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Training Methods

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    • #98

        Hi everyone,
        I was just curious what book, or dvd, that people base there training methods from. I really like the perfect start-perfect finish by Jon Hann. Now I don’t take a dvd and follow it completely, but I do take a lot from them. Two of the biggest things I took away from these dvd’s is one, how to read a dog, you will learn how to watch and study your dog to make sure they are enjoying the process. The second is to keep sessions short and fun. I know there are a lot of training books and videos out there and am curious what others like to use.

      • #159
        October Setters


          We haven’t seen the DVD you mentioned so can’t comment on it but it sounds interesting.  

          We basically teach puppies to come on command, get them shot over as described in the “How Do You Introduce Guns?” thread, and take them hunting.  We wait until after their first season and until they are pointing/handling wild birds before doing any serious training.  Most will perform acceptably with no further training, some will require staunching up.  Pups also get some play retrieving (this comes in handy if they hesitate to pick up a bird – see this video of Gen’s first retrieve for example) and whoa training but only a basic introduction to “Whoa” to teach them what it means.  The description of these last two in “Troubles With Bird Dogs” (by George Evans) is pretty much how we do it.  We’ve posted videos of introducing these drills to three pups on our BLOG.

          We learned how to train mostly by taking private lessons with Errol and Jason Gooding.  It’s the best money we ever spent on training.  The rest we picked up here and there and/or through experience.  

          I do want to point out a few common mistakes we think are important to avoid when developing a Ryman type pup.  These are simple things that will make a huge difference in how your pup turns out.

          1) Trying to do too much when the pup is too young is a very common mistake.  You want the pup to turn out great so you go overboard on drilling and training.  You need control so basic obedience is important but a pup needs to have fun within the bounds of being under control.  They need to learn to keep track of you while hunting, figure out what they’re looking for, where to look, how to locate birds, how close they can get before flushing the bird, etc.  They also need to be more mature to handle more advanced training, like staunchness on point.  As long as they are under control less is usually more when developing Ryman type pups.

          2) There are numerous versions of the “Never let the pup make a mistake” training philosophy out there.  We don’t recommend taking this approach.  They can’t learn much if they never go out and figure anything out for themselves.  If they never bump a grouse, how can they know how close they can get before flushing the bird?  They have to learn from their mistakes just like you and I do.  They’re smart and they’ll figure it out but only if you give them the chance.  In addition, too much control of young Ryman type pups will impede their development.  You want them to develop confidence and learn to explore and learn and you don’t want to take any enthusiasm out of them.  It’s much better to let them get wild and crazy, then try to pull them back a bit than it is to try to get them to open up if they’ve been inhibited for too long.

          3) When “whoa” training you have to learn to let the dog decide when to stop and point.  We’ve all too often heard someone advise to whoa a dog as soon as it hits scent.  Most of this is a result of training dogs for “hunting” planted birds.  If you hunt wild birds you will be poorly served by this advice.  You can’t smell the birds, you can’t read the dog’s mind to know what he can smell, you have no idea if the dog really has a bird located.  Therefore you can’t tell him when it’s time to stop.  Period.  The dog has to make that decision for itself.  There are times you’ll want to give the whoa command after a point is established but not before.  The same is true when following a running bird.  The dog knows when the bird has run and should be permitted to relocate on its own.  Standing there pointing where a bird was a few minutes ago is senseless.    

          If we have to staunch up one of our dogs after they’ve learned to handle birds our goal is teaching them they aren’t allowed to flush the bird.  They can get as close as they choose, follow runners however they please, whatever they do is OK except flushing the bird, so you should only correct the dog if it flushes the bird.  That’s not the same as a running bird flushing wild at a distance, only correct the dog if the bird is flushed on purpose.  Once they get his down they will instantly be good dogs.  They’ve already learned how to point birds, even when they were flushing them on purpose, so once they know they have to hold point they are pretty much finished.


