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Shine Gun Dog Training Blog




            • Gun Dog Training after Boggs Bird-Dog Camp, Session I

First Stage: November 27, 2009

Attitude and shaping are two very important aspects of dog training. Attitude of the dog should be calm and cooperative. Stress (for the dog) is unproductive.

Shaping is splitting the behavior into small steps. Shine came home being broke to wing and shot (including a retrieve) with Randy. That doesn't mean he is broke with me. So, I'm going to repeat the small steps that Randy took to achieve the outcome behavior. Randy took days to weeks to shape these small steps. I can do them as whole behaviors.

Each yard work session will be 5-10 minutes. However, there may be several a day.

This is my first attempt at these behaviors by myself (without Randy's supervision) and at my house instead of Randy's. We'll see how well he generalizes. Generalization means can he do the behavior in more than one place and in different conditions. Dogs are not good at generalizing. As you can see, it takes me a little while to put the harness on. I'll get better with time. I also move to avoid a video butt shot. (I'm taking my own videos)

Shine knows to stop at the door and wait to get the harness put on. The harness is chosen over the collar because the harness is less punitive. The dog perceives communication coming down the collar as punishment.

In any case, Shine cannot come through the door until I tap him on the head or tap my side to heel.

The command for a recall is a double clap. We call it a a clap recall. We will use it to take a dog off a bird that is flushed with a pop-gun....or stop to flush... The heel will follow the recall. Or, as in Master Hunter, the heel will be used to heel the dog off a bird...or at the end of the retrieve.

This is the type of toy Randy began retrieving with Shine. Randy loves to teach the dog retrieve to face rather than retrieve to hand. Well, it's my face, but Randy's chest.

I will continue small sets of 3 to 4 retrieves in different parts of the back yard......different angles of throw.....and from different sides of the dog. I will also do this retrieve at the conservation club before I do anything else. I need to pay attention to make sure Shine does not get board with this activity.

One of the pigeons I brought home died. I hope it wasn't my driving. So, I thought I would use it as an object to retrieve. The command to retrieve is a tap on the head. Notice, on the first retrieve, I missed his head and he waited for me to touch it. On one of the other retrieves, he didn't want to bring to me. He wanted to pee on the way back like he did with every quail he caught. I gave him the "@@" sign (not wanted behavior) when he went for the bush. He responded well. He did not want a treat with the first bird....but did for the next two.

I will continue this activity in different parts of the yard too.

Stage Two: November 29, 2009

The next stage was to go to the conservation club. We're using pigeons so that they won't stay on the ground to distract the dog.

I put the harness on as Shine stood on the chain gang. Put him on a whoa first. He just stood there and waited for me to put the harness on. Then stayed standing until I heeled him away. I like that!

We'll also started with the beginning stage of retrieving the toy. (see video)

Second step here was to repeat the "whoa board" exercise with pigeons in releasers. The releasers are positioned down wind so they cannot be scented. Shine is supposed to stop on the whoa board. Randy used a half barrel. Not sure if Shine didn't generalize well or if Randy had not done this exercise for months....but Shine did stop on the whoa board. I had to position him on it. Once I positioned him on it he remembered. (see video) Once on the board, he holds the position while each bird flys away. I had to walk close to the first bird (furthest away) to get the releaser to work. Each bird was closer to him. Before the last bird, I fly one from the bag by his head. I also started shooting here. The shaping of this exercise was to begin without gun fire....then introduce it once the steadiness behavior was achieved. I jumped through most of the steps in one performance as Shine was "shaped" earlier.

The third step at the conservation club was to set up three birds in releasers in the field. See map to right. The wind was blowing from the fence (on the bottom of Field A) toward the road. I parked at the small white building...with the video on the picnic table in front of the building. I walked the road (top of field) to the point where I wanted to plant the bird. Then walked into the field to plant...back out of the field over the tracks I walked in. Same on each that Shine would not follow my tracks to find each bird.

