Re: training books

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Posted by Stu West on June 07, 1998 at 11:31:58:

In Reply to: training books posted by Darrin Abby on May 18, 1998 at 18:00:19:

No one has written the definitive PL training manual yet (I'm working on a videotape)
These text are helpful, and I've included a summary of Bill Wests' method written by John Shannon at the end.
Good Luck!
Stu West, Alma Bottom Pointing Labs

"Teaching Labs to Point" by Bill West (no relation), 800-458-6093 or 814-755-3744, $60
"Wing and Shot" by Bob Wehle, 800-272-3246, $90
"Training Gun Dogs" by Delmar Smith, 800-272-3246, $70
"The Complete Pointing Dog" by Harold Adams, 800-767-4868, $50
"Richard Wolters Trains Retrievers" by Richard Wolters, 800-767-4868, $63
"Richard Wolters Gun Dog", with Charles Jurney, 800-767-4868, $40

"Tarrant Trains Gun Dogs: The Humane Way to Get Top Results"
by Bill Tarrant, 800-925-3339, $25

"Wing and Shot" by Bob Wehle, 800-272-3246, $50
"Water Dog" by Richard Wolters, 800-767-4868, $25
"Gun Dog" by Richard Wolters, 800-767-4868, $25

John Shannon on Pointing Training
Before You Begin
∑ Your dog should know how to hunt and find birds. He should be flash pointing the birds he finds. He should not be pointing old scent.

∑ Make sure your schedule will permit 2-3 months of (almost) daily work . (Editors Note: John is a fanaticÖ)

∑ Make sure that you will not need your dog to hunt for you while you are training. Once you begin steadying your dog, you donít want him to contact birds in an uncontrolled setting.
Work dog daily in short sessions.

Try to finish each session with something done correctly.

I divide the work into two tracks: No-Bird and Bird; I work each track separately:

In the No-bird Track, I teach the dog to Stand, to Recall and to obey "Whoa".

In the Bird Track, I teach the dog to Point, Stop-to-Flush and to Honor.

No-Bird Track
1. Spike collar (blunt points)
2. Check cord (20-25 feet long)
3. Treats. I steam pigís liver and cut it into tiny pieces. Hot dogs, cut into tiny pieces, also work. A carpenters apron is convenient for carrying treats in training.
Teaching the Dog to Stand
Here, you teach you dog to stand when the collar is tugged; he stands until released by you tapping his head. This is the first step in teaching "whoa"; itís also used later in the bird-work.

1. Take your dog out in the yard with the spike collar attached to a leash or check cord.
2. With a snap of your wrist, tug and release the collar. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING!
3. Physically place your dog in a standing position if necessary. To start out, you are at your dogs side.
4. When your dog stands still briefly, say "Good" or "good boy", release him and give him a treat.
Discussion: The treat is a primary reinforcer. The "good" is a secondary, or conditioned reinforcer. The dog learns to associate the "good" with getting a treat; soon, "good" will produce the same response from the dog as "good" followed by a treat. "Good" marks the correct behavior, showing the dog what it does to earn the treat.
Walk your dog to another spot an repeat steps 1-4. Do this 3-5 times in a daily session. If you get a "break-through" where your dog gets it perfect, stop for the day. As your dog gets it, ask him to stand longer and move away from him. When you can circle him, the lesson is learned.
When you dog is pretty solid on standing, say "whoa" just before snapping the collar to stop him. After some repetition, youíll see your dog start to respond to "whoa" before the snap. At this point, say "whoa" and donít snap; if response isnít immediate, say "whoa" and snap. The rest is the same as standing.
I use "here"; others use "come"; it does not matter.
1. Take dog into yard on check cord attached to regular collar.
2. When your dog is at end of check cord, say "here" and start winding him in.
3. When he reaches you, say "good", touch his collar and give him a treat.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 several times. After two days of this, your dog should show you that he understands the command.
5. Take dog into yard with check cord attached to spike collar.
6. Call dog. If response is not immediate, tug check cord to start him coming in as you repeat command.
Shaping Behavior with Treats
Once a dog starts responding to a command for a treat you should change from a fixed to a variable reinforcement schedule. Start asking for more to earn a treat. Reward only the best performances. Most bird dog trainers frown on using treats. If you ever train with them and see how quickly a dog learns with them, youíll always use them.
Solidifying the Response
Work you dog in several locations. Take your dog where there are distractions.
Introducing the electric collar
When you dog is fairly solid on the lessons, use the electric collar instead of the spiked collar. For example, on "whoa":
1. Take dog into yard wearing electric collar in addition to check cord attached to spike collar.
2. Say "whoa".
3. If response is not immediate, bump (brief pulse) with electric collar. The collar is used exactly as you used the spike collar in previous lessons. If your dog is confused and does not respond correctly, show the correct response using the spiked collar.
4. When he stands, say "good", release and reward him.
5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
6. Whoa dog. Walk away. Walk around him. If he moves, say nothing, just "bump" with collar. If he doesnít respond by standing, youíve rushed the training and need to backup repeating earlier training steps.
Bird Track

