“You need your dog to come back when you call him. That might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it ruin a lot of hunts,” says Pippitt. “Having a dog that will come back to you consistently is probably the most important thing to teach your dog. We use a check cord in a controlled environment, like a fenced yard, to teach a dog to recall.
“Positively reinforcing recall with a treat like Eukanuba™’s ACTIVTRAINERS is another training tool to keep a dog interested and excited. If you get a dog that’s a bit ‘sticky’ and doesn’t want to leave your side, then use a partner and call the dog back and forth between the two of you. This shows the dog he needs to listen to who is calling him.”
Introduction to Birds
Hunting dogs need an introduction to birds in a controlled situation before they encounter their first birds in the field.
“There is no substitute for a real bird, like a pigeon, to introduce dogs to birds,” explains Pippitt. “You can only do so much with a bumper or a wing with scent on it. Being exposed to live birds is important for a dog to grow and develop into a hunting companion that performs regularly at high levels.” Pippitt exposes his puppies to birds as early as eight weeks old by showing them pigeons to get them excited. He increases bird contacts every week throughout the breaking process, too.
Introduction to Gunfire
Once Pippitt has a dog that is comfortable and excited around live birds, he introduces gunfire by having a partner stand back around 40 yards and fire a blank pistol while the dog is focusing on a bird contact.
“A dog can’t be introduced to gunfire the first time it points a bird in the field. That is a quick way to create a gun-shy dog,” Pippitt explains. “We need to make sure they are comfortable with hearing a shotgun before their first real hunt.” Depending on the dog’s reaction, the shooter can move closer or farther away, gradually working to a point where the dog associates the sound of a gunshot with something positive.
“If a dog can learn those three things, they are going to have a positive first season and learn a lot,” explains Pippitt. However, he also suggests “whoa” training so you can stop your dog and avoid potentially dangerous situations. He also recommends exposing dogs to the terrain in which they’ll hunt.
“There is a big difference between a manicured backyard and a cattail slough,” he says. “Exposing dogs to areas they’ll hunt helps them manage those field conditions. With that foundation, a pointing dog has everything he needs to be successful going into his first season.”
These days, everyone is busy, and that’s why it’s important to create a training plan and stick with it. Repetition makes the master—the kind that will make you smile all season long.View Ethan Pippitt's Profile & Articles