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Gun Dog

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Gundogs, also called bird dogs, are a category of dog breeds developed to assist hunters or sports people to retrieve prey, usually birds.

There are several types of gundogs, each type consisting of multiple breeds; see each type for a detailed description and a list of breeds:

Type Example
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
English Setter
Flushing Spaniels
English Cocker Spaniel
Water dogs
Standard Poodle

Several breeds have been used in different ways, so the line among different types is not always clear and different people might think of one breed as different types.

Training for Pointers and Setters

Bird dog training varies among breeds and handlers, but methodologies are usually similar to the following: Training for hunting can begin soon after a pup is weaned, around 10 to 12 weeks. A pup is encouraged to search for treats hidden in the handlerís pockets. In this way, he learns that he is rewarded for using his nose. At this time, the pup is introduced to a gamebird in a cage (often a common pigeon). If the dog shows excitement, he is said to be birdy and is rewarded for this behavior. At this stage, some pups already exhibit a natural tendency to point. Handlers encourage the pointing behavior through games, such as attaching a bird wing to a fishing line and pole and dragging it along the ground. The pups are often trained as a group, which supports the pointing behavior. Dogs progress through several stages, working up to pointing caged birds in the field. A long lead can be attached to the dog so that the trainer can correct the dog for bad behavior and teach the dog to work closely with hunters. Younger dogs are sometimes paired with experienced dogs for trips to the field.

Method of Work for Pointers and Setters

Upon reaching the field, the handler often will cast or direct the dog in a wide circle. Experienced dogs will search the edges of the field knowing that birds are usually found there. This wide run helps to burn off the dogs initial exhuberence and may help the dog establish its bearings and form a "background" upon which game smells will be processed. The dog then begins working back and forth, starting near the hunter and slowly ranging out. The dog repeats this process as the hunters move through the field. How far a handler allows the dog to range is a matter of personal preference. When a pair of dogs work as a team, one works close in while the other ranges out in larger circles. If either dog becomes birdy, the other dog works its way over to assist. Good bird dogs are alert to their handlers and to the disposition of other dogs in the field. They should readily comply if the handler casts them to an area of particular interest, such as a brush pile or shuck of corn.

When game is detected, a dog freezes, either pointing or crouching. If other dogs are present, they also freeze, "honoring" the first dogís point. The pointing dog remains motionless until the hunters are in position. Handlers give the command whoa, instructing the dog to remain still. What happens next depends on how the dog has been trained. Some trainers train the dog to stay motionless while the hunter steps forward and flushes the game. Other trainers direct the dog to flush the game with a command such as get it!

If a bird is downed, the dogs are instructed to search for it with the command dead bird, or simply dead. The dogs then search for and retrieve the downed game.

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