There’s No Such Thing As ‘Birdie Powder:’ Part 1

Tips For Working Your Young Pup.

Many years ago, when I first started training dogs professionally with Tom Dokken, I can remember having trouble with a dog in a Bird and Gun Introduction program. 

The dog was around 10 months old and he did not have the desire for retrieving that is needed to start introducing gunfire. We tried everything to get this dog to retrieve birds. We tried “live” birds, fresh dead birds, bird wings, dummies, tennis balls, competition with another dog, heavy cover, light cover, water — everything we could think of — to get this dog to retrieve. I looked at Dokken after all of these attempts and asked if he had any other suggestions. He looked at me and said, “Birdie Powder!”

Start a young pup retrieving as soon as possible. Make sure to use different objects when doing so!

Obviously I was excited to see some of this “Birdie Powder” and asked him where it was. He told me to go ask our head trainer where he had last seen it. Off I went in search of this magical powder that would get this weak dog to retrieve. When I asked the head trainer Terry where he had last seen this “Birdie Powder” he told me that trainer Bob had it. Approaching Bob with the same question, he pointed me to the storage shed located on the back part of the property. Looking high and low in the shed, the light bulb went off, there is no such thing as “Birdie Powder!” Needless to say as I walked back from the storage shed past everybody, they were all laughing out loud at the new guy in search of this imaginary dust.

After trying a few more things, we called the owners to have them come and take a look at what we were seeing. The disappointed couple came out and said they were not surprised with the dog’s desire because they really did not see a lot of effort at home either. When we asked them what they had done, worked on, with the puppy, they responded with something dog trainers often hear, “We didn’t do anything with him, because we didn’t want to screw him up.”

This is one of the worst things anyone gundog owner can say! It is like telling your kid’s kindergarten teacher, “I didn’t teach my child his ABC’s or 123’s because I didn’t want to screw anything up.”

Do Some ‘Puppy Research’
Getting a proper start with your hunting dog is essential! I always tell people this process starts before you even buy the puppy. Do some research when you are deciding on a pup. Look at pedigrees, if you see some titles behind a puppies background, it will tell you that there are some proven abilities that your dog should inherit. Talk to your local dog trainer, he may be able to refer you to puppies that he knows about. You can also see some dogs in action at hunting competitions and hunt tests. This is a good way to actually see dogs work and ask about certain dogs you like. People at these events are usually very friendly and may be a great resource in your search for your next hunting companion. If you do some of this homework, you should be bringing an 8-week-old puppy home with some good potential.

My philosophy is, “Let a puppy, be a puppy.” With that in mind, don’t start any real formal type of training right away, but you can begin with some basics. The training you start in the very beginning will not only help your dog with more formal training later on, but will also build an important bond between you and your dog. That is why I always recommend socializing your dog as much as possible at an early age.

Taking him on a lot of walks, going to the park where there will be people and other dogs, or even just driving around with him in the car with you will build confidence in the young dog. There are also puppy classes set up for some light on-leash obedience, which are great not only for the training, but these classes give your pup a chance to interact with other dogs.

Please read more in Part 2.

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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. For more information on training your dog with Cannon River Kennels, call 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.

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