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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Need a few pointers on upland training.

Ive taught my dog to quarter, he now naturally quarters, and will turn on a whistle, but in his excitement he tends to work out of range pretty quick. Id like to have him stay hunting close without having to keep calling him back.

Any pointers on getting him to stay hunting close?
 

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Toss birds for him to find in areas you want him. Do this as he is looking the other direction.
He will soon learn to stay closer as that is where he finds birds.
Also use vibrate, beep tone in place of whistle to turn him.
 

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What type of upland birds are you hunting? Some run, some don't. Either way I'd look at range as Obedience used to form 'working' range while still building an understanding through command or release that dog should be working outward to 'find' birds. Once found...you'll need control of working range and commands that slow the dog so as not to wild flush birds - out of range. Most dogs imbed the range distance over time but you still need a 'whoa' type slowing command when working a moving bird.
 

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What type of upland birds are you hunting? Some run, some don't. Either way I'd look at range as Obedience used to form 'working' range while still building an understanding through command or release that dog should be working outward to 'find' birds. Once found...you'll need control of working range and commands that slow the dog so as not to wild flush birds - out of range. Most dogs imbed the range distance over time but you still need a 'whoa' type slowing command when working a moving bird.
I agree. I've trained my Sadie to work in fairly close on upland birds not only to keep her from flushing prematurely, but also to keep her out of the line of fire of other hunters (some of whom may not be accustomed to shooting over dogs). Coveys of California quail are notorious runners, and it's Sadie's job to keep track of them without flushing them until she's given a command to do so. Pheasants? Sharptail grouse? Hungarian partridge? The same rules apply, in my estimation. Obeying commands and maintaining control are essential...and that includes hunting waterfowl from a blind.
 

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Teaching a dog to pay attention to distance is best accomplished by utilizing the concept of "physical influence". Every dog knows where you are at, but a responsive dog is one that continually reads your body language. They are aware and teaching range is much easier.

For example, take a young dog into the field and as he begins to "range off", simply turn and walk away from him. A pup naturally wants to be with you (if he is not hot on a scent) and will tend to move to "check back" with you. Let him know you are glad he did this. The idea is to develop an expectation. You are teaching him that if you change directions....he is supposed to respond.

Once he is more aware of your changes in direction, then you can work at developing the most effective range by simply using "physical influence". Another way to look at this is that every time your dog "zigs" in one direction.........you "zag" in another at the right distance and keep going. This emphasizes "physical influence".

It is much more obvious with puppies. As a dog becomes older and develops independence, they often become less responsive to body language which makes it more difficult to teach range.

The end result is techniques such as collar corrections, throwing birds to make the dog quarter and all sorts of attention getting stategies are employed to teach something that could have been nurtured at the time the window of opportunity was wide open.....when the dog was a puppy.

Another issue in teaching range later with retrievers is we tend to focus on OB, following directions, control and retrieving skills, then after these are deeply entrenched, the idea of upland hunting is introduced. The dog is to search freely, but stay within certain parameters.....like gun range. Unfortunately, the dog has been spending all his time following orders.....now he is supposed to search freely....but not too far.

The end result is force, control and commands are not the primary functions of upland hunting. You want a free thinking dog that is responsive enough to check in with you at a certain distance.
 

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Another issue in teaching range later with retrievers is we tend to focus on OB, following directions, control and retrieving skills, then after these are deeply entrenched, the idea of upland hunting is introduced. The dog is to search freely, but stay within certain parameters.....like gun range. Unfortunately, the dog has been spending all his time following orders.....now he is supposed to search freely....but not too far.

The end result is force, control and commands are not the primary functions of upland hunting. You want a free thinking dog that is responsive enough to check in with you at a certain distance.
Good comments Jim. If you don't start building the beliefs and practices of an upland dog the day they come home, in addition to their work as a retriever, it will be more difficult to have a free-search dog. Not exposing the young dog to the thrill and confidence of finding many birds young is as detrimental as thinking you'll train obedience when the pup is doing so later.

Search, range, and bird finding is an exercise on it's own to build the dog you want. Obedience is rather a lifestyle addressed in other areas of training. One is peanut butter, the other jelly. At some point they slap together as a samwich.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the info guys. Right now he quarters an appropriate distance to the left and right, but after a couple zig zags hes too far out in front and I have to either call him in or sit him. Ideally, id like him to correct himself, and stay within gun range.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
He quickly gets out of comfortable shooting range (for me anyways... maybe 20-30 yards) then at that point ive been letting him make another pass or two to see if he would correct himself. By that time hes probably 40 yards out. Im thinking that if he gets birdy on his outer most range by the time i get there the bird will be flushed and gone.
 

