A Question of Proper Range

One of the more popular topics (perhaps the most popular) hunters like to discuss about pointing dogs is range: how big do they run? How big should they run? After my blog post last week about my experience running a Garmin Astro on my setter pup, one reader said: I am curious about what distance it is that you want your setter to reach in the open field?"

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Ask ten hunters about range and you'll get ten different answers. Everyone has their preference depending on the terrain they hunt, the species they're hunting, and the level of training and control they have over their dogs. And of course experienced, well-trained dogs will tend to adjust their range based on the cover they're hunting.

I personally think it's better to have too much range than not enough. That's why I'm still trying to increase my pup's natural range with little, if any pressure, so my preferred distance right now is however big she wants to run. There's an old saw about "you can always take it out, but you can't put it in" when it comes to a bird dog's desire and range, meaning you can always shorten up a big-running dog through training but it's very hard to do the opposite. I'm hunting my pup this first year primarily in open areas that give her a chance to stretch it out while still maintaining some semblance of line of sight between the dog and myself. At this point I'm more concerned with boldness and confidence than manners, and if she wants to get out there a few hundred yards and really open up her throttle, all the better. As long as she checks in with me while hunting and comes back on "here" and a whistle tweet I'm happy regardless of how far out she gets.

Ultimately, in a perfect world, I'd like for my dog to be able to run with the horseback pointers on the prairie and then turn around and hunt like a coverdog trial setter in the grouse woods. Don't know if I'll ever get there, but that's the goal. Anyone else have thoughts on establishing a dog's range?