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Dealing with a 'Hot' dog: also, how to correct blinking a bracemate on point.

P (Problem): I have a 4-year-old German shorthaired pointer. She was bred and trained by a local man at his kennels. She is a bold, happy and cooperative dog. Her obedience is pretty much right where it should be most of the time. The other part of the package is that she has a huge prey drive and hunts like a maniac whenever she's outside.

By anyone's definition, she is an extremely "hot" bird dog. She hunts so fast and furiously that she will sometimes blow by a bird. When she does point, she often moves in on the bird and puts it in the air before I can close in for a shot. She will chase a running pheasant all the way to the horizon and then flush it.

I would like this dog to hunt more deliberately and hold her points. The good news is that she is an excellent retriever and I have lost very few cripples hunting with her. Do you have any advice on how we can get her to hunt at a more reasonable pace and hold her points?

Here in my area, I hunt her on ruffed grouse and game farm pheasants. Out of state, we hunt pheasant, quail, sharptails, Huns, etc. Any help you could offer will be much appreciated.


S (Solution): You say your dog is cooperative, but all the things she does that you want changed say to me she is totally uncooperative. I would call her "wired" I would guess she was quite rigidly force trained to retrieve so her obedience to that training masks her cooperation issues, but only for retrieving.

She is just not in control of her temperament so she is tearing around, not really hunting. Going in on points before you are there to flush the birds and running pheasants out of sight is being uncooperative because she is doing it for her and not for you.

You can't change her cooperation level; it is innate, genetically determined. All you can do is mask it with very strict obedience training, the way I suspect was done with her retrieving training. Because she was bred and trained by a local person, your first steps should be to explain to him your problems and have him train her well enough to override the lack of cooperation.

I am assuming he is a professional trainer and is the one who taught her retrieving. If I am reading between the lines well enough, I suspect you would not be able to hack her in, slow her down and staunch her pointing without professional help. Therefore, if the breeder is also a professional trainer, and he is very near to you, he should be given all the information you gave me and then given the opportunity to fix things for your dog and you.

Unless you have a lot of experience training dogs and can be very strict with an overly enthusiastic dog, I think going to the breeder would be your best bet for starters. Let me know how things work out with him and if you run into problems--and I don't think you should--get back to me and we can try to work out a training program for your dog so she can be a bit more laid back and a better hunting dog for you. I usually want to see the owner do his own training of his dog, but in your case, I feel you will be better off letting the pro do the job for you.

P (Problem): My wirehaired pointing griffon qualified for the NAVHDA Invitational a year ago. I taught her to back a bracemate using the stop to flush method that is widely promoted as a method to teach backing. Sadly, she was injured and could not compete.

She re-qualified for the Invitational this year. But now when I hunt her in a brace, she is "blinking" her bracemate's point. When she gets a glimpse of a dog on point she quickly turns and starts hunting new territory. She doesn't steal the point but she has no plans of stopping, either, except when I verbally whoa her.

I've tried to revert back to launching a bird when she comes up on a dog on point, but it's hard to determine when she's seen the dog on point. Most of the time, I recognize that she's spotted the dog when she changes direction. By that time her back is turned when I launch the bird. How can I break her of blinking dogs on point?

S (Solution): Sorry to hear your WPG was injured and Couldn't compete in the Invitational. I am surprised to hear too that you had to train her to back. I've had a bunch of griffons in my lifetime, including seven through their entire lives, and every one backed.

I also never taught it to any of them. They all did it naturally. So I am wondering if your dog would have backed naturally too If you hadn't tried training her. True, many dogs need to be taught to back but that is because cooperation has been selected in favor of speed and range. A versatile dog should have all the cooperation in the world, especially a griffon, so if backing is to be tested it should be in natural ability where training is not needed. Backing is an expression of cooperation.

I liked your choice of words when you say she "blinking" because I think that is exactly what she is doing Blinking is defined as a dog doing something to avoid doing what is wanted, and it usually refers to deliberately avoiding bird contact, perhaps due to fear of being punished if the bird flushes.

Most cases of blinking are a result of a mistake made during training and are not necessarily the fault of the dog, but the dog overtly feels responsible, probably because the trainer compounded the mistake. Your dog has somehow gotten the message that backing is the wrong thing to do so she turns away to avoid doing it.

What I would suggest, instead of trying to "break" your dog of blinking, is that you back off, let her relax, take her out with another dog but not in training mode. After a few fun runs in fields, salt a field with two or three birds.

Don't plant the birds or use a launcher, but let the birds fly into the field. Have someone else do it so you don't know their location. Then have a fun run in the field with the other dog as if you knew there is no game there.

Do not handle your dog, do not give her any commands, especially a "whoa" if the other dog points and she turns away. If she points and the other dog backs, just flush the bird and handle her as you would if you were hunting and it was a bird you couldn't legally shoot.

If she blinks, ignore her and let the other guy handle his dog as he normally would in a hunting situation. After a few times of being ignored and with no pressure of commands or rigid setups, I think she will become interested in backing again. If she does, just praise her. Don't start giving commands again or you will be right back to square one.

When you run her in an Invitational, you can say "whoa" if she moves after she has stopped, but don't say "whoa" to stop her if she has not stopped on her own first. Don't over-handle her; back off a bit and let your dog show you how good she can be if given a chance.

By Dr. Ed Bailey

For solutions to your dog's behavioral problems or behavior-related training problems, contact Ed Bailey at:
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Title Annotation:Fixing Behavior Problems
Author:Bailey, Ed
Publication:Gun Dog
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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