We have four new pups to work with this summer so we thought it would be good to share what we’re doing with them. They’re all coming up on six months old. In addition to the basic commands we use around the kennel (come, kennel, etc) they’ve had a few play retrieving lessons – less than 10 sessions. Three are from our Iris x Mac litter – Lock, Blue and Thistle. Here are videos of their first retrieve lesson and one from this afternoon for comparison:
This is Misty from Firelight Setters.
They’re all enthusiastic about bringing the glove and obviously very excited about the game. Keeping it to a minimum prevents having them get bored. This game will give us something to fall back on if they hesitate to pick up shot birds later and is well worth the effort.
We also take them for occasional short walks in the forest near the house so they learn to stay with us and keep track of where we’re going. Everything is an adventure at this point and it’s fun to watch them explore the world. Here are a few photos from this morning’s outing:
We just finished our Chukar season in western Idaho. With bird numbers still low and weather (fog) and road (mud – at one point we lost control of the truck at 10 mph in low gear and 4WD) conditions conspiring to keep us away from most areas it was really tough to find birds.
By the end of the season it felt like spring. Temps in the 50s, Huns were paired up, grasshoppers were out and flowers were blooming.
Roads dried out enough so we could get around better the last 4-5 days of the season and we found a few more birds. We had to work REALLY hard to get our young dogs into birds. Like 4-5 hours a day climbing hills like this: We had six 8 & 10 month old pups with us that had never seen wild birds. We worked them a few times on training quail and got them shot over in October and they looked really good so our expectations were high. But the proof is in how they handle wild birds so we were intent on seeing how they would do. They not only met our expectations, they exceeded them, and they’re easily the best batch of young dogs we’ve had. 3 out of 6 (Prince, Blaze, and Iris) made points on the first wild birds they found and Brook was pointing Chukars by the end of the first hunt on which she saw birds. We even managed to shoot a couple over those first points. We weren’t fast enough to get photos of them pointing but here are some videos of retrieves:
Iris (River x Spice) retrieving the first Hun she found, and pointed:
Brook (Doc x Camas) retrieving the first Chukar she pointed – this is actually the third time she brought it to me:
Here’s Gen (Heath x Pepper) on the first bird we shot for her. She wasn’t quite sure what to do with it at first but the early play retrieving lessons paid off and she recognized the fetch command:
And this is Violet (River x Paint) retrieving a Hun:
We had one hunt that’s good for a laugh. Every day we see a different truck parked in the same spot and we always hear shooting there. We’ve never hunted it but we decided to give it a try. So we climbed up and crossed a ridge over to a big canyon that’s hard to reach from other places so we thought we were on to something. It was very steep dropping into the canyon so we were walking very slow when Lisa says “there goes a covey of Chukars”. It took me a while to find them – hopping up a huge cliff 100 yards ahead of us in short steps all the way to the top. They’d obviously played the game before and there was no hope of getting them. This is the spot: It was like one of those old cartoons and we were Elmer Fudd. It did make us notice this Golden Eagle nest though:
All in all we had a good time and were especially happy with the performance of our youngsters. Seeing them put it all together under such trying conditions with only a few bird contacts was very gratifying. Since we took more photos we’ll just put them in here for fun. Hope you enjoy them.
We often receive questions about how we start our puppies. The most important lessons a puppy needs are basic obedience- Come, No, etc. We also like to add “No Chewing” to our list of basic commands. Working on these commands as a part of everyday life teaches a puppy how to learn and that you are in charge. Two commands for the field are also important to start on at an early age- Whoa, and Fetch.
The method we use for early introduction to Whoa comes from George Bird Evans’ book “Troubles With Bird Dogs”. It consists of throwing a treat out in front of the pup and teaching it to Whoa before he/she is allowed to go after it. We like this method because the puppy learns that Whoa means to wait before going after something desirable. Later Whoa will be used in the same way, only on birds. Don’t overdo it, three to five times in each lesson is plenty.
Restrain the pup by pushing it back every time it lunges, not by holding on to it with steady pressure. Give your release command as soon as your pup gives in and stops. We use OK and two taps on the head for the release. During these first lessons you are only trying to get your pup to stop. Eventually the pup will Whoa without being restrained and you can gradually increase the length of time your pup stands on Whoa before being released. Later you can graduate to walking away, etc. Try to include at least one correction during each lesson. For example wait long enough so your pup breaks and requires restraint. This reinforces that you are in control and that pup has to wait for you to release him/her. We also like to end on a positive note, one on which the pup does what is asked without being corrected. We continue this lesson until the pups are old enough to handle more serious yard training.
Here are videos of two pups getting their first Whoa lessons. Both are typical reactions to the first lesson.
Other than basic obedience, early play retrieving is probably the most important lesson for young pups. It’s important to bring out their retrieving instincts early. Then if you have trouble with retrieving later you have something to fall back on that they’re familiar with. Use a dummy that is only for retrieving, not a toy or something the pup has access to otherwise. We start with a rolled up sock and change to a work glove after a few lessons. Again, don’t overdo it – three to five retrieves per session, and make it a fun game. Some pups will come right to you but most try to run by at first. Use a hallway or similar area and position yourself so there’s room to get past you, but you can still catch your pup when he/she tries to run by. Here are the same two pups’ first play retrieving lessons.
Occasionally you run into a situation where things don’t go as planned. Stay positive and keep it fun. In the following video the pup is hesitant to pick up the sock. After being teased with it for a short time she decides it’s OK and runs off with it. Teasing them in this way works very well. Hold the dummy out to them and pull it away when they reach for it. That makes them want it even more. This also works very well with birds. Pups are often hesitant to pick up a dead bird at first so we tease them until they are really trying to get it, then throw it and command Fetch, the same as with the sock in the video.
These simple lessons will lay the foundation for later training.
Breeders of Classic foot hunting English Setters from Ryman and other close working bloodlines.