Training your bird dog requires a lot of land, a lot of birds, and a lot of knowledge. If you’re lacking these, hiring a gun-dog trainer is essential. Here are five ways to get your money’s worth.
1. Have the Trainer Train You, Too
It’s important that you know exactly what the dog has been trained to do and how to get him to do it. Qualified trainers hate to get a dog working right for an owner who doesn’t handle the dog properly and allows it to revert to untrained behavior.
2. Prevent Gun-Shyness
If your dog hasn’t been shot over at close range, tell the trainer. Ask him to introduce gunfire gradually. Good trainers begin with low-caliber shots fired at a distance while the dog is not easily distracted, then work up to shooting at closer distances.
3. Decide Whether to Retrieve or Point
Unless the dog has a strong, natural desire to retrieve and a gentle mouth, you’re better off having the pro teach it to “point dead.” Dogs that expect to retrieve are more likely to break and chase birds that fly.
4. Rein Your Dog in With a Whistle
You want to be able to adjust the dog’s range by having it turn when you blow a whistle. The trainer will use a check cord to make the dog turn when the whistle is blown. Once the dog understands the whistle command, upgrade to an electronic training collar to enforce it at longer distances. Have the pro teach you how to use the collar for correction, not punishment.
5. Keep Your Dog on Point
Most bird dogs will point naturally, but even a dog with the best bloodline needs to be taught to hold points for long periods of time. This requires expert timing, consistency, patience, and experience on birds. Have the trainer show you how to use a check cord (above) to prevent the dog from breaking. An e-collar should only be employed if the dog breaks point and starts to chase the bird.