I was not pleased with his performance here. Shine


exhibited some stress as he peed too much in the field. In fact, it appears as though he pees on the first bird. He did not point it. He nudged the releaser and walked away. I put him back on the bird. Let it fly....shot.....clap recall...heel away. He did it all, but the pointing.

His next bird was #3. Same thing. He nudged it, but this time stayed there. I set him up. Let it fly....shot.....clap recall .....heel away. Did better, but that bird did not fly away. It stayed on the ground and I got to flush it again. That second flush was good practice. It was a young bird and didn't know how to handle its new freedom.

Third bird (#2) was perfect. Point.....I flushed....shot.....shot again on a second flush....threw one from the bag....shot again.....clap recall....heel away. I praised him a lot on this one...even in the middle of the behavior.

The video for the whole exercise is huge and may not down load. The video of the last bird is best anyway....although both are quite far away and difficult to see.

Debby came when we were finishing up. I learned that Shine looses attention with distractions. I'll have to allow more distractions when training later. First I need to get his behaviors down for me.

I may have really blown most of his training when I put him in the car. I had taken his Garmen off...his harness off....he was all ready to jump in when he took off and ran into the field. Was he having fun! He ran straight to bird #3 who was still on the ground. This is >150 yards from me. He flushed it twice as he chased it. I was running and yelling "@@" the whole time as he ran out of sight chasing the bird. Obviously, my correction was not correcting anything. Later I saw him come around from a different direction. He came in and I put him up. He did not get to run with Dart, Bea and Paris. Anyhow, I blew it. He should never chase a bird in this stage of his training. We'll see what damage I did next training session.

December 1, 2009:

Two days later we went to the conservation club to see if his delayed chase set his training back. It was 37 degrees with a light breeze going from the club house to the lake. I let both dogs run for 40 minutes before planting birds. We ran both fields so that our scent would be around. Then I drove on the road to plant the birds rather than to break up my tracks. I know he tracks Randy's ATV, but he's not smart enough to generalize to my car.....yet.


I parked at the lake. Heeled him into the field. Tapped his head to break away. He did not run with enthusiasm. He stayed pretty close. He had the harness and check cord on. He had the harness on when he did the 40 min run.

I'm really bummed that I didn't get these on the video. I got me working

bird #1, but not him. He's the most important thing too see. I need to improve my video techniques. Anyhow, he was perfect. Pointed......stood through the flush......shot.....came on the clap recall....and heeled away. Same with the second bird. Same with the third bird. The third bird landed on the ground like the second bird on Sunday. I threw a second bird from the bag to distract him from the first bird before I took him off the point. It worked. I also heeled him further away before letting him run. He did not make one effort to go back for the bird on the ground. I am pleased.

In talking to Randy, my mistake on this workout was to let him "move to mark". Randy doesn't let him move at all. I will change that.

This workout was a success and I will shape the bird placement to the lines (field trial run) and gradually take the check cord off.

Notes from Randy:

Need some stop to flushes first. (before working without releasers)
Also want him to know without question what a "negative punishment" is from you.
When you give up control of the bird, you must have "control" of him.

On retrieving:

  • Give bird back to him when he delivers it. Actually I would minimize use of dead birds and use retrieving dummy or some other object.
  • Use microwaved hot dogs for treats and precisely click when he puts object into hand. Three to five retrieves in a session max. Use this method to increase speed of retrieve and reliability. Using a dead bird will not achieve better precision or reliability because his mind is on "getting the bird".
  • Also, do not verbally call him with dead birds. However, you can clap recall. If things are not right with retrieving dead bird then do not "@" him. He  might misinterpret the negative marker and another problem will be created. Just end the session as a form of negative punishment.

December 15, 2009:

31 degrees; wind strong from clubhouse to pond

I made too many mistakes today.

