How to prevent chasing when the birds are raised, at the same time avoiding stickiness to point? – Without using electronic collar and abuse – or worse?
What you must do is to succeed in removing the stress in your SM, so as to make the dog trainable in bird situations. Even if the training seems to be successful at home on the lounge floor, it becomes much more difficult to make your SM obey your commands when in the field. Nobody wishes his/her SMP to hunt when not ordered to. That is why training must always be practiced to perfection. Your SM must be motivated to follow your commands when the bird is raised and not chase. Wistful Thinking? Training in the right order may give you the results .
1) YOU ARE THE BOSS .
Well, let's start with yourself. You will be assigned the role of 'boss' by your SM only when and if you deserve it. Show that you are in the lead by radiating an aura of leadership, and train pack order in the everyday details.
Now, socialize yourself with bird situations. Keep calm, don't stress, don't yell and don't gesture wildly in the field. Not until you can master this, can you expect to remove the stress from your SM, thus motivating it to follow your commands. Then, perhaps, you will avoid being asked to put the dog on a leash by your fellow hunters for the rest of the day because your SM is flushing all coveys within sight as soon as cast off. And of course, if the dog is abused or worse in these situations, then the chances are great that you have got yourself a dog sticky on point. An SM never forgets if finding birds is associated with pain.
2) INCREASING TOLERANCE THRESHOLD
In order to remove the stress from bird situations, you must be a part there, in person. Perhaps for a start at home in the garden with a friend who can walk in front of you, tossing something in the air, such as a toy bird or a cap. As the toy bird or cap rises, the dog must heed your command 'whoa' or 'down'. If your SM is stressing, then you must take it easy, and make an effort to reduce the stress, relaxing the dog back to normal. You can't train a stressed dog. That's why you have to learn to 'read' your SM's stress level correctly as training progresses, and new situations arise. The aim is to avoid situations during hunting, when your SM gets out of control because of a low tolerance threshold.
Anyway, if the dog is pressing on you will simply have to let down your SM for the moment. For instance, if you have arrived in your training area and the dog is ravaging and howling to be unleashed, then return to your car. Wait patiently and try again, or return home to start a new attempt on a later occasion. Thus, the tolerance threshold is increased.
When your SM is responding to your commands the moment the cap or toy bird is rising, you may safely advance to 'cap and shot'. Let your fellow companion fire the weapon while you concentrate on the dog's behavior. Of course the stress level will be rising again, and you will have to calm down your SM accordingly. Perhaps even laying the dog in the supine position on your lap – thus taking the responsibility for the well-being of your SM– now you show who's the boss.
3) BIRD IN THE AIR
When your SM tackles cap in the air and the sound of shot without stressing, you are ready for the birds. If you have the possibility, then use a henhouse or poultry run with inmates (yes, actually, chicken and hens with the odd pheasant, or quail or two). The aim of this training is to let your SM come nearer the birds little by little. If the dog is getting too preoccupied with the birds, you must take care that attention is redirected onto you. The decision whether your SM is 'to do something' about those birds - and what – is yours!
Inside the henhouse or run the dog must relax. No stressing is tolerated. When the stress level is low you go forward quietly and calmly to provoke a pheasant or quail to rise. Bird in the air means 'Whoa' / 'Down!', right? Again your SM will probably stress, but is quickly calmed down. After a few attempts, the dog does not take much notice of the birds rising. Then you are both ready for the next level.
Go to one of the corners. The dog is tied up in the other end of the hen house or run, alone with all the birds. When the tied-up dog solves the problem of taking up the 'down' position all by himself, you walk towards your SM to release him. Together you leave the place in a calm manner – you first, because you're the boss.
4) POINTING and RAISING
When you and your SM can handle both cap or toy bird in the air, shot, and flying bird in the pen, you have both arrived to the final stage… take a quail or other live bird in your hand and show it to the dog.
The aim is to make your SM more or less gasp and snatch at the bird in your hand. However, as long as you act calmly and do not sink your teeth into the bird, the dog is not supposed to take any notice, either. After a couple of rounds with this 'near-bird experience', hopefully the dog does not care about the bird any more. When this situation appears to be calm and balanced, you and your SM are ready for real action.
The quail rises in the air and adrenaline runs high. If your dog stresses too much, go back a stage or two and try again. Or wait a day or more for repetition. When your dog 'whoa's or takes up the 'down'-position on his own as he should, you are both ready to go out into the field to try out the lessons learnt – pointing and raising. With your SM on a long leash you are in good control and can stop him if he stresses…
- If you act as a leader you need not take the lead. 'Whoa!' or 'Down!' are the most important commands.
- Do not present the dog to birds until basic training has been passed with flying colours. Your SM knows how to hunt – you must teach him not to!.
- There is no excuse for not training at home. Use an assistant and a cap.
- Obedience only lasts for a certain period of time. Your SM should go through one of the obedience training exercises at least twice a week.
- Disobedience situations will pop up quickly now and then – take your precautions and nip them in the bud.