Spaniel Journal Home Page

bird and they will use their noses somewhat to locate the bird. The steadying can be done by one person, but requires some extra effort. A helper to handle the pole frees the handler to work with the dog and shoot a blank pistol.

To begin, sit the dog in front of you and have the pigeon planted. Send the dog. When the dog is close enough, raising the pole flushes the pigeon, and the whistle command to sit is given. A shot can be fired when the bird is well away from the dog, and then the bird is dropped to the ground. About half of the time, the bird can be retrieved. At other times the dog can be petted and praised with no retrieve. Vary the amount of time before sending the dog to retrieve so the dog doesn't anticipate your command. Also, you can avoid having the dog anticipate the "flush - shot - retrieve" sequence by sometimes firing the shot after the bird lands. If the dog breaks, the bird can be "flown" to the handler. The dog will follow and can be easily caught and corrected. All of this can be accomplished in a circle with a 30 - 40 foot diameter.

The dog should begin to respond to the whistle after only three or four flushes. If the dog continues to respond favorably after two or three sessions, an unrestrained flier can be rolled in after a couple of harnessed pigeon flushes and can be shot by the handler or by a gunner. If the dog remains steady after some unrestrained birds are shot, birds can be planted and hunted up or rolled in as the dog is hunting. The dog may have some memory lapses, but if the dog breaks persistently, go back to the pole.

As the dog gains confidence with pigeons, the pole can be used to progress to pheasants. Having the dog chase pheasants may be detrimental. Begin directly with the steadying sessions. Hen pheasants seem to fit the harness better than roosters and there is no problem with spurs.

"The pigeon pole is not meant to replace normal training procedures..."

If at any time the dog begins to break, try to determine why and go back to the pole to make corrections. Often a breaking problem is due to handler error. The dog may be able to anticipate the handler's command to retrieve and breaks before the command is given. Perhaps the handler is giving the young dog too many retrieves. Occasionally, shot birds should be picked up by the handler or by a gunner. At times, the handler's body language may cause a dog to break.

Trainers in the United Kingdom often use rabbit pens to introduce dogs to game and to begin the steadying process. The pen provides U.K. handlers with a controlled situation and a ready source of game (rabbits). Many Americans do not want their dogs trained on rabbits and may not have facilities for making a pen. However, a pigeon pole can serve the same purpose: a controlled situation and a ready source of game.

Additional thoughts:
1. Use strong birds so there is lots of wing flapping at the flush.

Page 3

| Previous Page | Next Page |

Copyright © Spaniel Journal 2002, all rights reserved