You can use pigeons or farm raised game birds. Iíll discuss each later. In this track, youíll work your dog twice and call it a day.
Step 1
1. Plant two birds in cover. Surveyors tape is convenient for showing you where you planted them. If you have radio controlled bird releasers, use them for this step. Otherwise, dizzy the bird by tucking itís head under itís wing and swinging it in large circles several times; when you place him in cover, he should stay. An alternative is to use flagged pigeons: tie a piece of corrugated cardboard to a pigeonís leg with yarn; release the bird letting it fly into your training area (it should be able to fly 40-100 yards); this approach does not work if there are trees or power lines around.

2. Get dog out. Attach check cord to spiked collar and walk him into field.
3. Not direction of wind. Imagine scent from bird as forming a cone. Bring dog to bird so that he encounters scent cone from side fairly close to bird. You want him to get a solid nose full of scent.
4. Your dog should flash point.
5. Say nothing. Take a solid hold on end of rope and wait. Say nothing.
6. When your dog breaks, make like a post anchoring the rope. Say nothing. Dog should hit end of rope and watch the bird fly.
7. Follow rope to dog. Try and reach him while heís stopped. Let him watch bird fly. Say good and release him as you did in standing exercise. If he bounces around, physically restrain him a moment and release him.
8. Repeat steps 3-8 on second bird. You are done for the day.
As you repeat this step over several sessions, you should see your dog flash points extend in duration. If you are well along in your standing lesson, you are ready for step 2.
Step 2
1. Repeat 1-3 from Step 1.
2. Take a solid hold on end of rope. Also, grab rope 2-3í from dog with slight slack in cord. I want to emphasize, check cord should have slack in it.
3. If dog moves at all, use tug on cord to stop forward movement. Dogís response should be as in standing exercise. Say nothing.
4. Pushing dog toward bird will improve staunchness. This is done with hand on rear under base of tail.
5. Have assistant flush bird for you. Tutor assistant beforehand on correct method. Assistant should enter field following you at a distance. On your hand signal, he should circle widely approaching bird from the side and front. It is important that your assistant never passes dog closely from behind on way to bird. Your assistant should not say anything. He flushes bird promptly and fires blank pistol.
6. If dog really breaks, anchor rope as in step 1.
7. Go to dog. Try and reach him while heís stopped. Let him watch bird fly. Say good and release him as you did in standing exercise.

If your lessons go correctly, youíll see your dog improve steadily to where heís standing wing and shot under these controlled circumstances. There are several variations in your bird planting that you should employ in different training sessions:
∑ Plant two or three birds close together. Have your assistant flush them serially while your dog remains on point. This will keep his intensity up after the birds fly.
∑ Approach a bird upwind so the dog can not smell it. Stop your dog with "whoa" (you need to be well along in your no-bird work first). Have assistant flush bird. Youíll see your dogís style on whoa improve considerably.
∑ Have second dog, who is as far or further in training point bird. Bring your dog up and when he sees other dog pointing, stop him with check cord tug. Donít say anything. If you need to physically restrain your dog, your starting exercise too early. After bird is flushed and first dog is released, say good and release your dog. This is how you teach your dog to back. Some dogs will take immediately to backing; some dogs hat backing.

