Often I meet or read about a fellow breeder that is just flat doing it right. My friend Allen Davis in Wyoming is one of those guys. His bird dogs get to see more wild birds in a single season than most will see in a lifetime. The secret, he takes his bird dogs hunting every chance he gets. The results? He has some amazing bird dogs with intelligence and wild-bird prowess to spare. He hunts his dogs annually on several species across several western states. And when hunting season ends, he competes in a few field trials to see how his dogs stack up. Yep, his bird dogs (Setters and Brittanys) have won their share of ribbons too. Take a look at his dogs at Table Mountain Kennels website. He has some nice hunting photos on his website and sometimes has puppies for sale.
We have been working with this young brittany puppy. He is about seven months old and is starting to hold his points better. Once you get a dog pointing you can introduce the gunfire. We use a blank pistol to simulate gunfire, you can work up to a 12 gauge shotgun as your dog progresses. You can see in the video above that we like to make sure the dog is intent on chasing the bird. Wait until he is a good distance away from the gun and intent on chasing the bird. Then you can fire once or twice. Watch carefully to see if your dog flinches or turns to the noise. You can see Turbo does not even blink. We use a carded pigeon so the bird flies and then eventually drops, simulating a dead bird. You want to have the gunfire before the bird hits so it will be a natural transition when you shoot a real bird for your dog.
After Turbo gets to the downed bird you can see he picks it up and naturally wants to bring it back to us. If you are quick you can head him off and gather him in for some praise. A long lead helps with this so you can grab it if he tries to shy away with his bird. Most young dogs will want to run away so you don’t take their bird. Try not to let this happen. Be sure to pet them and praise them good before you take the bird with your chosen command “Give”or “Release”. If you take the bird right away, they will not enjoy the retrieving as much. I know some trainers that don’t give praise until the bird is released to hand. I don’t get hung up on this with young dogs. They brought the bird back, praise them up big. Simple.
Like automobiles and trucks people seem to almost naturally drift to one make or another. Some are drawn by looks, some by fit and finish while others want power and reliability. Even though I drive a Ford, I am a self proclaimed Chevy/GMC man. But, this is not a post about cars and trucks. This is an exploration of a few of the pointing breeds that I have had personal experience with. Often this is the first choice folks are faced with when entering the wonderful world of bird dogs.
German Shorthaired Pointers seem to be the state bird dog in my home state of Utah. Open the classified ads in the local paper and you will find several litters of pups to choose from anytime of year. In Utah, shorthairs are everywhere and for good reason – they are nice dogs. The GSP was my first bird dog and is a fine example of the versatile hunting dog. They point hard, have good noses and are a very durable dog for hunting quail and chukar in this desert climate. They can be very energetic and are one of the larger pointing breeds. I no longer have a shorthair in my kennel.
The American Brittany was the next dog to become a part of my hunting life. I grew up with a brittany and was anxious to have one again especially since I have a family of my own now. I think the brittany really excels in a family environment and is a great fit for small children. Some don’t care for the thicker coat of fur, but I don’t mind the extra grooming and brushing burs out. Several times when hunting quail my brittany went into thick brambles that my shorthair wouldn’t even try. The thick coat and smaller size can have their advantages. The result, we shot more birds that day. I think their noses are every bit as good and their temperment a cut above.
English Pointers are one of the original bird dogs when the kings had kennels full of fine hunting dogs. I think they are one of the most beautiful bird dogs and I consider them the Aston Martin of bird dogs. I had to try one and see how they were as pets and companions. The female we had was an easy keeper, no barking and really gentle with my kids. Found her to be an excellent bird dog and an intelligent hunting partner. For nice style and brag dog instincts you just can’t beat the english pointer. I sold her to a friend so I could try another breed.
That brings me to the English Setter. In the photo above is the sire “FC/AFC Riley’s Runnin Hideaway MH” to our english setter female Jess. We bought Jess from Ben Garcia at Hideaway Kennels. She has been a surprise at every turn. A few trainers had told me they found setters to be late bloomers and slow learners. Not Jess. She is sharp as a tack and is blowing me away with her big running nature. She points with style and has the people skills of a brittany. So far I am really liking my english setter. But, I remain a brittany guy.
There are several other pointing breeds that are worth a second look. I have a hunting partner that swears by his German Wirehaired Pointers, the ugly dogs. There is another buddy of mine that has a trained yellow lab that hunts upland game like none other. I’ve seen Vizslas, Weimers, Griffons, Frenchies and Braques of all kinds. There is a pointing dog for every personality and hunting style out there. What breed is your breed?
Had a fun training day with our young male brittany “Turbo”. He had plenty of prey drive but I was having a hard time getting him to point the birds. We had plenty of wide open space so I got a strong flying pigeon and carded it. The idea was the bird could flush and fly but not more than 70-100 yards. I planted the bird and then walked Turbo into the scent cone. As I expected he went right in to try to grab the bird.
This was a wary pigeon and a strong flyer and he wanted nothing to do with Turbo and flushed fast and far. Well, Turbo gave chase but did not see where the bird landed due to the heavy cover and brush. After a few minutes he scented the bird and went right in again to grab it. The bird flushed and flew. Turbo gave chase. This happened 5 times in succession. At this point I was having a hard time keeping up. The above picture is how I found him. He finally got the idea that he had to point the bird. The light came on.