How to Train Your Dog to Hold Point

Hard
4-8 Weeks
Work

Introduction

You’re out with your canine hunting companion, your gun is slung over your shoulder and you’ve got a good feeling today is going to be a successful hunt. After a while of slowly making your way through the forest, he becomes motionless after picking up a scent. However, he stands still just for a moment before he charges after whatever it is that his nose has picked up. It’s fantastic he’s picked up a scent, but not so great that he didn’t remain still for long enough to point you in its direction. He’s obviously got the nose for it, but he always lacks the patience and discipline to hold point when you’re out on a hunt. His adrenaline always kicks in and he’s off like a shot.

If you could train him to hold point you’d be able to pin point where your prey is. You’d be much more likely to return home with game over your shoulder instead of disappointment.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to hold point will not be easy. It requires rigorous obedience training and significant patience. You need to motivate him to want to hunt prey, but instill in him the patience to remain motionless when he finally locks onto something. If he’s young, you have the best chance of success. He should be receptive and you may be able to train him in just a few weeks. If he’s older with years of running wild on hunting trips, then training may take a couple of months before you see consistent results.

Succeed with this training regime though, and you’ll have a formidable hunting partner. He’ll be able to accurately detect your prey and point you in its direction. You’ll also find teaching him any number of other commands will be easier too.

Getting Started

Before you hit the ground running you’ll need to collect a few bits. You’ll need lots of his favorite food or treats to keep him motivated and on task. You’ll also need to commit 20 minutes every other day to training.

A large amount of space will also be needed to train in. Woods or fields should do the job. Bird decoys, scent spray, and a launcher will also help the process along. Apart from that you just need to bring a good degree of patience and an optimistic attitude, then you’re ready to get to work!

The Start Right Method

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Step
1
Choose the right breed
If you want the best chances of success you need to opt for a dog with the right manner and characteristics. Brits, Pointers, Setters, and Retrievers are all thought to be wise options. Opt for one of these and training will likely take far less time than it will with other breeds.
Step
2
Start young
You need to start training very early on. You need him to be disciplined and well-behaved when he’s just a puppy. That means teaching him a number of commands, such as ‘sit’, ‘wait’, ‘down’ and any others that will come in handy. All will help prepare him for holding point later on.
Step
3
Familiarize him with his prey
If you want him to hold point, he needs to know the birds or game you want him identify. That means get hold of some bird decoys and spray and play around with them in the yard. This will all give him a head start when he heads out to track them down for real.
Step
4
Get him used to hunting
He needs to be comfortable with the sound of gun shots and the hunting format. That means shoot with him around so he’s confident when you head out for real. That also means get him used to quietly and slowly making your way through fields and woods.
Step
5
Avoid certain pitfalls
In his early days don’t let him do anything you don’t want him doing when you go out hunting in three years time. That means don’t encourage him to play tug of war with his bird decoys. You want him to hold point down the line, not tear your pheasant to pieces.
Recommend training method?

The Bait & Long String Method

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Step
1
Setting up
Tie a pheasant wing or a part of another prey to a 15 inch length of string. Then stand up on a large table outside and have some treats in your pocket. Make sure your canine companion is with you, but keep the bait out of his reach.
Step
2
‘Hold’
Issue a ‘hold’ command in a clear voice. You can use any word you like, but it’s best to keep it relatively short and easy to understand. Make sure you give the command in a tone that shows you mean business. At this point, he’ll be stood patiently thinking he’s going to get some of that wing. He will naturally be holding point in anticipation.
Step
3
Treat him
Wait a few seconds and then throw him a treat and give him some verbal praise from on top of the table. He doesn’t realize it yet, but this is the behavior you want from him. You just need to cut out the pitfall most dogs make, which is not staying still, but chasing after the prey once they’ve pointed.
Step
4
Swing the wing
Throw it so it ends up on the far side of the table, where he’d have to run to get to it. Then when he does run to try and get it, swiftly pull it back up before he gets to it. Practice this technique again and again. What you are teaching him is that he can never catch the wing, so eventually he will give up trying. Reinforce the initial holding behavior with a treat each time and this will end up being the behavior he sticks with, because he knows it will yield tasty rewards. Practice this for several weeks.
Step
5
The real deal
Only when he’s given up charging for the swinging pheasant wing should you put the training to the test. By this point he understands that ‘hold’ means stand still until he gets a treat. Take him out with you and keep a close eye on him. When you see him catch a scent and point, issue the ‘hold’ command. Be sure to reward him every time he holds point correctly with a tasty treat. Keep this up and be consistent with the rewards and he’ll keep holding point for you.
Recommend training method?

