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.
Many new pointing dog owners feel that a shortcut from naive puppy to a finely trained hunting dog is through an old master of the field. Does it work?
That depends upon what you ask of an older dog. First, let’s break it down between simple daily routine and field work. Bringing a dog into a household with an older dog offers many benefits for the pup. From the moment the pup is introduced to the old master, the classroom is open 24/7. And there is very little the owner needs to do…it’s all natural.
Beginning at bedtime, the pup learns that sleep is done in a crate by watching the old boy go into his crate and bed down. In the morning, pup learns from the master that from the crate, we all go outside for a pee…or more. A pup quickly learns, from the master, what time dinner is served, where the food bowls are placed, where the water is located . Pup watches as the old boy sits and waits until he’s told he can eat. Pup learns that she must go into her crate to rest after eating. Pup learns that a certain chair is okay for lounging but not for other places.
Outside, the pup learns how to jump into the truck; that there are treats at the town dump; that the neighbor’s yard is off-limits; that chasing a dummy is fun; that swimming is really cool during hot weather and on and on. All this activity is learned by watching an older dog.
However, whoa Nelly when it comes to field training. A puppy feels that most activity is for play. When you’re a puppy, how could anything be serious? If you have an older dog that has an excellent search pattern, steady to wing and shot, and your brag dog when hunting with friends, you’re in for serious trouble if a pup is allowed to run with the older dog. All your pup has to do is bust just one point, chase just one bird, and all your training effort with your older dog can quickly go down the drain. That rock-solid old master you’ve been enjoying suddenly creeps and busts the birds. It’s simply a matter of competition. The old master is not going to let a pup get to the bird first. You have a real mess on your hands and it may take extensive training to bring back the older dog to his glory.
From the pup’s point of view, it was super fun. Who cares about the old boy? Chasing birds is what is all about. Also, the pup will show no desire to point a bird. To the pup, that’s work and not fun. And why work if the older dog does all the work of locating and pointing a bird? You could run a pup for years with an older dog and they’ll seldom develop a desire to work hard at locating and pointing a bird if the older dog is there to do the hard work.
A pup needs to learn to work on their own. Once they understand both the prey drive and the point, they can then work with an older dog while learning to honor point. Don’t destroy years of hard work with your senior dog by allowing a pup to bust his points. You’ll be very unhappy about the results. If you have questions about this process, visit a professional trainer.