The First Three Seasons Afield
A Guide to the Proper Handling of Your Young Grouse Dog!
F.T.S.A. Fast Forward:
This ISN'T another "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BIRD DOG
It is more about spotting and preventing problems in juvenile bird dogs. Or in other words, pretty much what most of the books have left out! And with it: a healthy shot of common sense with a philosophical treatise for a chaser. Perhaps it will lead you closer to a problem free gun dog that you are proud to own!
One long winter, back in the mid 80's, I wrote this thing on an Olympia Startype typewriter and had it published as an "owner's manual" for those who traded at my kennels. (During those days, I trained grouse and woodcock gun dogs professionally.) Several thousand copies were sold although that was never the intent when it was written. This "epic" represents the total of what I thought I knew after working with over a thousand dogs. It has been spell/typo corrected (to a large extent) but is otherwise unrevised.
My "grouse dog era" was a period of not possessing much other than "raw enthusiasm", but truly enjoying life and what I was doing... And I would do it over! I was in my 30's with a lot of energy and a true passion for grouse dogs and the sport. I still have the passion but not the "perpetual momentum". It has been several years since I even opened a copy of FTSA to browse through... What strikes me the most is how things have changed... not a bit with grouse dogs but with most of the rest of the sport. Dwindling bird populations, anti hunter sentiment, difficulty finding private land to hunt on...
Let's call this a contribution, after three+ decades of earning a living, one way or another, from bird dogs and the sport in general. While the text revolves largely around grouse dogs, there is much general information, too. Many who have read it seemed to get "something" worthwhile from it.
Anyway... I hope YOU get some useful information from it. If you do, then it was worth while writing it many years ago... and taking the time to bring it into the present.
Feel free to agree or disagree with some, all or none of it. Bird dogs are 1% skin & bones and 99% subjective opinion.
Lastly, I have been away from the dog training business for many years. If you have a "dog problem", please refer to this text for insight or recruit a pro trainer. At this point, I will politely decline any/all responses to dog problems by phone, email or smoke signals. I will, however, leave you with this sage advice: The "secret" to dog training is preventing problems, not fixing them!
A LISTING OF CONTENTS
SECTION ONE: DOGS AND VARIABLES -
2. Being a competent dog handler.
3. A number of variables.
4. The Grouse Dog.
5. Different Breeds; Different "styles".
6. Michigan's "Grouse Bred" Setter.
8. Grouse Dogs and Woodcock Dogs.
8. Grouse Dogs and Pheasant Dogs.
10. Bloodlines and breeding.
12. Raising a litter.
16. "Doc"...was a GROUSE DOG!
SECTION TWO: TRAINING
19. Manners on birds.
19. A major mistake.
20. The perils of retrieving.
21. The transition to wild birds.
23. How a dog learns.
25. Punishment and Reward.
26. Making the most of training time.
29. Attitude is important.
30. Misc. Helpful training hints.
36. Puppy "Pitfall" checklist.
37. Time frame and training sequence.
38. Definition of training terms.
SECTION THREE: TRAINING PROBLEMS DEFINED
39. Sub-index of problems.
40. Pointing problems.
44. Retrieving problems.
46. Force breaking to retrieve.
49. Handling problems.
52. Field training "snags".
55. Steady to wing and shot?
57. When to give up on training.
59. Tempted to turn "pro"'?
61. Grouse Dog Field Trials.
63. The Great Grouse Covert...
(first section beginning page 2)
BE A COMPETENT HANDLER!
If you would like to get the best from your dog, you must:
1. Understand your dog and basic canine
2. Understand his training and its basis.
3. Understand the problems, identify them, their cause and solution.
The market is flooded with "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BIRD DOG" Books. Some are very good, but rather general. Others are oriented toward grouse and woodcock dogs, but still are general. I am not going to plug any specific book, but I suggest you study up a little before you attempt any "adjustments" on your dog.
A book is just that... a book. You can read them all and obtain a fundamental knowledge of training mechanics...the "How-To" approach. Being a capable trainer means solving problems that usually do arise. Books seldom go into these highly specific areas and you will often find yourself "stranded" This little guide was intended to take up where the "How-To" books leave off. It goes where they "fear to tread" and is specifically designed to give you INSIGHT into your dog's training: The reasons WHY.
Unless you study and use this guide, it is just another book. To learn, you will have to get out of your armchair, and DO IT!
Few dogs are born that do not develop problems at some point in their career. Each has a quirk or snag that must be worked out, or worked around. If you accept this, then this guide may mean the difference between mediocre field performance, or a proficient dog that is a joy to shoot over. To learn dog training, you must make mistakes and then profit by not repeating them. I believe that this guide will. help you avoid the "pitfalls" or at least help you through them. The reality of your dog (and perhaps his weak points) is that he IS NOT entirely unique. Common problems are shared by all bird dogs.
Training and developing a grouse dog is far more complex and difficult than many realize... or care to consider. A dogs thinking and learning process is complex. There are seldom easy/ stock answers. No, I don't have all the right answers, but I try to ask the right questions. The more I learn about grouse dogs, the less I can take for granted. One plain and open fact: Assume nothing, because training is a game of variables.
A NUMBER OF VARIABLES
The Ruffed Grouse... is a wily creature that makes an occupation of avoiding predators and this includes you and Me, and our domesticated hunting dogs. The grouse has every advantage. Grouse act differently from day to day, from the early season to the "prime" season to the late season, from the fall to the spring. They are spooky on nice sunny days, spookier yet on windy and stormy days. It sometimes takes them a few days to settle down after a day they don't like. Other days, you almost have to "pry a grouse loose", to make it fly....
(Page 16 excerpt)
"Doc", was a GROUSE DOG!
I remember going to look at the litter with
my friend Bill. I remember the ten or so little orange and white balls of
grouse dog setters. I don't recall the exact bloodlines, but I do remember the litter was sired by a grouse champion. The litter's dam was also sired by a grouse champion.
I used to hunt a lot with Bill. He had an ACE setter bitch named "Irma". Together, we spent just about every autumn day together. Bill claimed he was looking for work...and I could always find a good excuse not to work. (Back then, I claimed to be a carpenter). For a couple of seasons, we logged plenty of miles together.
Bill found a good job and I found myself as an unemployed carpenter turned dog-pro. Since those days, we haven't had much time to hunt together since we are both too busy.
Bill started off on the right foot with Doc and did all the right things: the yard work, the training birds, etc. He made a real effort with Doc and put him into plenty of grouse during Doc's first hunting season. Doc was pointing them before long.
In Doc's second season, he sort of "fell by the wayside". Bill became even busier with his work and simply didn't have the time to spend with Doc, or to even hunt. When Bill did have the time to hunt, he usually took Irma along. She was the veteran grouse dog and could always show Bill birds...Doc couldn't, yet...
During Doc's second year, he became very agitated in his kennel: barking at night, chewing on things, and generally making a nuisance of himself. Bill began letting him have "yard privileges" more than he was kenneled. Bill would just turn him out and let him run! This was Doc's undoing, and the point at which he became an outlaw.
Problems? Doc had developed them all! Chasing deer, tearing off for the horizon and being gone for days. He pointed grouse all right...he pointed them and then jumped right in, taking each bird as far as he felt like and then doing "ditto" with the next! Doc had become a confirmed bolter and self-hunter. He was now totally useless as a gun dog....
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