Bird Dog & Retriever News

October / November 2017 issue page 7

Click here for the pdf of this page

Go to the previous page

 Go to the next page

Go to the table of contents page

Go to the back issues page

Stopping On Runners
By George Hickox

It is late afternoon in early December. A mild breeze is blowing as two hunters meander down a tractor path bordered by a woodlot on one side and a partially harvested cornfield on the other. Two dogs work the edges of the briars for one last rooster as the hunters ease back toward their vehicles. Suddenly, the dogs strike scent and, with guns ready, the hunters cautiously approach. Seconds later the rooster bursts from cover as one hunter raises his gun smoothly, swings in front of the bird and ....
A more likely scenario is: The setting is the same, only the breeze is probably a little more than mild. The hunters are dragging, having bulldozed their way through rose hips and hawthorn and stumbled over the furrowed rows around the edges of uncut corn. They are hoping for one more rooster to fill their bag one young, dumb rooster that won "play big boys" games. They're tired of acting as herding dogs, trying to cut off escape paths and watching birds flush out of range with their dogs tracking close behind.
Suddenly, Guido strikes game. The seasoned dog puts his nose to the ground, wags his tail furiously and starts unraveling the trail. The pheasant runs straight up the edge of the narrow woodlot as Fido continually gains ground and the hunters lose it. When the rooster finally flushes downfield, the hillsides echo with expletives from two frustrated, winded hunters.
Today's wild pheasants would rather run than fly. These birds have survived encounters with foxes, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, feral cats and hunters with dogs. Not that pen raised birds are necessarily pushovers. Every day a pheasant lasts in the field it develops more "street smarts," which can frustrate hunters and dogs alike.
I won't limit this discussion to pheasants either. A number of other species are masters of putting a lot of real estate between themselves and their pursuers. I spend many days guiding masochistic clients for grouse. It's been my experience that ruffed grouse have evolved into even tougher adversaries than their ancestors. Put a few conifers, some early season poplar or any thick habitat between you and a grouse, and you're looking at one formidable adversary.
Then there are woodcock, too, which are behaving less and less like the stay at homes they're supposed to. And I keep hearing stories from fellows out West about a species of quail I hope never infests my Georgia grounds.
We all have experienced the frustration of watching dogs flush game out of range. One option is to get into Olympic shape so we can chase the dogsand birds down; another is to surround a field and let the dogs drive the birds to us. But my personal preference is to hunt with a well trained dog: one that can go head to head with a runner and come out the winner.
Teaching your dog to stop on running birds is a strategy that will guarantee more satisfaction, more shooting and more safety. As a guide, I hold the safety of my clients as the utmost priority. A hunter with a loaded gun chasing a dog that's tracking a runner is simply an accident waiting to happen.
Being able to stop dogs on running birds is normally associated with training upland flushing breeds such as Labs and springers. However, I teach pointers and setters to stop on runners and believe that everyone can benefit from this.
Let's say you're out hunting and your Lab is quartering into the wind nicely. Suddenly, the dog begins making game and is obviously onto a running rooster. The dog unravels the escape path and is in full pursuit faster than you can safely travel. When the dog gets to the edge of your comfortable gun range you command it to sit, either verbally or with the traditional single whistle blast. The dog responds and drops its posterior to the ground. You move up in a safe and gentlemanly manner, then release the dog by saying its name, "Hie,"‚ or whatever command you have chosen. The dog resumes tracking. Every time it gets to the edge of gun range you sit it down and move up. In this manner the dog eventually flushes the pheasant within gun range and you are given a reasonable opportunity of taking the bird. Just as the coyote doesn't win every time, your dog will not produce every bird. But the birds your dog does flush will be in range. Watching birds flush 60 yards downfield with your dog in full pursuit is hardly satisfying let alone effective.
Now pointing breed owners may ask, "Why should I teach my dog to stop on runners? My dog is going to relocate a running bird and hold point." Take the following scenario: You and your dog are hunting from east to west, heading into the wind. Your dog goes on point, and you move up, but there is no flush. The bird has run off. Your dog releases to relocate, but the bird has hooked back toward the east and the dog is now taking foot scent and has reversed direction. Now the wind is blowing the bird's body scent away from the dog. If the dog is moving more quickly than the bird, it will bump the bird, likely leaving you without a good shot. Now say you could have commanded "Whoa," either by voice or whistle, to make the dog stop. You could have moved up and released the dog, and when the bird finally did flush you would have been in a much better position for a shot. The key is understanding that a dog cannot body scent a bird from upwind and thus has little chance of pointing a bird that is running downwind.
As for the "how to's" of teaching a dog to stop on runners, it really is not complicated. First, the dog must respond to the command "Whoa" (for pointing breeds), "Sit" or "Hup" (for flushers and retrievers), or the whistle. This means that when you command the dog to stop, it stops regardless of whether any birds are involved. If you cannot "Whoa" or "Sit" your dog at 30 yards without game being present, it is folly to expect the dog to stop when its adrenaline is pumping and it is pursuing a moving bird. So first teach the dog to stop with no birds.
I use a board (2 feet x 3 feet) to teach "Sit" or "Whoa." I place the board on the ground, then put the dog on the board and give the command. (Obviously, a pointing dog is simply going to stand still, not sit down.) If the dog moves off the board, I pick it up and put it back on the board. The reason I employ a board is that a dog must be corrected at the place of noncompliance. The board makes it easier for the dog to grasp the concept of place and that it is to remain stationary at the spot where I gave the command.
Once the dog will remain on the board until given a release command, I am ready to move it off the board. I then give the command one time, and if the dog complies at the spot where it was given the command, I praise it. If the dog fails, I pick it up and carry it back to that spot (the imaginary board). I gradually increase the distance between myself and the dog, always employing the concept of the imaginary board. Once I can stop the dog from any distance, I am ready to graduate to using birds.
I put the dog back on the board and give the command. I then toss a lock or Velcro wing pigeon (a bird that can't fly) roughly 10 yards from the dog. If the dog moves, I return it to the board. I continue with this until I am confident the dog will perform with excellence.
I then move the dog off the board and repeat the exercise. I use a low cut field so the dog can see the bird. I command "Whoa" or "Sit" and then toss out the pheasant. The dog should remain stationary. It should know this game. I then hobble a pheasant so it can't run as far as quickly. After the pheasant takes off running I release the dog. When the dog is away from me, I give the command to stop. If the dog stops, I walk to it, praise it and release it. If it does not stop, I do not give the command again. Instead I catch the dog (which will be dragging a check cord in the beginning) and return it to the imaginary board. With enough repetitions, I have a dog that I can stop on a running bird.
Teaching a dog to stop on runners is worth the investment of time and energy. It will give you a dog that's in control, and you will have more success in the field. And who knows? You may even find those improved Cylinder chokes work better than they did this past season.


