Flushing dogs excel at finding birds and putting them in the air. They’re popular for a lot of different reasons. First, the dog hunts within gun range. Flushing dogs are visible to the handler, which makes it easy to see if they’re hunting or making game. Second, they’re always under control. When flushing dogs find a bird, they flush it and then sit and wait for the next command.
They’re the ultimate in safety, but there is a third benefit: A sitting dog can easily mark birds. If a bird flushes wild, and the dog doesn’t see it, the dog sits at the sound of gunfire. The dog waits until released for a retrieve. However, training a dog to do all that is much easier said than done.
Todd Agnew of Craney Hill Kennel is one of the best flushing dog trainers in the country. Agnew has been a pro trainer for more than 20 years. He guides hunters for wild birds, and has won numerous field trials with his English springer spaniels and English cocker spaniels. In short, he knows his stuff when it comes to flushing dogs.
“The most important thing for a flushing dog is a strong foundation of obedience,” he says. “A quality flushing dog needs to do three things: He needs to leave you, he needs to stop when he is told, and he needs to come back when he is called. All those things are accomplished with a foundation of obedience.”
Agnew uses these three behaviors—leaving, stopping, and coming back—as the foundation for his training. He teaches his dogs to sit on place boards. When they’re steady and quiet, he’ll release them to run (the leaving command). From there, it’s easy to ask them to sit after a flush. Recall (coming back) is done with a check cord. One reason that flushing dogs are popular is that the number of commands are few, and these smart dogs are very trainable.
While these concepts may seem pared down, Agnew reiterates, “Everything is built off these three training fundamentals. If the dog is getting out of range, you can use ‘here’ for recall or ‘hup’ to sit and stay. Those are two ways to regain control over your dog, by either having him come back to you or sitting and staying until you work your way toward him. Casting is taught with a check cord. Simply say ‘over,’ and move the dog into a new direction. Repeat the command, moving into a different direction. Any other commands beyond these three are nice, but they’re not absolutely necessary.”
Beyond those basics, Agnew recommends properly introducing your flushing dog to simulated hunting scenarios before his first hunting season.
“Someone going into their first hunting season with a flushing dog is going to have a ton of fun and be successful if their dog has a foundation of obedience and understands the concepts of going away, stopping on command, and coming back when called.”View Todd Agnew's Profile & Articles