        • #160

            I have been out to Jasons kennel, that is quite the operation they have out there, very impressive. I think when a person trains a dog for his own personal use, they train it to fit there hunting style. I do things with my dogs that would make other people cringe, but it is how I like my dogs to hunt. I do believe that a good bird dog is born knowing how to hunt, if you have to train a dog to hunt, you better get a new one. I do have a system I have developed for myself that has worked good for me.
            I off course start with crate training, along with that I start with the come command, the most important command you can ever teach a dog as far as I’m concerned.
            After the first week of the puppy being home and getting adjusted, the intro to loud noises begins, I usually start with just clapping hands and progress from there.
            At 12 weeks old we get enrolled in puppy kindergarten, which I think is one of the greatest things to do in socializing a young pup, plus they are learning they have to be good citizens in and out of the home. My pointer was the terror in this class and was always being brought up by the teacher to show others how to handle a misbehaving puppy:)
            Puppy kindergarten lasts 6 weeks, so during this time they are not only getting there basic obedience training but I have been also working on intro to birds and gun.
            At 16 weeks I start intro to collar, a lot of people don’t like the collar, but today’s collars are so great, I wouldn’t be without one. I look for collars that have at least these 3 functions, they must have tone, pager, and stimulation, with my Ryman I never have to use the stimulation. Proper intro to collar takes a lot of time and should never be rushed. The first 2 weeks we don’t even use the collar, we just put it on every time we go outside to have fun, one of the greatest things I like is the tone feature, every time I call the pup I use the tone, pretty soon all I have to do is hit the tone button and he is coming, I never have to say a word. My dogs get so excited when they see the collar, they know it’s time to go out and have some fun.
            Depending on when I get the pup I like to get him in the woods as soon as possible, I also hope for warm weather because I like to do an intro to water when they are young.
            I enjoy working with dogs a lot, that is why I am at the kennel part-time, you learn a lot watching all the different breeds, I plan with the next pup to go and take one of the handling clinics Jon Hann puts on, because I realise you reap what you sew, and if I’m a better handler, I will have better dogs.

          • #161

            Robert, After rereading my draft post, let me say, I am not a great trainer. I have been lucky to have better dogs than me, and to have great outcomes where I was lucky enough to accomplish several good things, and not to do anything bad. Haha! Okay, I am just laughing at myself for the good of the order but its basically true. My belief is that training is about extracting the potential the dog has, simplicity and avoidance of bad experiences that hold back potential.

            I asked a similar question a while ago. I was fishing for some new ideas on a gift to a young man who got his first setter puppy. (Note, that better be his first setter puppy!) There might be something in that thread to go on. I tend to put brackets around things to sort out options. One bracket, I avoid speed training, miracle solutions, or approaches that fail to coach the person on their own behavior or attitude. A friend got a nice setter many years ago, read Richard Wolter’s book on training pointing dogs, and ended up with a big unfixable problem.  Wolter’s approach used a wing on a string, let the puppy chase the wing, take it away, and soon wonder pup will stop and point because it will realize it cant catch the wing. Voila! You have reinforced pointing and saved tons of time. You can guess. His dog never stopped chasing, and he relentlessly applied this technique. His dog never recovered from a negative chain of experiences. The technique is not necessarily bad, but no one told him to interpret, understand context, or realize his dog was not responding soon enough. Another bracket is some focus on the trainer, not just on the trainee. I like rereading Bob Wehle and Jerome Robinson’s training books, Wing and Shot and Hunt Close, because they overtly or in due course counsel the trainer’s attitude and behavior.  Some techniques they offer, well, never worked for me, but do I think better? You betcha. Am I more sensitive to my influence on my dog? Yes. I am somewhat focused on avoiding a training set up that has potential for a negative outcome. To do that, things have to be pretty basic and simple most of the time.  Absolute control is not possible. It is not fun to be in the coverts with a person who wants that control, and it makes training stressful.  Nothing really startling here in what I wrote but I hope it adds to the discussion. 