Let both dogs run for 30-35 minutes before working Shine. Shine ran well. Took the tree line along the road, then disappeared down the slope by the lake. Here's where my first mistake was. I forgot my Garmin. Changed the batteries and forgot to put it back in the car. Had I had it, I would have seen he was on point 200 yards away down by the Lake. I could have gotten there in time. Instead I saw him run right by the club house. Stop suddenly and change direction. Then I saw the bird in front of him. I couldn't run 200 yards to stop that behavior. So, I didn't do anything. What he learned was that "it's safe to chase birds away from me."

He disappeared again. Then showed up with a bird in his mouth. I could not punish him for bringing it back to me. So, I encouraged him to bring it to me. He did not want to. This scenario was too much like derby. I finally got him to me. Gave him a treat. Took the bird. Then gave it back to repeat the sequence again. Then Dart got too involved and I had to quit.


I placed bird for "stop to flush" exercise. These birds are in blue (on the figure to the left). The wind was blowing from the clubhouse to to the pond. So, we entered the field at the clubhouse.

The video tape did not pick up bird #1. I made my second mistake there. I did not turn on the releaser. He ran by it anyway.

Flushing bird #2 made the video.

Mistake #3 happened here. He broke to the bird flying. My response was "no" rather than "@@". He stopped and I repositioned him where he was when the bird was released. He stayed there. But here's where my mistake was. I forgot to walk with the birdbag. I should have thrown some birds by him there to reinforce the stay.

Then I put one more bird out for flush....#3 (blue). He did this perfectly. Good boy. See video

Then I put two more birds out to point.....numbers 1 & 2 in red. We entered the field from the pond. Remember the wind was blowing from the clubhouse to the pond. I carried the video camera on the tripod. It must have looked like a gun. Once he pointed, I set the video camera up. I still need to improve my video skills.

He ran well and found red bird #1 quite well. Pointed and waited for me to arrive. See video, even though it is pretty far away. He moved on the first fake flush. I put him back. The bird hopped out of the bird releaser. I got to flush it two more times. He stayed on all the flushes. Clap recall. Heel away. Release to hunt more. No delayed chases.

Red bird #2 was also good to start out. My camera skills missed most of me. Video. He moved to mark the flush. I put him back with no words. Then, I thought I'd throw a bird at him to challenge his stay. Here's my biggest mistake. Instead of throwing the bird by him, I threw it at him. Bad aim. He broke when it hit him. I stopped him with "@@" and put him back. That was my last bird. I really needed a couple more at that point.

Got some good corrections in, but made some major mistakes. Not sure how this will affect the outcome.

January 23, 2010:

45 degrees; wind strong from the east fence to the large pond

It's been too long since our last workout. I'm not sure how much he remembers with me. And I forgot a few things too. We had six pigeons that Tim picked up on his way back from St. Louis. Debby and Tim did the filming and bird planting.

We began with stop to flush. We worked across the field in front of the club house because the wind was blowing in that direction. Planted two birds in releasers.

I began by heeling him all the way out into the field. When I released him, he "snuck" aound. He's too wise. I released the first bird far away. So far, it wasn't in the video. He stopped beautifully. I forgot my pistol. Clap break and heel away was very good.

For the second stop to flush, I took the check cord off. He ran much more enthusiastically. I also waited longer to release. He did not stop. Although he stopped to my "aach". Still didn't have the pistol.....nor extra birds. But he stayed on the whoa for me to go to the car and get another bird to throw from behind him. He broke again. But stopped so much quicker to the "aach".

Two more birds were put out to point. I had my pistol and the bird bag this time too. On both birds, he pointed from so far away. I help up some grass to see if the wind was really blowing from the bird to his location of point. It was, so I believed he must have truly pointed from that distance. He did not track a scent, as Tim and Debby put the birds down. He did not know to follow their scent. Both birds were good points. Steady points. Good clap breaks. Good heels away. And no delayed chasing. The second bird was also a challenge because it did not fly away when released. I got to flush it a second time. He stayed beautifully.



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