What a bird dog’s nose really knows…

Pointing a Spring Woodcock
Pointing a Spring Woodcock

If you spent much time with hunting dogs, you’ve probably wondered about their noses. A recent piece called  BIRD DOGS, SCENT AND FINDING BIRDS from the Pheasants Forever blog gave some insights into scent and into how dogs process it. It’s short, but talks about:

  • The Scent Cloud
  • Temperature & Moisture
  • Hot Spots
  • Dog’s Health
  • Bird Identity
  • Hunting Dead Birds
  • Up Wind, Down Wind, Cross Wind
“I spent a number of days this spring running my German shorthaired pointer, Trammell, through woods I know hold timberdoodle on their migration north. It was interesting to watch Trammell navigate the scent determining when to point and when to press. It got me thinking about the incredible ability of a dog’s nose, so I reached out to Bob West of Purina Dog Foods and a professional trainer with 50 years of experience to teach me more about bird dogs and scent…”

Power duo: Quail hunting with a Pointer and a Cocker …

Here’s something I’ve always wanted to try. From what I’v read, this is how folks hunt quail on a lot of the plantations down south.

This video just shows a great looking Pointer doing what these dogs do so well.

Great dog work: Caladen’s DaVinci owns a covey of quail …

Running birds can really frazzle some bird dogs. But not this one. Caladen’s DaVinci handles this can’t-stay-still covey of quail like a real pro — not bad for a long hair.

It’s nice to see a handler that lets the dog work, too. There’s no screaming of commands, just confidence and total faith in his four-legged partner.

Goodbye to a great dog: Ch Beaver Meadow Benjamin has passed away…

Back when I first got into Pointers, Beaver Meadow Benjamin was THE hot dog on the New England field trial circuit. Even though an injury put an early end to Benny’s trial career, he went on to sire a bunch of winners. Born in 2001, Benny passed away a couple weeks ago. You can read more about Beaver Meadow Benjamin here on the Region 1 Field Trial Club site and in this string on the Cover Dog Field Trial Board.

Another nice video: Beautiful English Pointers in the UK…

Has anyone ever seen pointers like this in the US? The ones in this video are fantastic looking dogs. Maybe I’m seeing things, but they look a bit different from most EPs I’ve seen over here – leggier, deeper in the chests, and with blockier, squarer heads. Their points are lot different, too. They do get the job done, though.

Desert Dogs: Another great photo essay by Craig Koshyk…

Here’s another great photo essay by writer, photographer  Craig Koshyk. He’s the author of : Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continental, one of the best books around about pointing dogs. If you want to learn more about dogs like the ones you’ll see in his pics, be sure to check it out

Desert Dogs: In Idaho with the WPCGA

Desert Dogs: In Idaho with the WPCGA, by Craig Koshyk
Desert Dogs: In Idaho with the WPCGA, by Craig Koshyk

Prairie Dogs: A must-see photo essay by Craig Koshyk…

Craig Koshyk is the author of one of my favorite dog books: Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continental. He’s also a talented photographer, and, of course, a passionate upland hunter. His photo essay Prairie Dogs: Under the Broomhill Sky takes a look at the people, horses, and dogs that make the Broomhill Field Trials so special. The pictures are beautiful, so click through and give yourself a treat.

Prairie Dogs Under the Broomhill Sky, by Craig Koshyk
Prairie Dogs Under the Broomhill Sky, by Craig Koshyk

A couple must-reads about birds dogs…

Pointing a Spring Woodcock
Puck pointing a woodcock in the spring

I used to read the magazine Sporting Classics regularly, but in the past few years I’ve stopped. Judging by the quality of these two stories, perhaps I should pick it up again. Both these stories are quick reads and, if you love bird dogs, well worth your time.

There’s Hardly a Man Who Can’t Be Improved By a Good Dog: By Robert Matthews

“At the time, I vowed that I wouldn’t get another dog. Life’s thread had grown too short, the grief too deep and the task too burdensome, I reasoned. And I knew for certain that I would never find another dog like Sam. A dog like that comes along only once in lifetime….”

“We think of ourselves as hunters, and of our pups as gun dogs. Yet as important as the hunting is—and make no mistake, it is important—the time we spend afield is only a part of it. There’s a bigger picture. It’s the tail thumps when we walk into the room, the gentle weight of his head on our knee, the absolute trust that shines in his eyes, the way that our hand seems to find his ear of its own volition. It’s the fact that, as every attentive dog owner knows, our dogs define the term “unconditional love.” Hell, if we had half their innate capacity for love—if we had a quarter of it—this magnificent world, which we treat with such studied indifference, would be a paradise.”

From Finland: The truly versatile pointing dog…

Pointing a Spring Woodcock
Nice point. But in Finland, they train their dogs to do more.

Most of us train our pointers to find game and then point it until we arrive to flush and shoot the birds. But in Finland, some pointing dogs are trained to something even cooler: They’re trained to point Capercaillie, and then on command return to their human companions and guide their two-legged friends back to the bird.

