These seven training tools will ensure that your bird dog is ready when the season finally rolls around.
For upland hunters who own bird dogs, the season never really ends. Making the most of off-season training time can be the difference between a successful partnership and a frustrating experience for dog and hunter alike. Use these training tools to get your bird dog ready and have your best season ever.
A quality whistle is the audio connection between you and your dog. No other training tool will be used as frequently. Whether you are getting calling your dog, giving the sit command, or asking your dog to change directions, a whistle allows you to give quick and easy commands that you and your dog can understand.
2. Leads of different lengths
Call it a lead, leash, or check cord, but don't attempt to train your bird dog without these basic training tools. Leads offer the simplicity of a direct connection to your dog during training sessions.
Use a short lead to teach basic commands like sit and heel and a longer lead to work on stay. A long lead is also helpful in teaching your flushing dog to work within the appropriate range.
An e-collar (short for electronic collar) allows you to control your dog from a distance by administering warning tones and electrical corrections. Look for a collar with variable power settings and use the lowest one your dog will respond to. Another important consideration is range. Look for a collar that will work out to 1/2 mile, especially with wide ranging pointers.
Another advantage of this training tool is that some e-collars come equipped with GPS tracking capabilities, which are great when your pointer is locked up on a bird in dense cover or over a rise and out of sight.
Teaching your dog to retrieve dead birds requires practice. There's no training tool that better simulates a real bird than a dummy.
Basic plastic or canvas bumpers are good for instilling the urge to retrieve, but lifelike dummies like the Dokken Deadfowl series provide a more realistic experience for your dog.
5. Gamebird wings
There's no substitute to real feathers and gamebird scent while training your bird dog. Introducing wings to the dog is a great way to control the experience without worrying about what a live bird is going to do.
Whether you plant them in cover to stimulate a point or attach them to a dummy prior to practicing your dog's retrieves, the smell and feel of the real thing will make your training sessions more realistic and more beneficial.
6. Real birds
Okay, you've used the first five training aids and think your dog is ready to hit the field. Now comes the fun (or frustrating) part; introducing live birds.
Pigeons, quail, pheasants, and Hungarian partridge can all be purchased for training purposes. If you live in an area where you can keep birds, you can even raise your own. Another option is taking a weekly or monthly visit to a shooting preserve with dog.
However you choose to do it, get some live birds in front of your dog before the season rolls around. Just be sure you're teaching good habits and not reinforcing bad ones.
7. Your dog's favorite toy
Even the most work-minded dogs are playful puppies deep down. End each training session with a game of fetch with your dog's favorite frisbee or tennis ball or bury his favorite treat in a Kong toy and watch him go nuts trying to get it out. By making training sessions fun, you'll keep you and your dog coming back for more and be ready when your favorite upland bird season rolls around.