Jump to section
It’s difficult to imagine life without your Vizsla now. Yes, you always have to wake up to feed them and take them to the toilet every morning and evening, but you wouldn’t change it for the world. True to their nature, your Vizsla is loyal, energetic and equipped with a fantastic sense of smell. And it is that last attribute you want to put to good use. You’re an avid hunter, who spends many a day each year stealthily creeping through fields in search of prey. However, locating and bringing down that prey isn’t always so straightforward. Fortunately, this is where you think your pup could come in.
Training your dog to point brings with it several benefits. Firstly, you’ll have some company on those long, quiet mornings, making it ideal bonding time. Training will also turn your Vizsla into a highly trained and obedient dog in all areas of their life. But most importantly, you may be much more successful on your hunting trips!
Training your Vizsla to point will require hard work and dedication from both of you. The challenge comes in training them to retain discipline and silently alert you to the presence of prey. To do that, you will need to get them familiar with their future prey. You will also need to use strict obedience training to keep them under control and prevent them giving chase. To help you keep that control you will need an effective incentive, be it mouth-watering food or a toy.
If your dog is just a puppy then they should be ideal students and could respond to training in just a month or two. But if your Vizsla is older with a history of disobedience under their collar, then you may need up to six months before you see consistent results. Persevere with training and you’ll have the perfect canine companion to improve your hunting performance.
Training a Vizsla to point is no easy feat, so you will need several bits. A check cord is relatively cheap and will play an important role throughout training. A launcher will also be required to test your dog. You will then need decoy toys and a large supply of tasty treats to motivate and reward the pup.
You’ll need to set aside around half an hour several times a week for training. You’ll also need a large space, such as a yard, to practice in.
Once you have all the above, just bring patience and a pro-active attitude, then work can begin!
The Whistle & Point Method
The first thing you need to do is teach your Vizsla to stop at the sound of a whistle. The sharp sound should make them pause instantly, so just reward that quickly each time and they will swiftly get into the habit of stopping when they hear you whistle.
Now place a dummy toy in a launcher and position it so it will land around 10 yards in front of you. Now call your dog to you, launch the dummy and whistle to ensure they stop in front of you.
Each time your Vizsla successfully stops, go over and give them a tasty reward. Alternatively, you can play around with a toy for a minute. You can also shower them in verbal praise.
Up the stakes
Now start heading out looking for prey. As soon as a pigeon flies away, for example, issue a whistle to remind the dog what is expected. Again reward them when they stop and point. You need to practice this regularly until it becomes habit.
Now set up the launcher with a bird or prey in it. Head towards it from down wind side. As soon as the dog makes game, launch the bird. Before you know it they will stop as soon as they smell the bird. Then just practice this in a few different locations until they get the hang of it.
The Natural Instinct Method
Let nature run its course
When your Vizsla is just a puppy, let them chase after prey all on their own. It won’t take them long to realize simply running towards them barking won’t give them much success. Instead they will naturally learn to creep and approach prey with more stealth. They will, in effect, teach themselves the basics.
Prepare a decoy with scent spray or a bird. Ensure you and your dog, on a check cord, are downwind of the bird. Watch your Vizsla to see when they pick up the scent. Then as soon as they do, release the launcher. This helps them naturally develop pointing, without confusing them.
They will naturally want to chase after the bird. And simply holding them back for a couple of seconds will make them want to chase after it even more. So hold them back until the bird is in the air and then let them give chase, ensuring they won’t actually catch it.
Mix it up
Practice in a range of situations and sometimes in challenging terrain. In these times, keep hold of the check cord and let your Vizsla chase until the end. The chase and watching them fly away will be reward enough.
The mistake many owners make is excessively interfering. Instead let them develop the skills naturally, making occasional changes when needed. Dogs will learn all by themselves if you practice using the steps above.
The ‘Hold’ Method
Lead your Vizsla towards a group of birds or prey. But instead of shooting, let them get excited, pointing in every direction. After a while they will settle down and stop. You can then capitalize on this moment.
As soon as your dog stops, issue a ‘hold’ command. Keep it upbeat and playful, Vizslas learn best when they think they’re playing a game. Also make sure you give the instruction just once.
Once you’ve given the command, quickly follow it up with some verbal praise and a reward. This could be a treat or some time playing with a toy. If you use a clicker when you train, now is the time to click too. Practice this for a couple of weeks until the dog recognizes the command.
Now take your dog back towards some prey. But this time when they point, simply give a whistle. This will make them pause and let them know they need to wait for you to go over to them. Once you get close you can then give the ‘hold’ command to keep them in check.
Persistence is key
Now you have the most time-consuming part of training - practice. So go out at least a couple of times a week and practice the steps above. Before you know it your Vizsla will naturally point and hold.
By James Barra
Published: 05/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021