Superior Pointers - Fine Bird Dogs - Elhew Pointers


Teaching your pup to respond to a whistle is unnecessary, and- in the opinion of many experienced dog handlers- undesirable. A minority of field trial handlers use a whistle to send their dog forward along an edge, or to a distant objective. Knowledgeable field trial judges, however, expect a dog to initiate and complete such casts on their own, without being “sent”. The whistle command, in this instance, simply calls attention to the dog’s lack of initiative, and detracts from his performance.

Whistle commands are more problematic for wild bird hunters. Whistles often “spook” wild birds- and not just late season birds- causing them to flush wild well ahead of dog and handler. The gun dog handler in pursuit of wild birds is, therefore, well advised to not use a whistle and to, instead, use minimal verbal and visual signals to handle their dog. To send your dog on, use the command “alright” or “okay” while increasing your forward pace. To change your dog’s direction, gain his attention with a verbal “whup”, by speaking his name, with the low tone available on some E-collars, or with the vibration mode available on some newer generation collars. Simultaneously step off in an exaggerated manner in the direction which you wish the dog to hunt. With experience, your dog will learn to recognize, and respond to, these subtle cues without breaking stride. This technique works equally well for handlers mounted on horseback, as the mounted handler’s profile and direction are highly visible to his canine charge. Eddie Rayl, considered one of the very best professional dog handlers of the past 40 years, masterfully employed this technique so subtly that judges and gallery were usually unaware that he was handling his dog, and directing him to places where he would show to advantage.

Pen raised game birds are not usually “spooked” by whistles. If your dog will only be worked on released birds in field trials, or on shooting preserves, the use of a whistle is, simply, a matter of personal preference. Note, however, that your hunting companions may find the sound of a whistle an irritating, unwanted intrusion upon a relaxing day afield.

Many experienced wild bird hunters believe that there is substantial utility in hunting as silently as possible. They understand that whistles, beepers, and the human voice will, in certain circumstances, all “spook” wild birds. They therefore, eschew the use of the aforementioned mechanical devices and keep vocalizations-including banter with hunting companions- to a minimum. These gun dog handlers develop such exceptional rapport with their dogs that they can together navigate the roughest of bird habitat with few, or no, words spoken. Dog and handler work cooperatively in a smooth, seamless manner. This is the end result to which the developer of a promising gun dog prospect should aspire.

Interestingly, ruffed grouse do not appear to be unnerved by the tinkling, or clanging, sound of a bell. These time honored devices continue, therefore, to be the grouse hunters preferred method of keeping track of his dog in heavy cover. A side benefit is that the mechanical sound of a bell is proven, by hound hunters, to prevent attacks on dogs by wolves- a matter of concern in the north woods. A few years ago, thirty two hounds were killed by wolves in northern Wisconsin in a single season, prompting hound hunters to add bells to their dogs' collars. Since that time, no hound with a bell has been lost to these highly territorial canine predators. Bells are also known to deter coyotes.

Hand signals are appropriate for mechanical, non-slip retrievers, but not for pointing dogs. A pointing dog should be allowed to use his nose, brain and experience to select his own objectives and to simultaneously hunt to the front. Training a pointing dog to look for hand signals stifles his initiative and is, therefore counterproductive. It's also awkward for the shotgun toting hunter. Indeed, over-handling of any kind, including constant verbal “hacking” of your dog, is to be avoided. Have faith in your dog. If you have properly developed him, and provided him with adequate opportunity to learn the ways of game, he will do his part well with minimal help from his handler.