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Breaking dogs

Discussion in 'California Flyway Forum' started by Sweatliner, Feb 15, 2020.

  1. Sweatliner

    Sweatliner Elite Refuge Member

    Dec 29, 2003
    What are the best practices you have found to keep your bird dog steady? Seems like this is the most common occurrence on the stellar videos that have been shared lately. I’m sure some folks would be appreciative to pick up some pointers.
    Brian Huber likes this.

    HONKSRWORKN Elite Refuge Member

    Mar 20, 2005
    NO Ka ,
    First you need an E Collar ..... Take dog out and run marks ..... Have him sit , watch Mark ... If he breaks give him about 10 yards and mash the pain button till he comes back ..... Repeat until the dog no longer breaks ..... Worked on the two 8 month old Labs we've been training ....
  3. callinfowl

    callinfowl MEGA.

    Aug 15, 2004
    I'm glad you're not training my dog, try that crap around me and see how it goes.
    And you can bet that!!!:yes:yes:yes
    fetch it up, lugnut, 7pntail and 2 others like this.
  4. thekillerofmallard

    thekillerofmallard Elite Refuge Member

    Dec 29, 2007
    Napa Ca.
    Hummm not what I was taught on how to stop breaking.
    yellowlabhunter and callinfowl like this.
  5. Rick Hall

    Rick Hall Elite Refuge Member

    Nov 25, 2002
    Klondike, Louisiana
    I use prevention, as my pups learn "sit" means "sit until released" from about day one at our house, initially at the food bowl and physically restrained for brief periods until said restraint isn't needed and then for longer periods. After which similar lessons are repeated before other natural rewards, such as going out. Same goes for retrieving, per se, "sit" followed by brief physical restraint before release from their first short hallway retrieve on until restraint isn't needed and we can move on to increasingly less controlled and or enticing retrieves outside, eventually including live, clipped-wing pigeons and honoring the older dog he'd being trained to replace.

    Stumbles result in mild rebuke, "Ut..!," much more importantly followed closely by a return to less exciting retrieves he can get right and be praised for, before giving the problematic one another go. Repeated stumbles simply mean I'm asking too much too soon and need to take shorter steps or dwell longer on past ones.

    Anyway, we've not needed check cords, place boards, heeling sticks or e-collars to produce steady pups long before they'd be old enough for the pressure most seem to employ when steadying. Our basic tools are well built foundations, a live clipped-wing pigeon (I pull, instead of clip, the outter 10 primaries of one wing, so they'll grow back and restore flight in about a month) and a retrieving dog, or better, dogs to honor.

    But if you have some homers, as I do, or a ready source of inexpensive pigeons and want to have some fun really nailing down steadiness, you might try playing a game a Brittany (pointing) pup and I developed that my Chessie (flushing) pups have also benefited from. (It could be modified with bumper or dead bird throws-to-be-retrieved, instead of fly-off birds, but I'd not expect that course to be as smooth or swift.) Here's a copy of an old write up I did:

    Sit or Whoa to Flush or Flight

    I have come to prefer making a game of it that conditions the pup to want to sit or stand-to-flush, rather than sit or stand-to-flush/flight being something denying him what he wants.

    My first (now five back) Chessie's greatest shortcoming was the difficulty I had steadying him and keeping him so, which made me receptive to the notion of teaching steadiness from the get-go (rather than continuing to follow the traditional US course of building desire to go and then breaking to steady) when I saw it in an article by or about Robert Milner. And that worked out so well with my next Chesapeake that I was, in turn, receptive to Jim Marti's "Burnt Creek Method" of steadying pointing pups before they could develop a chasing habit.

    Marti steadied his pups with a checkcord, much the same as traditional stand or sit-to-flush, only before they were allowed to develop a chasing habit. Which made a lot of sense to me, but also still seemed more pressure than I wanted to put on my pups. So, when I started my next Brittany, we took a more gradual approach that inadvertently turned stopping at flush/flight into a game for the pup and later proved applicable for periodic reconditioning of the Chessie I then had and starting subsequent ones.

    The great rub with my route is that it employs as many as a half dozen fly-off birds per session, which pretty much mandates maintaining a loft of homing pigeons or very ready access to wild ones. With the great value of using fly-offs being that they're quickly out of sight and mind, which helps put emphasis on the praise Pup receives for not chasing them, rather than what he's missing out on.

