looking for that dropped bird that is now running away.


Your goal in teaching the anti-switching drill is twofold. First, you want to teach your dog that he must hold onto the bird that he has in his mouth. Second, you want to advance his obedience in the field. How you are going to teach this new skill will depend on your dog’s existing discipline level. If you feel you have great control, you can do it in the open. If not, you’re going to need a fence with a gate.


Here’s the easiest way to teach this drill. Stand in the open gate area with two bumpers in your hand. Throw one bumper on one side of the fence and send your dog. As your dog is returning with that bumper, throw another bumper on the other side of the fence. If your dog spits out the first bumper, you can stop him when he tries to go through the gate where you’re standing. Now, make him go back, pick up the bumper he dropped, and deliver it to hand. Then send him for the second bumper in a normal manner. It may take persistence to teach this drill but patience and repetition help.


After the dog has learned the drill, it’s time to up the ante by using birds. Again, throw a bumper on one side of the fence and as the dog is returning, throw a wing-clipped pigeon on the other side of the fence. Keep repeating until he does it correctly. Finally, you can use a bumper on one side and shoot a flyer on the other as the dog is returning. If your dog has a big problem with this drill, you may have to use the E-collar to correct misbehavior. Of course, the ultimate goal is to do this drill without the fence.


Once the dog has mastered the drill using a fence, you can test your success by eliminating the fence as a barrier. Moving to the field, throw a bumper for your dog to retrieve and when he is halfway in, throw your other bumper 90 degrees to the left or right. If your dog knows how to take hand signals, and he spits the bumper out, simply hit the “sit” whistle, and make him pick up the bumper he dropped before sending him to retrieve the other one. Once you have enough successful repetitions under your belt, you can make the drill more exciting again by adding a bird. The idea is to continue adding higher levels of distraction until your dog submits and performs the drill flawlessly, time after time.


As is with any drill, you must be sure that your dog understands completely what you are asking of him before adding any stress or unnecessary correction.


Have fun training!


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Grady’s columns generally appear in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com.


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