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Episode 19: Introducing Birds

Drew: Today we're going to talk about puppies and live birds. Steve, what's the importance of that at a young age?

Steve: Well, it's a key part of the training. You want to get that bird introduction in so that that dog gets a chance to turn on the natural drive and gets to be exposed to a bird in a positive environment. You don't want to make it scary, you don't want to make it dangerous. You want to put it in a controlled situation and let that dog see him.

Sometimes you'll see a young dog be kinda timid around birds until you see things just turn on. It's like a switch. They'll get up and they'll sniff and they'll push at the bird a little bit. What you want to avoid is making it a scary situation where you've got wings flapping, anything like that.

But it's important to get that drive kicked in because it plays a key role in everything we're going to do from a training standpoint.

Drew: Joe, what techniques can you use to introducing your bird?

Joe: Well, the way I like to do it is I like to take my box with my pigeons. I put them on the ground and let the dogs sniff around it. It has a smell and it's not used to it. So you let it get familiar with that.

Then once you see that the dog is not backing away from it, it's going into it, then it's time to take the pigeon out. What you do is tape the wing up, let the dog smell it, then you just toss it and either he's going to jump on it or he's going to smell it and back away from it. But just let them play as the pigeon flaps around and everything.

Eventually he's going to get it, because he's gotten kinda used to it from in the box. He'll start jumping on it and playing, then you just take it and toss it. Just do it a few times. You don't want the dog to get tired or bored.

Drew: If a dog gets tired of bumpers, you can introduce the birds again, get them fired back up. But at the same time, you don't want to do all live birds and get them tired of doing bumpers.

Joe: You have to have them wanting to work with bumpers to be able to train the dog.

You want to take it from him when he's still jumping at it, just like anything else.

Steve: It's one of those processes that you can't go too slow on, really. I mean if you go out there and you do two or three retrieves and everything is great, then stop and come back later. You definitely don't want to wear them out.

Two key things that a lot of folks tie into. They're very concerned the first time that dog picks up a bird that the dog brings the bird back to you. And that's not a big deal. We're not trying to get a retrieve; we're trying to get the interest in the bird.

And the other thing that you mentioned is that folks have a tendency to want to take that bird away from that dog as soon as it gets back close to them. And that's a giant mistake. You want to let the dog hold onto that bird as long as they want to.

And folks will get nervous about the dog chewing on the bird. They're worried about a dog becoming hard-mouthed. At this point, that is not a care at all.

Drew: Let them go and get familiar with it, just gnawing a little bit. Don't let them sit there and go back inside and let them eat the bird.

Steve: It's rare for a young dog to do that. But if that happens, I'm not worried about it, because the last thing you want to do is freak out, or yell, or get real agitated the first time this dog's around a bird.

All we want is just love of birds.

Joe: It has to be a very positive, very pleasurable experience with a little dog. Nothing but fun.

Drew: And that's your Honey Brake gun dog tip of the week.

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