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You own a Brittany, a wonderful, loyal, family-oriented spaniel dog, but you recognize that this breed needs to exercise and have a job or purpose outside of snuggling with you on the couch. If you want to track, trail, or hunt with your Brittany, you’d probably like it if your dog learned to scent or sight point while doing so. With some patience and proper training, any Brittany can learn to point.
This particular breed was designed to point at game as opposed to flushing it out of cover, one reason why the “spaniel” part of the breed’s name was eventually dropped. Bred from a combination of various pointers and setters, the Brittany has a natural inclination to point, which can make the process of training your dog to accomplish this skill somewhat easier than with another breed.
Much of the process of training your Brittany to point will come from her instincts, with your proper and positive encouragement. Patience and a gentle voice are a must when working with this breed; the Brittany is a very sensitive dog by nature and does not respond well to loud, raised, or angry voices. The Brittany is a highly intelligent breed. Therefore any training for this dog needs to be firm and consistent but delivered with positivity. You will earn your Brittany’s trust by following this method, thereby gaining her undying loyalty.
Training the Brittany to point should be part of a larger job or form of exercise for the dog. This other job can be anything from hunting to trail walking to games like flyball. The Brittany needs daily exercise, stimulation, and enrichment to be a happy, healthy dog. Approach these training processes with patience, care, and respect for your dog, and that Brittany will be pointing in no time at all.
First, you want to be able to recognize a Brittany point when it happens. Your dog will go still, will shift her nose in the direction of the sight or smell she has noticed, will raise one front foot bent upwards, and her tail will be still and pointed up.
Have some treats, a sturdy lead or harness, and a whistle on hand. Bring your dog's favorite toy, or if training your Brittany to hunt, bring a bird launcher and dummy. Be sure to dress in bright colors, especially if you are training a point in a wooded area where hunting may occur.
Most of all, be patient with your Brittany. Your dog has a strong desire to please you, but also has instincts inherent to her breed, such as an active prey drive. Work with your Brittany, not against her, and you will soon be enjoying the beautiful sight of a Brittany dog on point!
The Chaining Method
Use a whistle
Over the first week of training, use a whistle to teach your dog to stop when she hears its sound.
Test the whistle stop
Step back about 20 yards from your Brittany and give him the whistle command to stop at about 10 yards from you. Make sure that your Brittany can follow this command before proceeding to Step 3.
Incorporate the target
Using your dog's toy or a bird launcher with dummy, throw or launch the item into the air. Then give the whistle command so that your dog stops.
Repeat the launch process until your Brittany stops when she sees the toy or dummy thrown in the air.
Enjoy the point
With practice, you will begin to see your Brittany go on point when she sees the toy thrown in the air and land on the ground.
The Run and Chase Method
Choose a place that will have either birds or small animals for your dog to chase.
Let your Brittany run
It may seem counterproductive at first, but if your Brittany isn't naturally pointing, she probably needs to get acquainted or reacquainted with the scent and sight of birds. So let her run around and flush out and chase some game.
Protect the birds
Make sure that when you let your Brittany run after birds that she does not catch them. Using a check-cord can be helpful at this point of training if your dog is fast enough to catch birds.
Let the birds do the teaching
Eventually your Brittany will learn to stop herself from chasing birds because she will realize that it's much easier to stop still and point in the birds' direction. This step may develop more quickly if you are shooting the birds.
Be patient and repeat
It may take a few weeks for your Brittany to develop her point. Be patient and repeat the previous steps. Let the birds train your dog to point.
The "Whoa" Method
Find the right location
Locate a place to train your Brittany that has no distractions, especially no other dogs or birds.
Use the lead and walk
Place your dog on a sturdy lead. Let her walk a step or two in front of you.
Give the "whoa" command
Once your Brittany is a step or two ahead, give the command "whoa" and simultaneously give the lead a sturdy tug.
Walk around your dog
Once your Brittany has halted, keep her in place while you walk all the way around her. If she turns toward you at any point, simply repeat "whoa" and set her back where she was before. She needs to learn that "whoa" means 'stop' no matter what you are doing.
Move the training outside
When your Brittany has mastered the 'whoa' command, bring her outside and give the process a try in the presence of birds or other small animals. She should respond to the command and her natural instinct to point will kick in.
By Erin Cain
Published: 01/29/2018, edited: 01/08/2021