More on Huntsmith seminar- check cord,whoa post equipment and training

The whoa post is a common ingredient in many bird dog training systems.  Ronnie Smith, of Huntsmith, told us our first day that really, our dogs only need to do three things for us; stand or sit still, go with you, and come to you.  We covered lead training, or “heeling” our dogs on day one, along with the introduction to check cords and birds.  A bit more detail is in order for check cord use, and I will add that now.  The check cord is usually 20-30′ long (mine is 25′), made of relatively stiff, 1/2″ or so diameter braided nylon rope, with a strong spring clip in one end for attachment to the dog’s collar, and a knot in the other end.  For this training, use a quality leather collar with a D ring for attaching the check cord clip.  This collar should be tight enough not to slip over the dog’s head, but loose enough to rotate around the neck when the check cord is pulled from side to side.  Here is the type of collar we use:


It is a double thickness, sewn leather collar with brass hardware, including buckle, D ring, and an o ring.  The attachment point for leads is the D ring, NOT the O ring.  (the O ring is a safety feature that helps the collar roll over and release a dog if he gets it hung on something).  It is a Mendota  brand collar from Gun Dog Supply; the O ring is not necessary, but kind of traditional and I like it.  Regular nylon will not spin around the neck well; I suppose that a plastic coated nylon  collar would work, but leather is best.  Besides, don’t you think a fine gun dog deserves a nice leather collar?  If you disagree, then return your Orvis hunting vest, and your Guerini o/u for an orange/camo vest and a Mossberg pump at Walmart so you and your dog will match.  I’m really one of the least snobby people you would ever meet, but we are trying to preserve a tradition here, a legacy handed down to us by our fathers and grandfathers, that of the upland hunting gentleman; ain’t that hard to look the part!

Take your dog out into the field on the check cord by proceeding at a brisk pace, cord in hands (gloved, mind you; rope burns hurt!).  Take a zig-zag path across a real or imagined bird’s scent cone, turning the dog with ques (tugs) on the appropriate side of the neck to turn him, more using your body than your arms.  You should feel a bit like you have had a workout when done.  This is where the rotating leather collar comes in; it rotates, so the que can be applied to the appropriate side of the neck.  Stay sharp, mind you, and don’t get your dog all tangled up and, if you do, untangle him.  Check cord work is hard both physically and mentally, so pay attention!

The Whoa Post

This piece of equipment is instrumental in teaching your dog to remain in place and still under certain circumstances, such as on point, backing a point, or whenever you may require it.  They can be purchased or made: I made mine from about $17 worth of parts purchased at Tractor Supply.  Here is how I did it:

1) acquire the parts: a 36″x3/4″ diam. galvanized steel rod; 2, 3/4″ shaft collars; a double ended brass spring clip; a brass ring 1 1/4″ inside diameter.



shaft collars w/ set screws: spring clip and ring

I calculated where the collars needed to be, and drilled a shallow depression, with a 1/4″ bit chucked into my drill press , to receive the set screws from the collars.  Assemble parts in the order shown below:


And there you have it!   The whoa post may be as simple as a piece of 3/4″ rebar sledged into the ground, or as fancy as you like.  Oh, yes, I also tapered the lower end of the post by chucking a grinding disk in my drill press, adjusting the table up just under the disc, and holding the bar against the spinning disc until I achieved the taper I wanted.

The last piece of equipment needed is a soft rope about 20 feet long with a spring clip attached to one end and either a clip, or just a loop,at the other end.  I bought 5/8″ black,soft braided poly rope at Home Depot.  I formed a loop at the “dog” end and attached a brass spring hook, securing the loop with 1/2″ rope clamps (the kind you hammer shut).  The post end is simply a double figure 8 knot forming a 4″ loop, with ends secured with rope clamps.  Like this:Image

Oh, yeah, a sledge hammer will be needed to install the post in the field.  That’s it!

