Bird Dog Training Made Easy
Over the past few years, I have trained a pile of dogs and I’ve bought a lot of training devices, too. The truth is, the average guy just wants a nice dog that he can hunt over and it shouldn’t cost a lot of money to get that dog or pup going.
I train dogs with birds and more birds, but that doesn’t mean that I buy a lot of birds or need tons of equipment. To make sure it’s understood, I’m not talking about training field trial dogs or steadying to wing and shot. But these ideas are to help you save on training a gun dog.
The biggest thing that will get your pup going in the right direction is prey driving. I start with a wing on a string, but don’t really care if a pup points it, but really like for them to chase it. Then I move up to a clipped with bird (no pheasants) and just toss it out and let the pups chase and catch it. As a note, you should only do this between five and ten weeks of age. I stop at nine weeks. Once pup is really getting into it, I put the birds in a little cage and cover it with grass or straw. I let pup find it and jump on the cage, then I walk up and hold pup back and flush the bird. When pup chases the bird, I yell bang. It doesn’t take long and pup will start pointing the bird. If you are training whoa, then when holding the pup back from the cage is a good time to introduce that command.
As pup’s drive progresses, I use a cap gun a few yards back (for this a helper is nice). With the clipped with bird, you still get retrieves and you can re-use the birds. With this technique, you can go all the pay through the pup’s training an on to finishing the dog.
Now for the things you will need. The first is birds and a place to keep them. Quail and pigeons work best, and they recall so they can be used more than once. Pigeons are better once pup gets going so that you won’t have to clip all of the wings. You will also need cages to hide birds in. Use a 2.4 frame with hardware cloth on top. Drill 1” holes along the 2/4s for more air flow.
You will also need a starter pistol, cap gun, or both. They are easy to find, but don’t buy the really inexpensive ones as they tend not to last.
Another useful tool is a bird bucket to carry birds to and from the field in. I use a five gallon bucket with a lid. Cut a large hole in the top of the lid. Cut two pieces of inner tube the same size as the lid, and cut an X into the center of one. Rivet the cut piece onto the top of the lid, then rivet the other one over that to make a flap. I also drill 1” holes in the sides and bottom for air flow.
Check cords are also necessary, as well as a suitcase handle. Go to the hardware store and you can pick up everything you need to make them.
You will still have to train the dog obedience and manners, but these ideas are to save you money on training equipment. It’s up to you to make it all work. There are all kinds of gadgets that you can make yourself to save on expense, you just have to look for the plans.