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Just my 2cents: If your dog isn't working 40 yards out it is too close. There's no sense in both of you pushing birds. It is not until the dog is birdy that you need the dog in 'gun range' and at that point you generally need the working distance shortened to 20-25 yards.

I am addressing this from a pheasant perspective (so keep that in mind) but you should expect as many flushes at your feet as 'out front' as the dog works the bird into a mistake. If you are directly behind your dog 'too close' the bird will run around you. If you leave an alley - the bird will often run back into you and force the flush. The objective should be to position yourself behind the dog as a blocker and that position changes minute by minute in the pursuit.

You might position yourself adjacent to the dog more than behind the dog...making sure the bird doesn't seek refuge in a fence row or other path of escape. I am rarely straight-line 'behind' the dog...when the dog is on a bird.

In either case...unless the dog is birdy give them range. Once the dog IS birdy - tighten your gap and work it slow. It' most often the bird making a mistake that forces the flush. You want to be in range when that happens.

More time and more birds will give you an excellent read on the dogs body language and that will tell you relative proximity of dog to bird.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This coming fall will be my second season pheasant hunting, managed one bird last fall. But since then I have used planted birds to train with. Both pigeons and pheasants. It seems that my dog always gets birdy when he's at a distance, scents the bird and a few quick strides and he's flushed it. Then its a little too late, as the bird usually flushes up and away from me and the dog, and I dont even bother the shot as its already too far.
 

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I understand. One you might be making it too easy by deeply planting or dizzying the bird too much. You should also try and bring your dog into planted birds from down wind to get scent. 'Stumbling onto birds' and immediately getting a flush is rare in real hunting situations. The idea of planting birds is many - it's not just the flush but helping a dog learn how to use the wind, the runners, and the nature of a bird.

It's also building the belief that every field has birds if you say so but staggering the time between them finding one to build perseverance in search.

Pigeons have limited value for an older dog - relative to upland work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I actually have been staggering the areas the birds are planted so the dog learns that a bird may be anywhere. However Ive always trained with the wind in our face. Maybe ill switch that up...
 

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Good idea. Crosswind pick-up is important. Use pheasant - don't dizzy them. The objective is not to take home the birds but to provide the dog an opportunity to work them. If your dog isn't trailing pheasant scent and having to work for them - change that. That's why pigeons don't have much value at this stage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
He will trail a pheasant... Actually neat to watch as he spins on a dime and bolts down the scent trail...ive lost a number of birds because he trails (pretty fast) and the bird is out of range very quickly.
 

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He will trail a pheasant... Actually neat to watch he spins and a dime and bolts down the scent trail...ive lost a number of birds because the run, he trails (pretty fast) and the bird is out of range very quickly.
That is different than this:
This coming fall will be my second season pheasant hunting, managed one bird last fall. But since then I have used planted birds to train with. Both pigeons and pheasants. It seems that my dog always gets birdy when he's at a distance, scents the bird and a few quick strides and he's flushed it. Then its a little too late, as the bird usually flushes up and away from me and the dog, and I dont even bother the shot as its already too far.
All I can suggest is that you A. pay very close attention to the dogs body language and if he is 'birdy' you narrow the distance by slowing the dog. You accomplish that by making sure (outside of your bird working) the dog will either sit on command or slow on command. Do not teach and test obedience while working with birds - do it outside of that. APPLY it on birds.

B. A bird only runs as fast or a far as it is 'chased'. Training birds provide you an opportunity to teach the dog...through stopping or sitting...to MAINTAIN the distance to YOU. If you need to stop and release to build these habits...do it. But AGAIN, the dog must have the discipline BEFORE doing this afield. Build in 'whoa' ahead of the stop command to train the dog to slow down, and recognize where you are relative to it.

If you don't master this relationship on running birds you will either end up running yourself or missing the opportunity to shoot them.

A by-product (an important one) is that the dog should be hunting for YOU, not himself.
 

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He's supposed to be hunting as part of a team. There's nothing wrong with whistle sitting a retriever when they push a bird too hard. Getting the proper response in those situations
is not an "easy do" once the dog thinks he is self-employed.

The upland hunting retriever needs be responsive to the handler when in the field at all times. This happens only when the necessary control becomes a taught expectation. For a dog, the flush is almost as exciting as making a retrieve. Proper bird interactions do not just happen by turning the dog loose and letting him determine the course of action.
 
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