Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Hunting with older dog
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Assess your dog

Ending the season
Even though wild bird season ended in late January, there’s still at least a month and a half of upland hunting remaining at many of the pheasant hunt clubs around the state. Accessing these clubs not only extends your hunting enjoyment beyond the regular season, but they are great places to tighten up any of your dog’s looseness that the regular season may have created.

I don’t think any hunter will argue with the fact that his dog’s discipline level slips during the regular hunting season and the animal begins taking more and more liberties. We train our dogs to perform given tasks in a certain way, but as the season wears on, the excitement of each hunt begins to erode away the discipline and level of performance in many of his trained commands. An added benefit of hunting at one of these clubs is that they plant the birds for you.

Experienced workers will usually plant the birds in a predictable, staggered pattern within the assigned boundaries of your field and knowing the general area of the planted birds is always helpful when working with a young dog or shaping up your already-trained one.

The more times a dog hunts, the more he gravitates towards hunting for himself and outside the zone of the team atmosphere. In most cases it’s very difficult for the owner/hunter to recognize this gradual deterioration of training because his dog continues to work at what he perceives to be an acceptable level of performance. As one client exuberantly explained, “Hell, he’s coming up with the meat!” Believe me, if that’s your attitude, you‘ll pay for that later on down the line!

Also, If you are just breaking out a new flushing or pointing dog, these private clubs offer an excellent opportunity for you to educate a youngster on proper hunting etiquette as well as adding needed hunting experience under controlled conditions. Young dogs don’t necessarily understand that the command “sit” or “whoa” must be obeyed in the field even under hunting conditions, as well as, in the yard where they were taught. Dogs must be taught and made to understand that it’s the command they must obey whenever it’s given, and that it must be obeyed in all situations and circumstances no matter how exciting.     

You and your hunting dog should already have come to an understanding about which one of you is responsible for certain aspects of the hunt. The most important factor for any owner/handler to remember is that he is in charge: he is the one who sets and maintains the standard of performance for the dog. Consistency and repetition is the bread and butter of any hunt team. By doing every command the same way over and over again, you will instill good habits and your dog will then perform to his best level even in the heat of the hunt.

Often, once a dog is trained, owners are reluctant to discipline their animals especially during a hunt. By working with him now, your hunting dog can get back into proper hunting shape before he’s put up for the season. When the 2012 hunting season starts up later this year you will reap the rewards of your timely training.

Have fun training!

Grady Istre can be reached at His dog training column appears in WON every other week.

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