The Launcher Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Get him familiar with a launcher
Use the remote controlled launcher for a few days with him in the vicinity, this will prevent him being shy or scared of it when you use it for practice. Try and stay close to him too, this will put him even more at ease.
Step
2
Ensure your dog is down wind
Set up the launcher with a scented decoy about 75-100 meters away. Then walk your dog slowly towards it. If he’s the right breed for it, he will quickly pick up the scent. When he does pick up the scent he will automatically point. Now you need to get him to hold it.
Step
3
‘Hold’
In a firm voice issue a ‘hold’ instruction. If you have him on a short leash you can physically hold him in that position. As soon as you give the instruction and he holds for just a second, give him a treat and lots of praise. Keep praising him for as long as he stands there.
Step
4
Release
Once he starts running, hit the release button but ensure a friend is close by and gets the bird. The key to this is making sure the dog never catches the bird. Once he realizes he won’t ever catch it, he’ll give up trying to chase it and will remain still, for he knows as long as he’s stood still he gets rewards.
Step
5
Practice frequently
You may need to practice this for several weeks and even a couple of months before you’re ready to head out for real. Keep practicing until he stops trying to chase your decoy and until you can instruct him to ‘hold’ for at least a minute. At this point he will have proven he has the patience and discipline to hold point on a real hunt.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Madchen
German Wirehaired Pointer
18 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Madchen
German Wirehaired Pointer
18 Months

I am training my dog for search and rescue. The issue is she finds the hidden training victim quickly, comes back to me to let me know she has found the hidden victim, but then will not go directly back to the victim but rather just remain within 5 yards wandering around, Any idea how I can get her to go directly back to the victim? I have heard of the issue about being “standoffish” but she loves everybody she meets……except in the search scenario. And in may cases she knows and hs found the victim before. Once I reach the victim, she will come in and want to be rewarded. Generally with praise and petting.
We have tried rewarding her with food, balls and soft towel tugs. None have been satisfying to her.
Any suggestions?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
879 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jerry, Have you tried having the "victim" reward her during training sessions? If not, I would associate the reward with the person she is finding, and have them reward periodically again the longer she stays with them. First, do the training as you currently are, where pup finds the person, comes back to you and is rewarded by you, then add on a find cue for her to return to the victim (use a really long training leash to have the victim reel her back into them if needed). Once she gets back to them after you have given her a return cue, then have the victim reward her. Every few seconds that she stays in place, have them reward again. Gradually space out those rewards until she is only getting a reward for staying in place 5-10 minutes until you get there, at which point you can reward again. Practice this with someone who can help with the training and act as the victim. Practice often until pup is reliably, since pup will obviously not be rewarded by the true victim later. Once pup is reliable during practice, you can phase out the victim rewarding - by then the return cue and eagerness to return to the victim, should be in place, and you can just reward once when you arrive at the victim and pup is waiting there for you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

I need to add that we have changed her reward from food, to ball, towel chase and tug to just playing with her. With each she responded initially, then changed to not responding. We changed and went through the same short term response with each.

I have been doing this or 25 years. This is my third dog and have never had this problem before. All the things you suggested are normal training procedures that I use and train other handlers with these early on techniques. The dog was doing great and then suddenly changed. She found the training victim, returned to me and led me to the victim and stayed with the victim until I got there. She was rewarded for her work. Now she finds the victim, returns the runs by the victim and goes off and begins to play. Unless there is another victim and if I tell her to find more she takes off and finds the next victim and repeats the same behavior. How do I get her to stay with the victim until I get there.

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