Learn the how’s and why’s of them doing it by checking out this post from Craig Koshyk’s Pointing Dog Blog. And be sure to check out the videos. The last one is amazing.
Versatility Part 1: Reporting From Finland…
“In the gundog world, the term ‘versatile’ is pretty versatile. In the UK, France, Italy and other European countries, it means a dog that hunts, points and retrieves. In North America, according to NAVHDA, it means a dog that hunts, points, retrieves and tracks on land and water. In Germany and countries to the east, it means a dog that hunts, points, tracks, drives, bays, flushes, kills vermin and protects the house and home.

But even as broad as those definitions are, they still don’t cover the full spectrum of how versatile dogs are actually used by hunters in each region. So in this next series of posts, I would like to explore some of the more interesting and unusual ways that versatile dogs are used in different parts of the world. Today’s post will look at something called “reporting” done by Finnish hunters, field trialers and their dogs in the vast forests of Finland…”

Read the entire piece now. Discover more about “reporting” and see a great video that shows how Finnish hunters this technique to their advantage.

BTW: be sure to check out Craig’s book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals, the most thorough and authoritative work available on the history of continental Europe’s pointing breeds. If you love hunting dogs, it’s a book you must have.

Praising your pup: Is there a “best” way?

Steady with Style, from Martha Greenlee
Steady with Style, from Martha Greenlee

Praise isn’t something you can do wrong – or at least that’s what I thought. But one afternoon at Woodcock Haven Kennels, ace pointing dog trainer Al Ladd used a very personal demo to show me the right way to say “good boy”.

After I had whoed up my pointer on a planted pigeon and stroked her back up and down with praise, Al came up to me and did the same thing. Then he paused, put his hand on my arm, and calmy said “nice job.”

“See how one way gets you all worked up? And the other keeps you calm?”

I did.

In her piece Praise, Martha Greenlee points out the same thing and explains why calm praise is the better way to go.

Praise, from Martha Greenlee’s Steady with Style

“Praise is one type of reward you use to train a dog. Food treats, tossing a ball and an excited voice are examples of other types of rewards. Trainers who compete in dogs sports such as obedience, agility and tracking use a variety of rewards to let the dog know he did what the trainer asked. However, training a pointing dog is different. These dogs are bred with a strong desire to find birds, so finding birds is already a powerful reward, and it gets them excited.

The key to training a pointing dog is to give praise as a reward when your dog does what you asked. Unlike most rewards, praise can be given in ways that don’t increase your dog’s level of excitement. The calmer you can keep your dog around birds, the less pressure you will need to redirect his focus back to training….”

Read the entire piece here.

Eyes or nose –which one is your pup relying on?

Eyes or Nose--which one is your pup using?
Eyes or Nose–which one is your pup using?

Every pup is different. Martha Greenlee at Steady with Style writes that one of the big differences is how pups learns to find birds. Some start with their eyes. Others discover the power of their noses right away. Greenlees believes these differences can send pups down diverging paths the rest of their lives. Read why in her latest from Steady with Style:

“Have you noticed how differently pups Steady with Style, from Martha Greenleerun? Some pups reach for the horizon and chase anything that flies. Other pups work at a closer range, use the wind and point when they find birds. These differences have a lot to do with whether they use their eyes or their nose.”

You can read the entire post here.

Great, so this means I’m the jerk?…

Steady with Style
Steady with Style

Do you  have those moments when you realize you’re the A-hole? It happens to me (too often?), and after I read Martha Greenlee’s the latest post at Steady with Style, it happened to me again. I’ve made the mistake she outlines below many times.

“Besides a pinch-collar and check-cord, you use verbal commands and an e-collar to train your pointing dog. It is important to use one or the other, a verbal command or the e-collar but not at the same time. A good example is the “whoa” command. If your dog is creeping or under a bird, it takes a lot of self-discipline not to yell, “Whoa,” at the same time you correct your dog with the e-collar. Unfortunately, if you use them together very often, your dog may learn to associate the e-collar with the word “whoa,” and he can begin to blink birds.” Read all of the post now

How to approach a dog on point…

Point! Now what do you do?
Point! Now what do you do?

The moment you’ve worked for all year finally arrives: it’s hunting season, your dog finds a bird, and you have a solid point. Now what do you do? Here’s a bit of advice from the folks over at Pheasant’s Forever:

“I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle….With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point.  “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point.  You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West.  “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”

You can read more here.

Introducing Breed of the Week…

Over the last 12 years Craig Koshyk has been on a mad pursuit. You should thank him. Koshyk has dedicated thousands of hours and even more $$$$ to create a beautiful new book titled Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals.

Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals
Buy this book now

You’re probably thinking breed book, great (eyes rolling, fight back a yawn). But please understand this: Pointing Dogs is much, much more than that.

While it is filled with original research on 52+ breeds, Pointing Dogs book is as much about Koshyk’s passion for these dogs as it is about their ancestry, coat colors, and hunting styles. This passion is what makes the book such a great read.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to feature a bit about each breed in the book: one dog a week, 52 weeks. To get the full story behind these dogs, purchase a copy Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals for yourself.

BTW: I want to ask you for a favor: Spread the word about this book. Email your buddies. Talk it up. Give it as a gift and buy multiple copies for yourself. This will help Koshyk complete his next book — Pointing, Dogs Volume Two: The British Pointing Dogs.