When faced with the task of training a new pointing dog to do what he or she was born to do, why not let the birds train your dog? Pointing breeds are born with the instinct to point. It’s not something that has to be taught but not crowding birds & holding the point however is where it’s time to go to school. A little preschool is needed before your pup can really start learn. Here’s a bit of foundation work that you should have laid out before taking them to school.
Laying the foundation
Ideally a young pointing dog is introduced to birds at an early age. I start with a dead bird that I’ve frozen from the season before (I remove the breast meat & sew them back up then freeze the bird whole). Thaw the bird out and let your pup discover it. There are no rules here & the pup can do whatever he or she wants to do with it. After the frozen bird, on a different day, we discover a lock wing pigeon. Lock the wings by folding one in front of the other over its back then tucking the bottom wing back over again locking the wings in place so the bird can’t flap and startle the pup. Discover birds a few times in your yard making sure it’s a fun and exciting event for your dog before moving on to the next round.
Introduction to gunfire is very important to do gradually. I made the mistake with my first dog of not properly introducing him to gunfire. The first time he heard a gun he panicked & ran between my legs. It took a bit of effort to cure him of his fear and I could have avoided it all together if I had done it right the first time. I start with a .22 & use the dog’s favorite toy. For my german shorthair pointer I throw a frisbee and once he’s in hot pursuit of it I fire the gun. He should never hear the gun go off if his adrenaline is pumping & he’s focused on the toy. The next three trainings sessions I move up to a .410 then a 20 gauge and lastly a 12 gauge.
Bring on the Snipe!
Once the dog has been introduced to birds & gunfire then it’s a great time to head to the lowlands and find some snipe. Florida offers some great bird hunting & I’m blessed to call it home. According to the 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey, Florida harvested more snipe than any other state taking a total of 44,300 birds which makes up 46% of the US total.
https://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/pdf/surveys-and- data/HarvestSurveys/MBHActivityHarvest2013- 14and2014-15.pdf
Snipe make for a great bird to train a pointing dog in Florida. They are very abundant, and a typical outing in a good spot you can flush several dozen birds. I’ve hunted in places where I’ve flushed close to 100 birds in a day. They aren’t the best at holding steady for a young pointing dog however I’d argue that sometimes it can be a good thing. I introduced my vizsla to snipe by walking in the swamp with him and he eventually saw enough birds flush that he realized he couldn’t crowd the birds or they would just fly off.
He figured out that if he goes on point as soon as he smells something that he had a much better chance of getting one in his mouth. I know it was a short paragraph but I believe you probably get my point here. Snipe are plentiful, they give the dog what he or she needs by providing multiple bird contacts, & they teach the dog that crowding a bird won’t help them get feathers. In my opinion, it also adds some style to your dog. I love how my vizsla gets really low in an area likely to hold birds. He creeps along as low as possible instead of running all over the place recklessly.
Where to find/hunt snipe
If you don’t already know where the birds are I can suggest a couple ways to find them.
- Get close to the water
- Find an area that has grass or mud that’s short enough to walk in
- Visit FWC’s website & look at the statistics for the WMA’s and find out which ones harvest the most birds
- Join the Florida Palmetto Chapter of NAVHDA & talk to the members. (I recommend this one the most because you’ll meet great people, get the best intel, & possibly a great partner to help you train & find birds)
Get out there & get some feathers in that dog’s mouth!