Next time, the proper use of the whoa post.  Until then, get those parts and put together your whoa post….JB

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Bird dog construction 101; Huntsmith foundation training

This past weekend, my 14 year old Joshua, our 3 year old orange Belton, Leah, and I attended the Huntsmith Foundation (first level) bird dog training seminar at the beautiful Burnt Oak Lodge near Crawford, Mississippi.  Our instructor was Ronnie Smith of Huntsmith, an organization dedicated to teaching  hunters how to train their dogs.  His command of the subject, amiable personality, and ability to relate to dog and owner alike made this both a valuable and enjoyable weekend for us.  This is Ronnie with our setter, Leah:


The event was hosted by Gun Don Supply, Inc., of Starkville, MS.  Owner Steve Snell, a seasoned hunter and gun dog man,attended both days with several of his employees, along with about 20 other hunters like us embarking on their first foray into gun dog training.  This little guy was getting an early start on hunting, at only 12 weeks of age! Image

Over the next few posts, I will try to relate to you some of our  experiences, and some of the knowledge we gained at this event.  I will admit that this was the shot in the arm that I needed to get me oriented and fired up to get these guys field trained and hunting, and as such was worth every minute and every penny I spent.   The venue was classic Southern quail plantation, with a beautiful lodge, 900 acres of habitat managed primarily for quail, much of it planted in native grasses of the Black Prairie region.  This is a well run preserve, open for hunting approximately 4 months of the year.  And,the food was delicious!check co

Day 1, Saturday, broke cold and clear, with a nice breeze making for excellent hunting.  After some instruction from Ronnie, we took our dogs out on check cords in groups of 3, alternately backing and pointing pigeons that were hobbled out in the fields.  We gained experience in check cording our dogs, leading them into the wind traversing the bird’s “scent cone”, and finally locating game!  Leah was a little ho hum about her first bird, but as the weekend went on, became more and more intense on finding birds.

Leah homing in on a pigeon:


When our dogs found game, or were to back another dog’s point, we worked our way up the check cord and steadied our dogs.  Jim steadying Leah:Image

Great fun, for hunter and dog alike!  It is a wonderful thing to watch these magnificent dogs do the work that they were bred for, and an honor and a joy to be part of the process.

More on the Huntsmith seminar next time.

Links: www.,   www.  ,

Thanks, and God bless,   Jim

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The one blast whistle

Lesson three, in the series of George Bird Evans’ “Ten easy lessons” from his book, “Troubles With Bird Dogs (and what to do about them)”.

The importance of your dog responding to a call back, or come when called, signal cannot be overemphasized.  Having him cavorting about the countryside like he is deaf, or like you are a monster to be avoided, can rapidly degenerate from a highly irritating to a dangerous and potentially grave situation.  Many hunting dogs have been lost, hit by cars, and succumbed  other similar fates for lack of an ingrained response to a call back signal.

The time to introduce this training is as soon as the pup is able to run to his food, probably about 4-5 weeks.  The process is simple; simply put his, her, or their (this can be a group training effort) food down a short distance away, perhaps 20-30 feet, while someone holds the back.  Blow a single, long blast on your whistle, and let them come to their food!  (Another tenet of dog care comes to light here; feed your dog at specific times, not free choice or at irregular intervals.  This is both healthier for the dog, as well as useful in providing opportunities for food related training.)  When you have your pupil coming for his food at the prompting of the single, long whistle blast, continue the lesson without setting the food down until he has come to you.  Gradually, over time, you can move away from food association altogether, just offering praise and a pat on the head as his just reward.

Mr. Evans contends that there is no need to discontinue the loud noise conditioning during the come-to -whistle training.  Just be careful not to have more than two items on his class schedule at once.

