Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.
There are a lot of words and terms used to describe pointing dog behavior, i.e., broke, staunch, steady, biddable, finished, etc. Unfortunately, there is no bird dog dictionary. Even more unfortunate is that as you travel around the country, you’ll often find that there is a different meaning applied to a word. Recognizing this confusion, you writer will offer his idea of what many of these words really mean that are used to describe a pointing dog’s action.
Staunch: This word refers to a dog on point that remains firm. The bird is there and he does not relax until his handler has released him. This behavior is the first step in training a pointing dog. It’s also the minimum accepted manners in the field. A dog that is staunch, or firm while on point, is a more natural behavior since most predators pause before attacking their prey. With a pointing dog, we’re simply elongating the pause.
Steady: Although often used in the same manner as staunch, it really has a different meaning. Steady means that the dog remains staunch when pressured by outside influences. For example, if a dog remains firmly on point when a bird flushes, he’s steady to the flush. Unlike the pointing pause, this is not a natural behavior. It is natural for a dog to chase its prey.
Steady to wing and shot: This behavior is the Holy Grail of bird dog training. It separates the brag dog from the ill mannered or the chaser. This means that your dog remains staunch and steady when a bird flushes and the bird is shot. Since this behavior is not natural to predator instincts, it takes more time to achieve this result. It will often take three to four years to achieve this behavior, however, it’s worth the effort. Steady to wing and shot provides a more safe and controlled environment for your dog. There is absolutely no downside to having a dog steady to wind and shot. Make this your goal for 2012.
Broke dog: This term is the same as steady to wing and shot. It means that the dog has been broken of his desire to execute natural instincts…like chasing a flushed bird. Some writers are confused about this term. They say it means breaking a dog’s spirit. That’s not the meaning of a broke dog. I have a broke dog and he has more spirit then 90% of the pointing dogs you’ll every encounter.
Creeping: This is the opposite of being staunch. It means that your dog breaks point and tries to creep up on the bird. This is unacceptable behavior and must be corrected immediately. A dog that creeps will flush the bird before the hunter arrives.
Relocating: This term describes a dog’s action, which is often confusing for the beginning trainer. It means that after a dog has gone on point, the dog encounters a fading scent cone and decides to break point and try to locate the bird again. The bird either flushed before the dog arrives or the bird became a runner. However, there was still enough scent to make the dog initially think the bird was there and should be pointed. Here’s the confusing part for beginning trainers. They don’t know if their dog is creeping or legitimately relocating. This is not meant to be a training column, however, my advice is to get to know your dog. If he frequently leaves his point and flushes birds, then he’s creeping or chasing and he needs to be corrected. If he doesn’t immediately flush a bird and runs forty yards and reestablishes a point, then he legitimately relocated and that’s permissible. For a hunter, it’s not only permissible but also desired. Pointing stale scent is a waste of time.
Biddable: For bird dogs, we use this term for a dog that takes instruction well and is then obedient.
Soft mouth: This means that a dog that retrieves our bird and delivers it in a manner that has not destroyed any meat. A dog that chews on a bird after locating and before delivering it to the shooter has a hard mouth.
Blinking: This term is used when your dog becomes bird shy. When it scents a bird and should establish a point, it avoids the bird and will pretend the bird is not there. This is frequently caused by human error due to a bad bird experience.
Now you can talk the talk with your bird dog buddies.