How to Train Your Brittany Dog to Bird Hunt

Medium
2-4 Months
Work

Introduction

Brittany bird dogs are the all-rounders of the sport dog set. They originated as a poacher's dog; they looked like an innocuous pet, but could assist their masters in locating birds, setting or pointing to them to show their owners the location of quarry, flushing and even retrieving downed game. While many sport dogs are bred and trained to excel at one aspect of hunting, Brittanys are so versatile they are capable of learning and performing multiple tasks related to bird hunting. They are also versatile as both pets and sport dogs, known for being hard working, intelligent, independent, trainable, willing and friendly to people. 

Training a Brittany to hunt birds can involve focusing on one behavior or task you want your dog to assist you with while bird hunting, but the versatility of the Brittany lends itself to performing many bird hunting tasks. Most Brittany dog people enjoy their multitasking hunting dogs and train them to perform several useful bird hunting behaviors.

Defining Tasks

Many sport dogs are bred and trained to excel at one specific task, either tracking game, locating it and then freezing (setting) or pointing to the quarry, flushing game for a shot to be taken or bringing back downed game to their masters, Brittanys can do it all!  They are great at plowing through dense underbrush to scent and locate game, have great instincts for the hunt, and are trainable so they can be taught a variety of commands and tasks that are useful in bird hunting. Hunters that use Brittanys work with their dogs to get them familiar with and motivated to hunt birds, which is not difficult for these naturally prey driven hunting dogs, but the Brittanys also need to learn when to stop after locating a bird, so as not to flush it too early, before hunters are in place to harvest prey. Brittanys are also taught a release command to rush in and startle birds to take flight or rush into the open so hunters can take a clear shot, and sometimes Brittanys are even taught to go pick up harvested game in their mouths and return them to their owners. All these tasks require that your Brittney work closely with you, stay focused on his handler, and take direction in the form of verbal commands or hand signals.

Getting Started

Because Brittanys are such all-rounders, they are often trained together with older dogs that help to school younger ones, so having access to experienced Brittany hunting dogs is an asset. The use of an enclosed wooded area or a tracking collar to ensure that a young inexperienced dog doesn't become lost during training is recommended if working off leash.  Many hunters keep game birds on hand for training purposes to familiarize their dogs with the sights and sounds of birds, scents, and hunting. Before initiating training for hunting birds with your Brittany, you should ensure your dog has a good handle on obedience commands and especially good off-leash recall.

The Learn as You Go Method

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Step
1
Expose to the outdoors
Take your Brittany out in wooded areas and fields frequently and get him used to covering wild terrain and investigating quarry. Encourage scenting, allow your dog to look for prey.
Step
2
Practice off-leash
Ensure that your dog has good off-leash recall and practice off-leash. Practice calling your dog back to you and encouraging him to investigate and hunt near you.
Step
3
Introudce commands
Teach your dog a command for 'freeze' and one for 'flush'. Pair a verbal command with a hand signal so both can be used depending on the situation. When your dog locates prey of any kind, including birds, practice the command for set (freeze) and then release (flush).
Step
4
Hunt with others
Take your dog out hunting with other experienced Brittanys or other sport dogs. Keep your inexperienced dog on a leash at first, and let him observe the other dogs at work. Gradually start letting him hunt off-leash with other experienced dogs.
Step
5
Start solo hunting
Once your Brittany has experience in the wilderness and hunting with experienced dogs, take him on solo trips and practice commands and behaviors learned for hunting birds.
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The Use Tame Birds Method

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Introduce tame bird
Use a pen-raised bird, like a quail or chicken, and show your Brittany the bird in a cage. Get your dog excited about investigating the bird.
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Release in contained area
Release the tame bird in a contained wooded area. Many sport dog and hunting clubs have facilities for training bird dogs that are fenced and provide cover for birds being used as quarry during training.
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3
Hunt on long lead
Allow your dog to scan and track the bird on a long leash to prevent harm to the bird from a young overexcited dog rushing the bird. Try to keep the line loose and encourage your Brittany to stay close to you. Recall your dog frequently.
Step
4
Practice locate
When your dog finds the bird, command your dog to 'set' or 'freeze', if your dog stops, reward him, say “good” dog and provide a treat. If your dog rushes the bird, restrain with long lead and correct your dog. Some handlers reward the dog with continued hunting and reprimand with an end to the excursion if their Brittany does not perform the hunting behavior required.
Step
5
Establish hunting behaviors.
Once your Brittany is responding well on a long lead, remove the lead and practice off-leash. Repeat over several weeks until your Brittany is performing hunting behaviors and responding to commands off-lead or in a contained area with tame birds. Once responses are established, you can initiate live bird hunting in the open.
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The Use a Check Rope Method

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Set up check rope
Attach a check rope, available at an outdoor sport store or gun dog supply store, to your Brittany's collar. This rope is rigged around your hunting dog so that when you pull on the tail end the loop will tighten on your dog's flank.
Step
2
Practice stopping
Practice walking with your Brittany. Say “whoa” and step on the end of the check rope to make your dog stop. Soon your Brittany should stop when he hears the word “whoa”.
Step
3
Practice with birds
Take your Brittany to a wooded area with lots of game birds present. When your dog sees quarry, say “whoa” and step on or pick up the tail of the rope to make your dog stop. Make your Brittany stand for a period of time. Start with short periods of time, several seconds, and work up to longer time periods.
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4
Intoudce flushing behaviors
Practice asking your Brittany to remain in place while someone else flushes the bird or allow your Brittany to flush the bird by releasing him with a verbal command and releasing the check rope.
Step
5
Practice off-rope
Once your Brittany is responding to commands to set and flush, remove the check rope and start hunting off lead.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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