          • #162

            Great topic.  I enjoy hearing how other people go about training their dogs, whether they be ryman or other breeds.  

            For my rymans (and Mike’s Fr Brits) we are definitely “less is more” people.  The only specific training that we do are the basics: come, sit, stay and kennel.  Other than that it is all experiential.  It starts with walks with puppies in the fields and woods.  They learn to keep track of us yet be independent.  I have always been fortunate to have wild birds for my pups to learn on once they were a few months old and on our “walks” they would encounter grouse/woodcock – now it’s usually quail.  Back when I saw how quickly my first ryman became skilled at grouse from just those somewhat limited contacts, I knew I was hooked on rymans.  The Gordons I owned previously were not as precocious nor as naturally staunch. 

            Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to walk into wild birds though.  For many years I ran a training group at my old farm in Vermont where my focus was on showing owners how to train and handle their dogs.  It was a lot of fun and over the years probably 50 people and 15 different breeds participated.  I kept the fields groomed and trails cut through the woods;  we used quail plus I kept a loft of pigeons.  I helped to start many a youngster for other folks and polished up many hunting dogs and competition-bound dogs.  Puppies were allowed to be puppies, bumping and chasing as they may and introducing a blank gun while they were chasing. Most pups started pointing pretty quickly with this no-pressure approach.  (I have to say that the show-bred English Setters were the weakest for natural point of any dogs that came there and required checkcord work just to get them to stop at scent, let alone actually point.)  Once a pup was pointing and holding point I felt the owner needed to make a decision.  If it was to be a hunting dog I recommended stopping the released bird experiences and work on getting pup into wild birds.  This is what I would/will do with my own pups if for whatever reason I cannot get them wild contacts.   If the owners were going to be doing preserves, hunt tests or trials with released birds they would usually continue training, adding controls such as checkcords and launchers to compensate for the pen raised birds.  For my own dogs, the wild birds were the instructors and taught them lessons I could never duplicate….scenting, trailing, using wind and cover, what is too close, etc.    

            There is a big difference between wanting a dog that is staunch on point vs a broke dog ie, steady through wing and shot.  My personal experience is that my rymans become naturally staunch within a season or two, meaning that they hold point until we, the gunners, cause the flush.  Anyone who prefers or requires a broke dog will of course have to do training to obtain that since standing still while game (dinner) leaves the area is not a natural instinct.  

            We do now introduce whoa because we typically hunt 3-4 dogs at a time and in some habitat a dog coming in cannot see that there is another dog on point.  We then teach whoa in context, saying their name, giving a hand signal and this word “whoa” which is weird to them so they usually slow down and start looking around, wondering what the heck is going on.  Once they see the dog on point they ‘get it’ and stop to back.  We are finding that they pick up what whoa means very quickly this way and we can even use it around the house if we want. 

          • #1027

              Question on training techniques from a novice trainer here: when adopting the more natural approach of letting your pup work independently and learn to trust his nose, how do you impart the message that the steady point is good and bumping birds is bad? That is, the same lesson that you might otherwise instill with a planted bird and a remote launcher if you were working preserve birds with conventional techniques? Is it only the trial-and-error of rewarding the dog with a shot when he points the bird–and not shooting when he bumps–or is it more to it than that? This is my third bird dog but first Ryman (and my first time doing the training myself). For those of you who know me, you know I am having a ball, but I am also mindful that I am helping my dog by leading him to the right lessons! Many thanks in advance.

            • #1031
              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.


              • #1039

                  Cliff, with the holiday season craziness with my 3 boys and 3 dogs, I somehow neglected to respond to this post. Thank you very much for this in-depth, thoughtful reply. It has helped me focus my thinking on the issue. I have resisted the tendency I had with my old dogs (not setters) of training too much, too young. But I may well reach out to you for further input during my off-season training when I work more on this. Thanks again and happy hunting.

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