(Published in the Nest Magazine in Sri Lanka)
Working with bird pointing dogs is a great hobby of mine. In Norway there are eight breeds of pointing dogs. I have had eight German pointers and fifteen English pointers during the 45 years I have been active. I breed them. I train them and I compete with them in field trials. When competing, the dog must quarter the field, find birds (usually ptarmigan), point, flush them, then immediately sit down for the hunter to shoot. Afterwards the dog must retrieve the game properly and deliver it into the hands of the owner.
Bird pointing dogs have been bred for 200 years to become efficient helpers when hunting for birds. A gifted puppy is usually really gifted with a lot of instincts to be cultivated by the owner. It is necessary for a pointing dog to be independent and to have selfconfidence and to be very concentrated when searching for birds. A trainer of dogs therefore must cultivate the dog in a positive manner. Hard treatment may give an inferior dog.
As a rule I breed my own dogs. From time to time I buy a puppy. When I breed I keep a keen eye on the bitch and the puppies from the very beginning. As soon as the puppies have opened their eyes and can move using their four legs a positive learning process starts. When buying, I will take over the puppy at an age of seven weeks. I consider it very important to start with the puppy at such a young age. During the first days in a new home the puppy will have a quiet life to adjust to the new suroundings.
At an age of eight weeks I start walking the dog. I get up very early in the morning, go by car for five minutes to an area where I know that I will be alone with the dog. Then the two of us walk for ten to fifteen minutes in the beginning. I do this every day, spending time together with the puppy and not uttering any sound at all. In the beginning the puppy will be very close to me, not daring to search on it’s own. Gradually the selfconfidence will grow and the puppy will start seaching, using it’s nose. Still I do not give any orders or utter any sound. Having walked for ten days like this I decide that the time has come to learn the puppy the signal when wanting the puppy to make a 90 degree turn. The signal for this will be a double sound either using my voice or my whizzle. The puppy learns this immediately. I repeat this signal at intervals of three days or more, keeping in mind only to give the signal when I am completely certain that the puppy will obey.
The most important impulse for how to treat dogs I learned from a German – Carl Tabel. In one of his books he says: “When I give my dog an order, there are three possibilities: 1. The dog obeys. 2. The dog dies on the spot. 3. I die on the spot. Since my dog and I both are alive and well I have only given orders that my dog has obeyed.” This is very important – if you succeed giving orders that the dog obeys you establish a 100% bridge and it will be an automatic reaction for the dog to obey all your commands.
To control a dog it is very important that the dog at the sound of a special wizzel immediately sits down and continues sitting until another command is given. Likewise it is very important that the dog at the sound of another wizzel immediately stops doing what it does and at maximum speed returns to it’s owner. My dogs learn this moving along a 100 % bridge.
The bitch uses a languale – from a low rumble in the throat until a make-believe attac – at a puppy. The latter is a signal showing what is absolutely forbidden. I use the same language when correcting my dog’s behaviour.
I take great pleasure working with my dogs. If I do not succeed to get the wanted behaviour from the dog, I blame myself. A basic instinct for a dog is to obey its master.