 Go to our home page

Subscribe to BD&RN 

Advertising Rates 

 Advertise with us

 Send us a message



 American Water Spaniels




 Boxes & Trailers




Chesapeake Bay Retrievers 



Cocker Spaniels 

Curly Coat Retrievers 


Dog Food


 English Setters

English Springer Spaniels 

 French Brittanys

 Flat Coat Retrievers

 German Shorthaired Pointers

 German Wirehaired Pointers

Golden Retrievers

 Gordon Setters

Guns & Gunsmithing 

 Gun Shows

 Hunts & Training Areas

 Irish/Red Setters

 Irish Water Spaniels

Labrador Retrievers 

 Large Munsterlanders 

Llewellin Setters 


 Perdiguero De Burgos


Pointing Labs



 Rare Breeds

Real Estate







WP Griffons

Go to Canine

 Go to

Go to 

 Cool Places on the web

 Go to Hunter

Power State pages

 Power Breed pages

 Power Back issue pages

 Power Board pages

 Power Misc pages

Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News November 2017
Do not reproduce or retransmit in any form, and we surf the web, we'll find you.
Maintained by Dennis Guldan e-mail
Bird Dog & Retriever News, PO Box 120089, New Brighton, MN 55112,
Phone 612-868-9169 Adv deadline 1st of the month prior to the issue.