    My pups have been taught to heel and “sit” or “whoa”/stand (depending on breed) when we stop, both on and off lead, prior to beginning our stop-to process, so that's old hat. And when I add the toss of a fly-off pigeon to a session of heeling and stopping on lead, it's initially just proofing a known concept. During which, I quietly and gently as possible enforce compliance with the lead and then praise, as if Pup had sat of his own accord. All about as positive as can be, short of treating. It's not taken too many such sessions with fly-offs before my pups are not just stopping and sitting on their own but have started anticipating the fly-off and wanting to stop when I reach in the bird bag. At that point, it's become a game between us, with my challenge being to keep them moving and make the eventual toss a surprise and theirs being to show me how fast they can hit the brakes and/or get their butts on the ground when they see it.

    Once Pup's hooked on our fly-off game, we advance it to heeling off lead and, when that's down pat, while running free in the yard. All the while keeping it fun by backing up, rather than cranking the pressure up, if Pup slips up. When sit/stand-to-flush/flight gets to the point I can toss birds at the pup and he's happily showing me what an ace he is at stopping (and sitting in the retrievers' case), we've a great foundation that readily transfers not just to sitting or standing in response to self-flushed birds but to steadiness despite temptation in general. And it's time to start adding an occasional clipped bird or actually shooting some fly-offs in the mix.

    That game's been a fun-for-all teaching tool and a great one to return to if steadiness afield falters.
  6. Kornfed

    Kornfed Senior Refuge Member

    Dec 1, 2018
    Rick, that's one helluva write-up. Good stuff.
    Honks, that's a good way to ruin a dog.

    One method I used was to put him on a 30ft rope, have him sit while you stand on rope, toss live or dead pigeon or a bumper while giving the command sit. If he tries to break your standing on the rope won't let him get too far, reach down and reel him in, give sit command, walk out and grab whatever you tossed while he's still at sit. I could tell that would but the hell outta Mac when I didn't allow him to make the retrieve. I'd only let him retrieve it when he remained steady if not out I went. Repeat, repeat repeat. When you think he's steady, repeat, repeat....
  7. blackdog58

    blackdog58 Elite Refuge Member

    Mar 11, 2000
    I'm going to take this another direction. There is going to be a whole lot of ideas shared. Some good, some bad.

    None of it though won't matter a nickel worth if its not consistent while hunting. Training in the back yard, the field in the spring, water in the summer is different than a hunt during the season. Dogs know this, or figure it out. If the hunter doesn't maintain the discipline of not breaking, then you'll end up with a dog that is perfect while training or working out.....but during the hunt, different story.

    I can't, won't hunt with another whos dog will break.

    Last, work the dog year round. When the wife and I go on vacation I board my dog at a trainer, for longer than we are gone. Being steady is a prime directive for the trainer to work on. As close to a hunting situation that one can get.....honoring other dogs as well.
    DuckFan and Everydaysdiff like this.
  8. Dek

    Dek Elite Refuge Member

    Nov 10, 2003
    Towards the end of the season Ruby began to break, which is unfortunate as she has been very steady. It is something I have really tried to work on with her and will be a prime focus for my off season training. Two attempts at Honks method would produce a dog that may never hunt again. She needs, nor will accept, very much pressure. Cody, the golden in my avatar, didn't need much pressure but was tough as nails. They are all different.
  9. Bunkhouse

    Bunkhouse Elite Refuge Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Oroville, California

    Yeh, but Cody was a Lab with a Golden coat. I agree with who ever objected to the "mash the pain button". In my book that is a no no never do. As many of you know when I walk up to kennel with collar in hand my dogs try to put it on themselves. Unfortunately I've seen the ones that crawl under the platform to try and hide when you come to gate with collar in hand. They all can be saved with a little patience and kindness. Labs are extremely resilient and can come back from almost anything.
    callinfowl and yellowlabhunter like this.
  10. fishdog

    fishdog Elite Refuge Member Sponsor

    Apr 17, 2004
    Willows, California
    I gotta chime in here. Some of you guys make it sound like an e collar is torture. And it can be in the wrong hands. Used properly it’s a tool that can help speed up training and help a dog understand what you need from him. Every dog has a level of tolerance to an e collar. My dog Swampy takes a lot of heat. Rocky can’t take anything but a tone or he shuts down.

    Assuming you have steadied your dog in training here is what I do for field correction. I shock the dog the moment he breaks and give the command NO! The dog will stop. I’ve never had to do this more than twice in a row to get a trained dog to stop breaking. Do not let the dog get out there a few yards first and shock him. At that point your training him not to retrieve. Your timing needs to be spot on. This method requires three things. First you must have a dog that is already steady in training. Next you must know the level of collar pressure that is right for your dog. And third you MUST be willing to let the other guys do the shooting while you steady the dog. That last reason is why guys have breaking dogs. Most of em are just to selfish.

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