These breeds of dogs even in puppy hood shortly after weaning, are interested intensely in moving objects, even rustling leaves, and most of all, a bird, a chicken or a pigeon which chances to be near. The pointing instinct shows itself promptly and acutely.
A bird dog in the field should range, that is, run to and fro over a certain area where game birds likely would be in hiding. This ground must be quartered, no part of it left not hunted. The dog should do this eagerly and at no time should be outside the call of control of the hunter.
When a bird is located by scent, the dog, without barking, should freeze into a point. This point consists of making the body rigid, tail extended, front foot lifted and the dog’s neck stretched somewhat forward. The dog scarcely moves and keeps this point until the hunter comes forward, flushes the game and fires at it.
Upon command the dog may fetch or retrieve the fallen bird, dead or wounded, and carrying it with a soft mouth, drop it upon command to the hunter, altho many dogs do not retrieve.
To teach a puppy to range, take him out preferably with an older dog and on ground where the scent is strong and where there is known to be plenty of game. Take him into the breeze, that is, into the face of the wind. This gives a sharper scent and tends to cause the dog to keep head up. If the trainer rides horseback, the dog is inclined to range wider for he can see the trainer at a longer distance.
The training grounds should not have too much cover, too many trees, brush and coverts; the open prairies urge the dog to move far and wide.
Use the whistle-two blasts, for instance, as the signal for the dog to go on rather than stay where he is or come back toward you the trainer. Ride toward the dog, push him out further, meanwhile tooting twice repeatedly with the whistle.
One should not be anxious to start a bird dog too soon on his training in the actual field for dogs taught after the age of 15 months usually keep in action till a ripe old age and are steadier than youngsters broken in early.
It is well to permit a young dog to work with an older trained dog in the field so that he will understand the whole situation. But this association with an older dog is only a small part of the training.
Dogs should be steady to shot and if you will only shoot at birds which the dog points, you will not have much trouble keeping him steady to wind and shot. Hold him on his position just an instant before you let him go out to retrieve the game.
If the dog is inclined to flush his bird (game) or creep toward it after he has scented it, put him on a check cord after he is fairly trained. Pull him roughly.
If a dog overruns his point, that is, instead of stopping within perhaps ten feet of where the game bird is found, keeps on running toward it before the scent is detected by him, a poor nose may be indicated, but usually if the dog is exercised considerably and tired down somewhat before taking into the field, and if be is taken in only when scent is good, the habit often is corrected.
If a dog flushes the birds, drives them into air, this should not be punished too bitterly as otherwise the dog becomes too cautious. Punishment makes him point later even when birds are not present. The bold dog rather than the timid dog makes the better bird dog.
To teach the dog to point staunchly, obtain a pheasant. either cock or hen, take with you a fifty foot check cord, a choke collar, and a helper. The helper carries the pheasant in bag (the dog should not see or smell pheasant at any time) to a covered spot in the high weeds and ties the bird with a six-foot cord to a small stake.
With the fifty-foot cord attached to the dog’s choke collar, let the dog work toward the pheasant, the wind being birdward, from pheasant to dog. The helper, as the dog gets first scent of pheasant, pulls up stake and the pheasant flushes and flies, but only a short distance, with cord and stake. Check the dog vigorously each time the bird flushes up, in order to train him to stand rigid on the spot until command to fetch is given.