For hundreds of years, certain dog breeds have been preferred by hunters and sportsmen. Most of these breeds originate from Europe, particularly France and Great Britain, where fox and bird hunting were all the rage in the 19th century. Today, some of these dog breeds rarely see the sport of hunting or searching fields for birds and other game, but we can still see the work of their ancestors hidden in their builds and personalities. In Dachshunds, we see their long bodies, which were once ideal for burrowing into the homes of foxes and badgers, and in poodles, we see the intelligence and agility that made them the first choice for many hunters as obedient retrievers.
While hunting with dogs is still popular today, many of these breeds have become house pets. Fortunately, all breeds hold one thing in common: They’re eager to please and trainable at any age. No matter the breed’s disposition to be a hunting companion or their age, chances are you may already own a perfectly able pointing dog.
In the heat of a hunt, dogs are excellent counterparts to their two-legged owners. This is mainly due to their speed and their infamous sensitive nose. Even if your dog isn’t young or trained as a hunting dog, chances are their nose works just as well as any other younger pup.
Pointing is the action of a dog silently alerting its owner to the presence of game. This may not always look at elegant or picturesque as depicted in classical paintings – you know the ones, where the men atop their horses are surrounded by red-hued dogs, their noses in the air, their tail straight as an edge and somewhere in the near distance, a fox huddles underbrush, momentarily in safety. Pointing may look as simple as the dog becoming very still, pointed nose or tail not necessary.
Since dogs inherently love running and chasing other animals, pointing requires a great deal of discipline and obedience from your pet. Therefore, training an older dog with little to no background in hunting expertise may require a lot of time and diligence on your behalf.
It’s easy to become discouraged during the training process, especially when most hunting literature states that training dogs while young always makes for the best hunting counterpart. This is not empirically true, however, and you may find a considerable amount of patience in an older dog that typically isn’t present in an excitable puppy.
Before you and your four-legged companion begin your journey together, there are a few items you may need, if not already owned. Basic, necessary items include:
Because an inherent quality needed for pointing is restraint, a lot of what you’ll be teaching your older dog is to wait and listen to your commands. A dog that doesn’t point to game is likely to simply scare it and other nearby prey away. When teaching pointing, it’s important to keep the concept of control in mind. With these ideas in mind, the next step before beginning training is to familiarize yourself with the different methods involved.
Rudy has never hunted but has pointed dove in the backyard since he was a pup. He retrieves with treats as a reward but ALWAYS wants to play "Keep away" without. I can't imagine a worse habit since I want to take him chukar partridge hunting now that I am retired. How can I discourage this keep away behavior?
Hello Daniel, Practice retrieves on a forty-to fifty foot leash so that you can reel him in all the way if he disobeys. Use a drag leash for this (which is a lead that slides easily through the grass and doesn't have a handle). You can let him go a bit further than the end of the lead when he is doing well, but keep the lead on him so that you can step on it, pick it up, and reel him all the way in if he disobeys. Practice this with bumpers first, then use real dead chukard or pidgeons to practice. Practice this until he no longer tries the keep away game. Once he is at that point, you can transition to a shorter drag leash to give you something to step on if he tries to dart away but make him feel like he is off leash, before transitioning to no leash at all. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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