Allowing the dog to catch the birdEverybody has a different opinion about planting live birds and allowing the dog to flush and catch the bird. I just got this 6.5 month old Vizsla and shes only been with me for a month just yesterday I went and bought some pigeons and I had this friend of mine that is a dog breeder and very knoledable trainer of pointing dogs and he came by as I was ready to go plant a bird in a bush , he instructed me to just pulled some feathers off the birds wings so it cant fly and put it on the ground and then we let the dog chase it for 10 seconds until she grab the bird and then she was having some fun for about a minute or two until we took it away from it. 6.5 month old Vizsla. are we doing this the way it should be done or not ? A 6.5 month old Vizsla is a very young dog comparitively speaking to other pointing breeds. Most pointing breeds are generally very birdy and ready for basic training early.
Because Vizsla's are generally very soft and mature later, most Vizsla breeders advise you wait to train your dog until it's nearly 2 years old. Vizsla's are very submissive and their hunt can be stifled by pressuring them too soon.
Having said this, it sounds like your dog is very birdy and this is good. The more bird contact your dog can make as a puppy the better.
Sometimes, trainers advise that you let a shy/young dog chase birds to build enthusiasm. This is a proven technique that works but like all techniques, it has a time and place. If the dog is really birdy and chasing AND enthusiastic, don't let the dog catch anymore birds. Use strong flying pigeons that can escape. Pup has to learn that it can't catch the birds and it will learn this on it's own if you use remote controlled launchers and strong pigeons that get away. Don't scold your very young Vizsla for chasing, rather, let it learn that it can't catch them on its own. Make sure the dog finds the birds with it's nose and doesn't see them on the ground.
Once the dog is very birdy and chasing birds, it's time to sound condition the dog (I have some tips on how to do that at my website, brittanygundogs.com or there may be a place here at versatiledogs.com that talks about that).
Once the dog has been sound conditioned, I like to take the young pup in on a leash to the hidden bird, crossing perpendicular to the downwind scent cone, and gently restrain it when it shows signs of scenting the bird and pointing. Hopefully pup has learned that it CAN'T catch birds anymore and will 'flash' point. When it flash points or puppy points, I immediately release the bird and kill it with a single shot using a small gauge shotgun. Let the pup run to the bird and mouth it. Praise the dog!
Now the young pup starts to formulate in its' mind that if they will hold still, the bird will flush and daddy will kill it for them. There will be some trial and error. Pup will still try to catch a bird or two but will learn that it's best to let you kill it for them. A smart dog will learn this fairly quickly.
Now, all that I just described involves no real training thus no pressure, thus no problems. You'll be tempted to move along on the fast track and start 'real training' such as yard work, field training, etc. DON'T. Not with a 6.5 month old Vizsla. If it were any other breed, I would say proceed slowly and with caution.
If you have the aide of an experienced trainer, and he/she feels that this Vizsla of yours is more mature than others and is ready for the next step, proceed cautiously using 'soft' training techniques. If you screw up with soft techniques, you can generally fix them with no problems, if you screw up using harsh techniques (electric collars, pinch collars, choking collars) you may completely undo your dog and it may never hunt.
Read some good books available through links here at versatiledogs.com
I recommend you read several books including Wolters Gun Dog and others. Pick and choose techniques that best suit you and your dogs' personality.
Dave Jones, HMC, USN, Ret.
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