Coming up next; sight pointing.  Have a great day!    JB

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The Importance of being Ernest; or Sage, or Flint, or Laurel, or…

A rose by any other name smells as sweet, but a hunting dog named Fluffy is just wrong!  Mr George Bird Evans and I agree once again.  In the long and hallowed traditions of hunting over well bred setters, there is little room for “cute”, childish names as it, in my opinion, is disrespectful of the sport and the breed.  In our family, we have had some animals with less than stellar monikers: Famous Cow, the goldfish; Twinkle Star, the Great Pyrenees; Britty Kitty; and so on.  However, we have been more careful in the naming of some of our more outstanding pets.  Pete, the Pembroke Corgi, was named for “Pistol” Pete Maravich because he was a spunky contender from the start, and tough and smart to the end.  Flint, our foundation sire, named for the stone that ignited the powder charges of early English fowling pieces and the rifles of our Colonial citizen soldiers in our War for Independence, and indicative of his staunchness on point.  Leah, our orange Belton bitch, for the famous and fertile Old Testament wife of Jacob.  Names are highly personal, and ultimately left up to the new puppy owner to decide, but in deference to the noble breed and the tradition of the hunt, I lean toward the  more thoughtful, intelligent names.  Whatever you decide, use the pup’s new name as early and as often as possible.  Here at Daybreak English Setters,  we encourage our new owners to let us know their pup’s name as soon as possible, so that we can expose the little whelp to it early.

I will admit, I do have a soft spot for well thought out, “tongue-in-cheek” names.  We have an English Budgie (parakeet) named Bud G. Rigar, call name Bud.  My wife, the artist, has an adorable clown of an Old English Sheepdog named Claude Monet.  My 7 and 8 year old boys have a gecko named Sneako, which I am sure means something special to them but they have not been able to articulate the depth of that meaning to me as of yet.

To wrap it up, please show some thought and intelligence in selecting your pup’s name, as he or she will be stuck with it forever.  It also helps to keep it simple, a short one or two syllable name readily distinguishable on the wind and confused excitement of the field.

Stay tuned for the third installation of 10 Easy Lessons.  Thank you,   JB

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Basket full of trouble!

IMAG0126On February 20 Judy, our tricolor Belton female setter, presented us with a litter of 8 healthy, gorgeous pups, 6 male and 2 female.  Delivery went well, with no problems or concerns.  She is a very good momma dog, too.  the “fun” for us will not start until 3-4 weeks of age, when clean-up and feeding responsibilities are transferred to us.  We have a little breathing room for now.  For a close up of each pup, go to our “puppies for sale” page and click “View Judy’s litter”.  Good girl, Judy!  Your pups are beautiful!

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Funny thing happened in my waiting room today…

How about a little comic relief?  Our orange Belton female setter, Leah, has been in heat, but up to and including this morning, refusing our male, Flint, and his amorous overtures.  Just to make sure that we had not missed the breeding window, my wife Gia brought Leah to my veterinary office today to have a vaginal swab / cytology done to determine where Leah was in her heat cycle.  Within a few minutes of entering the office, while still standing in the waiting room, Flint “made a pass” at Leah, which she accepted, and they were soon locked in a lovers’ embrace- IN MY WAITING ROOM!  We managed to get them into the surgery before any other clients came in, thank God.  Can you imagine explaining to some young mother with her small children in tow just why you allowed such salacious behavior in your waiting room, necessitating prematurely the dreaded “talk” about birds, bees, and sex crazed setters?  Actually we all had a good laugh.  Needless to say,the test procedure was not necessary, as the proof, as they say, was in the pudding!  Puppies due from Judy any day now, and Leah should bring in a litter in 9 weeks or so.  Ah, the life of a vet!  Between our dog breeding business, our chicken shenanigans (yes, we have roosters), and our alpaca Casanova, Danger, our kids are pretty much desensitized to the realities of animal reproduction.  A couple months ago, my 8 year old, Eli, breezed by me in the kitchen and casually, without even breaking stride, said, “Oh,yeah, Dad, the alpacas are mating again”.

Sure makes “the talk” a lot easier!

Photos are of the loving couple; should be pretty cute puppies, don’t you think?ImageImage

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A Visit with Chewy

Well, this dog won’t hunt, but he sure is cute!  Little Chewy was in for suture removal today at the clinic; tumor removal surgery (benign, thankfully!).  He will kill for a treat; that is what he is trying to con me out of in the pic;  it worked.Image

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