Jeffery Scott Fraser, owner of Tsaina Lodge in Alaska, comes to his work with nearly two decades of executive experience. An avid outdoorsman in his free time, Jeffery S. Fraser enjoys training bird dogs.
When training a bird dog, an owner must first ensure that the dog is obedient and reliably steady. One effective way to accomplish this is to train the dog in what is known as a non-retrieve, which involves the owner sending out a dummy and commanding the dog to stay put while the owner or another dog goes after it. This training technique prevents the dog from immediately taking off after every falling bird and eventually becoming more predictable in the field.
In addition to the non-retrieve, bird dog owners should train the dog in basics such as coming when called and following human hand signals when retrieving. Emphasizing these skills lets the dog learn that the owner, and not the dog’s instincts, should determine what the dog does and when. It also trains the dog to resist distraction, such as the sound of a gun or a falling duck, and to keep his or her focus on the owner.
Once the dog is compliant, the owner can begin training for more advanced responses. For example, the dog can learn how to locate a fallen bird on command and, if the water is warm enough, to go into water to find a mark. It is important for owners to approach this skill-building gradually and with attention to the dog’s safety, so that both owner and dog can enjoy the process and remain trusting companions.