I fully admit I haven’t been getting my bird dog out to the field nearly often enough. But last weekend, I finally got her out for some good practice.
The secret to a good bird dog is consistent training. You don’t have to work with your dog for hours on end. In fact, most good trainers will tell you to avoid spending more than about 15 minutes per training session.
But you need to do it as often as possible. And I readily admit I haven’t been doing that with my golden retriever.
Because of that, she’s not as focused on hunting as she could be. When I do get her out to the field, it takes her a while to remember the hand signals that should tell her which way she should go. And because I don’t get her on live birds as often as I should, she tends to go through the motions when we’re in the field, and I’m sure she misses as many birds as she finds.
But last weekend, I took her to a bird farm to give my oldest son a chance to bag his first pheasant. Since it was a hunt for a kid, the guide told me exactly where he was going to put the birds. And because I knew where they’d be, I was able to help Cricket find those birds.
I still need to give her more of those 15-minute training sessions, but I could spice up the training with a planted-bird hunt every so often. It was clear immediately after Cricket flushed that first pheasant that a light bulb had come on in a long-dormant part of her brain, and she started to get into it. After she got her mouth on the first downed bird, she was just about as good as she’s ever been.
The last few times we’ve gone hunting, we’ve done it the old-fashioned way. We’ve tromped through acre after acre with no idea if there really ever were birds out there. Yes, that’s hunting, but it’s a tough way to train your hunting dog.
Even if your dog is seasoned, give that pup a “gimme” hunt from time to time. It’ll keep the dog interested and reinforce the lessons that may have been forgotten on those less successful hunts.