Step 3
If your dog is doing step 2 well, and youíve completed the no-bird track, you are ready to use the electric collar on birds. If not, just keep repeating step 2.
1. Bring dog on bird as in step 2.
2. Use bump from electric collar instead of tug on cord to stop any movement. If youíve properly prepared, your dog will respond by stopping. If your dog does not respond correctly, use check cord to control situation; do more preparatory work.
3. Have assistant flush bird.
4. If dog moves before released, stop movement with electric bump. If dog does not stop or acts confused, you are not ready for electricity - back up in your training.
As a variation, have your assistant occasionally shoot a bird. Encourage dog to retrieve after you release him. If he does not want to retrieve, donít worry about it. Right now, the retrieve is a reward; later, and separately, you can force break him to retrieve. You donít need to shoot very many birds for your dog in training. Repeat the variation listed under step 2 using electric collar instead of spike collar correction.
Step 4
Up to now, your dog has work spike collar in addition to electric collar. If his response is solid and you are sure he responds correctly to your collar correction, you can repeat the exercise without the rope and spike collar. Let him run and hunt up the birds.
If youíve done everything here, your dog is fundamentally broke. He is not finished. You need to take your dog back into the field on wild birds, reinforcing correct behavior with the electric collar.
There is a simple training aid you can make. Purchase 4 rubber bungee straps and a bolt snap. The bungee straps have S-hooks on each end inserted in a thickened rubber section. Cut the thickened section of one end of each strap. Use the remaining S-hook to attach each bungee to the eye on the bolt snap. Close the S with pliers so the bungee will not come off bolt snap. Youíve made a rage limiter. Work your dog with range limiter and heíll stay closer to you. It will make it easier for you to make sure you can control the outcomes when he encounters birds in his early field work. Itís also handy in step 4 above as it makes a convenient lead for handling your dog after heís finished with a bird.

1. Whatever you use, the birds you use should be strong fliers.

2. Whatever you use, the birds you use should be strong fliers.

3. Whatever you use, the birds you use should be strong fliers.
Quail and Chukar
Quail and chuckar can be used with a call-back pen. This is my favorite approach. A call-back pen is a bird pen with hardware cloth funnels at ground level that let the birds enter, but not leave, the pen. You can purchase the, but, I donít recommend it. The commercial one are too little; they donít permit the use of standard poultry food and watering equipment. They best are built as mini flight pens. Mine is 8í wide, 16í long and 8í high. I can walk into it for feeding and catching birds. You should allow 1 square foot per bird as a minimum.

You can either catch and plant birds, or simply release some birds from the pen. Once trained, theyíll return to your pen each time.
Dogs will point pigeons the same as game birds. There are several ways to work them. All require a pigeon coop or temporary storage. Find someone near you who races or traps pigeons and follow their advice on building the coop.

Racing pigeons: It takes awhile to set up with these, but, theyíll return to you every time. You can train up to around 60 miles from home and theyíll be there before you. You can also keep the flight worthy by releasing them when you are not training. Get young birds from someone who breeds racing pigeons. Have them advise you on the process for flying them. Youíll need them at least 2 month before you intend to train.

Feral pigeons: You can use these just like racer, except the range is shorter, 5-10 miles. You can also just get fresh ones and train with them. Use these with the tethered bird approach I described earlier. I use quail for most work and feral pigeons when I want to shoot a bird for my dog.

The manual EZ bird releasers are convenient and cheap, but not necessary. Use them instead of dizzying the bird. They ensure a good flush when you want the flush to occur. There are also radio controlled versions; these are useful if you train without an assistant.

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