Bred for Natural Ability to Find and Handle Wild Birds in a Partnership With the Hunter
Improvements in Ryman-type Setters
When we began breeding in the early 1990s, hip dysplasia was such a widespread problem in the Ryman-types that reducing the incidence had to be the main focus of our breeding decisions. As we and others made improvements on the hip front we were able to shift our goals and focus more on performance and conformation. Hunting in the west has helped us shape those goals and see where improvements could be made in the dogs.
Good Western Dogs are Better Grouse Dogs
Rymans were primarily known as grouse dogs, and the same basic skills that work for grouse transfer over to western covey birds. However, we have found that western birds are often less forgiving of mistakes, requiring a more advanced skill set from the dog. By selecting for the innate traits that are necessary to consistently handle challenging birds the dogs have become more able to instinctively learn and train themselves.
In addition, hunting in the physically demanding western terrain requires more athleticism and stamina, which has steered us back to the moderate-sized, short-coupled, lighter-boned conformation that Ryman bred for rather than the bigger setters favored by some eastern grouse hunters. In the end, we have found that improving the dogs for western hunting results in all around better grouse dogs too.
We evaluate our potential breeding dogs by exposing them to wild birds at a young age and watching their instincts develop. The only way to know whether a dog has the intelligence and natural abilities necessary to handle difficult wild birds is to hunt them on wild birds. A handful of pen raised quail are fine for introducing puppies to birds, and for creating controlled training situations later, but they don’t help a dog learn how to handle real birds. You can’t teach these skills, they have to be in the dog’s genes.
In order to see their raw genetic traits the only command we use in the field with pups is “come”, which allows us to evaluate their inherent abilities and development without any influence from training.
In the Field
Our setters learn to handle birds at an early age with minimal training or experience and retrieve shot birds naturally. They adapt their range based on the cover being hunted—far enough to find and point birds that you wouldn’t see by yourself, but not so far that they are hard to keep track of. And, especially important in a personal gun dog, they want to hunt in partnership with you rather than for themselves.
We select breeding dogs that have balanced conformation for searching at a pace they can maintain for long hunts in any type of terrain—from thick grouse covers to rugged Chukar hills.
Tillie’s search is typical for our dogs in open country. She instinctively coordinates with the hunter to handle a running covey of Huns.
Heather and Autumn are working scent where a covey of Huns has been feeding down a ridge, and then the birds run off to the side as we approach.
Woodcock are easy for the dog, but sometimes the hunter needs a little help locating the bird.
Clips of Dusty at intervals over the course of a hunt showing her stamina.
Autumn is a close working dog, but she has a knack for finding birds that are a long way out. These birds didn’t run very far, but note that Autumn looks back at 1:29 to make sure we’re coming before relocating, and then when the birds are pinned she doesn’t move. She has had no whoa training.
This series of clips document a young dog’s natural development from her first time out as an 8 month old through her first point. If you watch on YouTube you can read descriptions of what’s going on in each section.
These two dogs had play retrieving as young pups, which helps trigger the instinct to bring the bird to you. The birds in the videos are the first ones they have seen shot.
Gen needed a little help figuring out what to do.
Violet just did it from bird one.
In the Home
Importantly, they have the good-natured, calm, and affectionate personality to be exceptional companions.