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October Setters

    Hi Carl,

    That’s a good question. In my experience most pups go out and learn to point at a young age and they hold point fairly well, some really well. While some of those pups will continue to hold point many (most?) will start breaking point and flushing birds in their second season. We call it the terrible twos. Most will eventually settle down and start holding point again but some will require training. Whether or not they need training will depend somewhat on your expectations. Is it OK for him to flush when you’re close, walk in with you to flush, or do you want him steady to wing or shot? So you basically have two options. Do some training to encourage staunchness or wait it out and see if he settles down on his own. We usually take the latter approach for numerous reasons, in large part to evaluate what their natural performance will be. However if I had one or two dogs and access to training birds I’d probably opt for training.

    In your case I’m assuming we’re talking about an 8 month old puppy so you’re still in the less is more stage. I encourage you to (re)read #1 & 2 (but especially #1) in my Feb 9, 2016 reply above. 8 months is too young to do any formal/serious staunchness training with your pup. Next summer is the time to get more serious about training him. For now keep hunting him and getting him into birds. If he’s breaking point you can try positive reinforcement but I wouldn’t do anything corrective/negative if he breaks point at this stage. If he’s holding point try whispering encouragement while you walk in to flush. Or try just getting close to him then stop and stand there. Sometimes they’ll hold point really well if you’re standing behind them rather than trying to flush the bird. Mostly I’d take what you get right now and wait for next summer to get serious.

    If you choose the training approach (which I suspect you are going to do) your job is to teach the dog he isn’t allowed to flush the bird (see #3 from 2/9/2016 above). This is one situation in which training birds are indispensable. You need to know the bird is there and where it is so you can control the situation. Ideally you want training birds that fly fairly well (relatively speaking) so they can flush if he tries to catch them. No launchers. It’s important to make sure your dog has learned to handle wild birds BEFORE using training birds. At this point it won’t hinder his development like it will before he learns to handle wild birds. I’ve seen a dog learn to sight point pen raised birds then try to do the same on Ruffed Grouse and flush them one after the other. She eventually came around but it took a long time so you don’t want to make this mistake.

    We teach steady to wing first, then advance to holding point. We whoa the dog then throw pigeons and use a check cord to prevent him from chasing them. Once he will reliably stay on whoa with pigeons flying and walking around him, then we plant quail for him to point and teach him he has to hold point. Let him establish a point, tell him whoa, then flush the bird. He already knows he can’t chase so he’s actually less inclined to flush. If he does break we yank the cord to stop him, put him back where he pointed, and tell him whoa. Eventually he’ll get the idea. If you use an e-collar it will speed this process up a lot, mostly because you can consistently apply correction at the proper time, even before he actually breaks if you can read the dog well enough to know he’s about to break. Once he will hold point reliably in this set up it’s time to transfer these lessons over to hunting.

    This is the hard part. If he was breaking point last season he’ll probably do so again despite all the yard work described above. This is where an e-collar really shines. If he’s 60 yards away and breaks point it’s hard to correct the behavior. You can’t always get hold of a check cord in this situation (which I don’t use while hunting , for safety if nothing else). However with an e-collar you can easily reach out and touch him as he flushes the bird. This instantaneous correction comes independent of a rope attaching him to you so he immediately gets the idea he can’t get away with flushing birds ever, not only when he has the check cord on. If you don’t use an e-collar bring him back and make him whoa where he flushed the bird. Make him stand for a while then release him. When he does hold point praise him. I would also suggest not shooting (at) birds he flushes at this stage of the game – it only serves to reward a negative behavior. Eventually he’ll get the idea.

    This is a really simplified explantion of training methods. To write a detailed description would take way too much space and time. There are many ways to accomplish the same thing, this is just the way we do it. Talk with other breeders/trainers and see what they do, then pick the approach you think makes sense and works for your situation. Just make sure your advice comes from people who are experienced with Ryman type setters. English Setters from field trial lines are very different to train so this is important. If you’ve never done it before you’ll be feeling your way to some extent. Just be careful not to put too much pressure on him and make sure he knows why he’s being corrected when you do put pressure on him. And make sure he’s having fun. If he backs off or loses enthusiasm at any time, back off and make the training sessions fun until he regains that enthusiasm.

    If you want to talk about this in more detail feel free to call any time. 208-558-7789.

    Good luck.


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