In order to a success as a hunter and hunt dog team, you must know your dog very well. Yes, training is vital and a well-balanced diet is essential, but you also need to build your own skills in working with your hunting partner.
Dogs have depended on their skills in acquiring meat for their own survival for generations. Hunting breeds are trained to smell, think, and be in control. Along with this, they are confident and strong. The most important lesson for you to learn is to pay attention to your dog and trust him. Although you may think that you find the birds and create success in the field, a successful hunt is largely attributable to your dog. Your job is to lead them to a place where it is likely that birds might be found. After that, you read the dog’s body language and trust his instincts.
Through time working with your dog, you will improve at reading his body language. If you are unable to read it or unwilling to respond correctly to it, the dog will lose motivation and will stop performing. All hunting dogs have a physical reaction when they find the scent of a bird. Some may actually show a classic pointing position (or something like it); most will show a definite reaction to the discovery. It is this physical reaction to which you must be attuned. You should begin to see this sign during training. In the beginning, watch to see what your dog does when he acquires a scent in training. It may be in his eyes or in his entire body. When you are in more advanced training in the field, a similar behavior will appear, even if it is subtle. Through training, the dog’s confidence will grow with every successful find and you should grow in your ability to read the dog’s signals. You should be able to totally rely on your partner to lead you to the birds, but if you are not paying attention to his body language, he has no choice but to move along as you direct.
Your hunting partner has an amazing innate ability. Once the ability is honed and your partnership matures, he can lead you to very successful and exciting hunting adventures. But you cannot forget your role in the partnership. You must develop his abilities and direct his natural desire to hunt. Your success is highly dependent on your willingness to train yourself to watch for the dog’s “tell” and respond to it effectively.