Buy this book: Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer

January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine
January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine

Check out my latest article from the January-February 2020 edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine. Scroll down to read the entire piece.

My latest Shooting Sportsman article, page 30, January - February 2020
My latest Shooting Sportsman article, page 30, January – February 2020

Building a Grouse Dog: From Puppy to Polished Performer, by Craig Doherty

True love and truly great dog trainers are hard to come by. It has taken me decades to find both. I married in 2012 and, in 2014 I started sending my Pointers to Craig Doherty, author of the new book Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.

Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.
Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer.

I met Craig back two twenty years ago when I started hanging around field trials. Since then, he has been breeding top-notch grouse dogs for hunters throughout the Northeast and bringing home ribbons from field trials throughout the country, including a first-place win at the 2007 Grand National Grouse Championship–the Superbowl of upland-hunting style dog competitions. While doing all this, he has also built a guiding and dog-training business in northern New Hampshire. So when it comes to top-notch bird dogs, Craig knows what he’s talking about. He has walked the walk, and his new book teaches you how to walk down your own path to success.

Lexi pointing a pigeon
My pointer Lexi with Craig, the book’s author

As it says on the cover, Craig Doherty’s Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer is a how-to, and across its 168 pages, and with dozens of full-color pictures, it covers everything from a pup’s first time out of the whelping box to finishing it up on its second season in the grouse woods and beyond. It suggests what training gear you should own, gives you tips on buying, using and introducing your dog to a GPS e-collar, and even discusses where to hunt Ruffed Grouse, and the gun to carry while doing it.

The lessons it teaches are practical, gimmick-free, and easy to apply to any pointing breed. They’re also kind to the dogs. Some current “alpha dog” training philosophies inspire people to be heavy-handed with their pups. Craig doesn’t practice that nonsense or promote it in his book. Instead, he believes “…you need to work at becoming a hunting partner as opposed to a hunting master” and tells you how to do it.

Craig working a gorgeous pointer he has in his kennel
Craig working a gorgeous pointer he had in his kennel

My favorite parts are the bits of wisdom Craig drops in throughout his book, insights like what the breeder of your next grouse dog should be obsessed with, the best time of year for your new pup to be born, why leather collars are not ideal, and how to deal with bloody tails. I’m sure Craig has spent years gathering this knowledge. Gaining just reading his book feels like cheating — but I’ll take it.

Craig was a writer and educator before he became a full-time dog trainer, and his storytelling skills and ability to break down complex ideas into easy-to-understand lessons are evident throughout his new book. So is his empathy for his students, four- and two-legged. Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer is easy to follow and a joy to read. Best of all, its lessons are easy to apply and it’s full of wisdom anyone interested in gun dogs will benefit from discovering.

Like I said in the beginning, great dog trainers are hard to come by. It’s even harder to find ones who can teach you their skills. Craig Doherty new book Building a Grouse Dog, From Puppy to Polished Performer does just that, and like true love, it’s something worth experiencing for yourself.

Building a Grouse Dog: From Puppy to Polished Performer, by Craig Doherty,

Available at www.WildAppleKennel.com

FIELD TRAINING: GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER AND IRISH SETTER

Come Back Red Setter's Audie--2nd Place 2007 Futurity. Pic from Come Back's site.
Come Back Red Setter’s Audie–2nd Place 2007 Futurity. Pic from Come Back’ Red Setters.

I’ve always been interested in Red Setters. Last week, I was clicking around online looking for information on them and I came across this short video from Dogumentary TV.

It features Cliff Fleming, dog trainer, president of the Inland Empire NAVHAA, and red-setter fan, as well as some nice footages of a red setter in the field.

BTW: The title is the video is wrong. Someone who didn’t know dogs must have edited it. The video’s about training an Irish/Red Setter and a German Shorthair Pointer.

A furious flush of wild quail…

A Hifive Kennels success story: Thornapple Cody, Runner-up CH 2017 ABHA North Country Walking Shooting Dog Championship
Hifive’s RU-CH Thornapple Cody

I love videos of pointing dogs and wild quail.

This is another from Hifive Kennels, and it features a setter named Ginny.

If you hang around the coverdog field trial circuit at all, you probably know Hifive. Located in Beulah, MI, they’ve been breeding, training, and trialing dogs for 20+ years, and they’ve produced a long list of great dogs.

Time for some long tails. Check out these setters…

Every time I see one of these videos from Sky Dance Kennels, I think “that’s the life.” Horses, great dogs, wide-open country and lots of birds. If there’s a heaven, I hope it’s like this.

In this video you can see some of Sky Dance’s young setters stretch their legs, crack their tails and show off all the style they have. Not bad for long hairs…

Run setters, run! Sky Dance Kennels video, 11/8/16
Run setters, run! Sky Dance Kennels video, 11/8/16

Good Sat for Lexi at Setter Club Field Trial….

Lexi and I headed down to Cape Cod on Sat to check out the Setter Club of New England’s spring field trial. I entered Lexi in two stakes: the Amateur Derby and Gundog. She took 3rd in both. Here are some pics from the day.

Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 Field Trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 Field Trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Lexi took 3rd place, Amateur Derby, Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial
Lexi took 3rd place, Amateur Derby, Setter Club of New England Spring 2016 trial

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.

Great read: Dad Saw Himself in Setters, by Tom Davis…

4X CH TEKOA MOUNTAIN JETTSUN
4X CH TEKOA MOUNTAIN JETTSUN

Tom Davis is a great writer, and always check out anything I come across from him. This piece from the Sporting Classics Daily blog is a good example of why he’s worth reading. It’s short, and in very few word Davis touches hits on why we fall in love with bird dogs. Do yourself a favor and click through to read the entire piece.

Dad Saw Himself in Setters by Tom Davis now

“I picked him up at the condo he’d rented on the Lake Michigan beachfront. It was more like March than May, a raw wind blowing off the lake, scudding clouds that spat occasional volleys of needle-sharp rain. He wanted to see my dogs run.

“Jesus, Dad,” I said, scowling at his low-cut tennis shoes. “We’re going to be in woodcock cover. Where the hell are your boots?…”

Read all of Dad Saw Himself in Setters by Tom Davis now

“You have to get to know a dog, first, before you can train him.”

Puck, my English Pointer, pointing a grouse
Puck, my English Pointer, pointing a grouse

What’s it really take to train a bird dog? There’s some insight into it in this piece from  Garden & Gun magazine.

The Education of a Bird Dog

by Geoffery Norman – Alabama – Garden & Gun, October/November 2013

For Ramin Jackson, training a gundog doesn’t start with shouting and shock collars. It starts with getting to know his pupil

Find out. Click through to read the entire article.
Find out. Click through to read the entire article.

The turnoff was five miles from Union Springs, a name that doesn’t mean much unless you care about bird dogs. In that case it means a lot. Resonates, I suppose, the same way the name Bordeaux does for people who care hopelessly about wine. Union Springs, which is about forty-five miles east of Montgomery in the Alabama Black Belt, is known as the field trial capital of the world. A bronze statue in the town square depicts not the usual Confederate infantryman but an English pointer, standing staunchly with head high and tail straight…

Read the entire piece here

Think your dog can hunt all day? This trainer says no way…

Cocker Spaniel at a Field Trial
Cocker Spaniel at a Field Trial

Todd Agnew is a well known dog trainer who works with top-notch Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels. At his Craney Hill Kennel, he has worked with hundreds of gundogs and trained a number of them to world-class levels.

In his recent post CONDITIONING…IT IS MORE THAN JUST FINDING MORE BIRDS, he talks about getting hunting dogs into shape – what it takes, why it matters, and how it affects a dog’s performance. If you have a bird dog, I suggest you read it. Here’s a taste of the info, and opinion, you’ll encounter:

“…If your dog can hunt all day, then I do not want to hunt with your dog! There, I said it and I mean it. Let me explain and then you think about it…”

To find out why, read Todd’s entire post now: CONDITIONING…IT IS MORE THAN JUST FINDING MORE BIRDS

One dog’s development: Watch Little Jeb get steady…

Check out this short video to see Little Jeb go from wild to steady — right before your very eyes! Here’s a bit about the video from the folks at GunDogDevelopment.com: A chronology of Little Jeb’s steadiness training. Over the last six months, we anxiously waited for him to show us that he was ready to be steadied on game. This video journal, begining May 25, 2013 captures all of his training sessions up to July 13, 2013. All of the clips are in sequence to show his progression.

Although edited, all of the benchmarks to move him through the program have been included. Little Jeb received one E-collar correction in the at the finally. If you watch closely, you can see a slight twitch in his tail when the correction occurred.

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.

Style…

When it comes to bird dogs, different breeds hunt in different ways. This is especially true with Continental and English Pointers.

Last weekend when I was out with Bob I had a chance to see these differences in action. Check out these videos to see what a mean.

This is my English Pointer, Puck. Check out how high she holds her head. She’s also a bit rangier and more dynamic in the field.

This is Bob’s GSP Nelly. She’s an easy-handling, closer ranging bird dog. Check out how she holds her head lower and looks for scent closer to the ground. Her body tends to “rocking horse” a bit.

The rise of the tail…

You’ve heard it before: England and America are two countries separated by a common language. They have bespoke, we have custom. They have lorries, we have trucks. Differences like this occur in the gun world, too. The Brits shoot; we hunt. They wear tweed; we wear blaze. And their pointers and setters point with flat tails, while our dogs hold there tails high and straight.

This hasn’t always been the case. Our dogs mimicked used to mimic their ancestors in the UK. Take a look at the engraving on this old Parker and you’ll see old-timey American hunting dogs with their tails level with the ground. But in the last 50-60 years, new, American style pointers and setters have emerged. One of big differences in these dogs is their tails – how they hold them and how long they are.

English Pointer - Old time tail
English Pointer - Old time tail

 

Pointer & Setter, tails starting to rise
Pointer & Setter, tails starting to rise

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern English Pointer in US, Nitro's Elhew All American
Modern English Pointer in US, Nitro's Elhew All American
Modern English Pointers in Scotland
Modern English Pointers in Scotland
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