Ground-Shy bird dog? you can easily avoid this potential problem.
It happens from time to time; you see a bird dog that’s not confident on the terrain it’s working and will focus on the ground more than looking for birds. No doubt the Sonoran Desert can be dreadfully intimidating on a dog at first and before you charge out with guns blaring consider doing some early ground recognition training. When you are first introducing this type of ground consider starting in an area that does not have a crazy amount of bad cactus and you can take an expedition walk with your dog. Allow your dog to figure out what cactus to stay away from, what dangers might be lurking and giving some positive praises when the time is right to build its confidence. Always end on a positive outcome and continue to build on this if you sense your dog needs more time.
Things to consider when working ‘ground familiarization’ with your bird dog:
- We do these exercises once the dog has been thru its initial control training and is mentally ready for a location change.
- You should be able to stop and recall your dog before setting off in the desert.
- Has gone thru Rattlesnake avoidance training.
- If your dog has no issues and adjusts well to terrain changes then you should feel confident.
- Prepare yourself as if you are going out hunting, boots, vest, GPS, water, etc.
- Carry a gun but don’t shoot – starts early gun recognition.
- Have fun, praise the dog to build its confidence, don’t over praise or talk too much to your dog. Build independence.
- Does your bird dog have a good sense of self-preservation? most dogs do but this is a good time to find out.
Tip: when your dog runs into cactus, don’t immediately start pulling it out from the dogs’ paws, allow the dog to work it out themselves, don’t pity the dog, if bad enough then remove the cactus and if you are showing distress the dog will become distressed. You don’t want a dog coming back for help every time it picks up cactus, it’s best to ignore the situation, keep walking and come to help if needed.
Changing the terrain (moving around) when training helps with positive recognition concerning ground conditions. You are building confidence, with field control and an early understanding of what wide-open spaces are.
Don’t forget a young bird dog needs to be in a controlled environment at first, so your training foundation and program is recognizable and is a safe place.
- Your early control training is most effective in a well-controlled environment.
- We typically use this program and move the dog around to different terrain when working them on planted birds.