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Keep Your Pointing Dog Steady

If your goal is to have a steady dog that holds a point even while a bird rattles into the sky, put yourself in his place. Dogs are curious creatures. Unlike cats, curiosity probably won’t kill your dog, but it could cause him to break on a flushing bird if he feels like he’s being squeezed out of the action. There’s good reason to be strategic about approaching a pointed bird: obscuring your dog’s view of the action might encourage him to move so he can watch the proceedings when you want him to stand still.

This was driven home to me in a training situation just yesterday. I’d set up the bird in a launcher so it was hidden by tall sage. I brought in Manny crosswind, and he stopped at the first whiff of pigeon, front leg lifted in anticipation of the joy to come. Unfortunately, to keep him steady I got between him and the bird, very close to him, so I could hold up my hand and shout “whoa” if necessary.

I was ecstatic at his intensity, walked in on the bird, turned to him, and hit the red button on the launcher. Thanks to me Manny couldn’t see the bird rise, so jumped left as if on springs, back on point when he landed. From his new vantage point, he could see the arc of the flying bird. There was no intent to break point, or chase the bird. He simply needed a vector on it so when the time came to retrieve he’d know where to go.

And there’s the lesson. By marching straight in on a bird, we are effectively blocking our dog’s line of sight. Holding a point with adrenaline flowing and guns blazing is hard enough. It’s understandable that any smart dog would want to know where the flying bird is headed – after all, if things go well, you’ll be asking him to “fetch it up.”

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