Advise or resources for first-time bird dog owner?

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dawgvet

Senior Member
So I may be crazy, but I'm seriously thinking of looking for a bird dog pup. I'm open to ideas on breeds but really like English Setters or a Brittany. Sadly would be primarily a companion dog but would like to train it on birds as much as I can. Would have to make use of bought birds and local WMA dog training areas as I'm north of Atlanta and don't have the time or money to send it off for serious boarding training.
Any advise, resources, tips, etc appreciated.
Thanks
Jed
 

spring

Senior Member
If you've never trained a dog, I'd still give sending the pup to someone that knows how to do it consideration.
Plenty of good options among the breeds to choose, but I can confidently say that French Brittanys make wonderful members of your family and can be trained for hunting in only 3 months. You could be hunting with the pup before its first birthday. The cost to get that done with a good trainer might be a lot less than you think.

Here's a trainer I've used for 2 pups. Wouldn't hurt to have a conversation with a trainer like this to see if he might help you accomplish what you've got in mind.

Southern Tradition Kennels
 

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Dbender

Senior Member
This is strictly personal opinion. Unless you really just like the breed, I would just get a dog. Birds are so few and far between it's tough training a pup. If you get one from a good line they should have been line bred for more drive and focus than just any old dog. This does not translate into a great companion dog usually because they need an outlet for that extra energy. Plus you may tend to place more expectations on your pup being that it comes from a hunting line.
 

crackerdave

Woody`s Campfire Gathering Organizer
I agree: Brittanies are good family dogs AND good hunters, if you have the time and patience.
Go with a pro trainer if you want a good hunter, though.
 
When I retired 5 years ago I decided I would buy two Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla pups and train then both as bird dogs primarily. It was the first time I had trained a bird dog, but I read a lot of magazine articles and decided to do the training myself ( with a few sessions with local gun dog trainers just to check I was going in the right direction) as I wanted to really form a bond with both dogs. It was challenging at times but something I am glad that I did as it was very rewarding and I now have two good dogs that I have an incredible bond with.

If you think you have the time, patience and strong will to do the training yourself, then go for it.

I‘ve attached the training schedule I used to train them and some diary notes on progress as well. Feel free to use this if it helps.
 

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Biased towards Brits but love any good bird dog regardless of breed. Just do your homework and breed research. Pick the breed and kennel that suits you best. I just prefer a short tail dog due to rough cover I hunt. Ben Williams is a renowned Brit guy and has a no non sense book in regards to training bird dogs.

I agree and disagree on needing a pro trainer. Alot depends on your end goal for level you want dog trained to and your resources in regards to time experience and money. Coming from a hound background I had dog handling and hunting experience in my favor when I switched to bird dogs in 07 but bird dogs are a different world lol. Enjoy the ride and reach out to all who are willing to help. Best of luck.
 
What?! No red setter?! Zane is offended. ;-)

A few thoughts:
1) As a vet you know this but I will reiterate. The cost of a puppy is a small fraction to the cost of the dog over a lifetime. Thus, I would invest heavily in buying from great hunting stock. It will make training a lot easier.

2) No matter the breed, see the parents work birds. A lot of variation in hunting style, biddability, etc. within a breed.

3) Seriously consider getting a started dog or a finished dog that couldn't make it as a trial dog. A lot of the training has already been done. gundogcentral.com is a good place to find them

4) If you are willing to travel, you can find wild birds. We go on weeklong hunting trips and spend less than $600 because we hunt public land and we have a blast. Having met you and know you a bit, you aren't the kind that is motivated by killing a lot of birds so taking your birddog on adventures with your kids will be very rewarding.

5) Accept that you will screw up in training. A well-bred dog will be resilient to that and birds will cure about anything.

6) have fun!
 
This is strictly personal opinion. Unless you really just like the breed, I would just get a dog. Birds are so few and far between it's tough training a pup. If you get one from a good line they should have been line bred for more drive and focus than just any old dog. This does not translate into a great companion dog usually because they need an outlet for that extra energy. Plus you may tend to place more expectations on your pup being that it comes from a hunting line.
I agree with this. If you don't have the money to train one, or your own land to hunt or train on, I personally wouldn't get a bird dog. It sounds good in theory, but when you have a dog that was specifically bred to run around and find birds, cooping it up in the house all day and only working it on occasion isn't a great idea in my opinion. Get a pet. That is what you are looking for.
 

Duff

Senior Member
This is my new brit/setter drop pointing a grouse tail. Her name is Bailey and the third one I’ve had of this breed. They are awesome pets with a great personality. I’m trying to train this one myself. She seems to have a little more Brit attitude than my first 2.
You can certainly have a pet/hunting companion in one dog.

5D1283CB-2C00-4EC0-9B5A-58B68FEB98A8.png
 

Duff

Senior Member
And Standing Stone kennels has some great training videos on YouTube
 

GLS

Classic Southern Gentleman
A bird dog points instinctively, not because someone taught it to point. Backing is also mostly instinctive. The two most important commands that need to be taught and enforced are “come” and “whoa”. With those two commands, one can have many fine days in the field with one’s dogs. Everything else is frosting on the cake. As for not having a large enough place to train, it’s not as if one must release birds 100 times to train a dog. I live in an urban environment in a neighborhood with small lots with houses 100 years old. Paved streets and sidewalks. My backyard is small but fenced. Yet I have two Britts, house dogs mostly, that are more than adequate for my needs. About 12 years ago after hunting with Floyd’s great, late Britt Snap for woodcock, I wanted one. I sent a deposit to Carter Brittany Kennels in Coffee County to reserve a female pup. I wanted one sired by Peter Gunn, Dr. Carter’s Champion Britt. When there were only males to choose from in the litter, my deposit was returned. My wife’s cousin was very pleased with the line from Jefferson County’s Steve Pickard. Based on his recommendation, I bought my Abby as a puppy from him. She turned 10 in January. With one session when she was 6 months with the cousin on his farm, Abby pointed her first released quail and was gun broke the same day. Her first point is depicted in my avatar. Several sessions at Floyd’s with boxed birds, she was on her way to become a bona fide bird dog. I used a 25’ plastic lead from Gun Dog Supply to help in the initial training.

Floyd and I specialize with woodcock for several factors. They will hold for a bird dog. A bird dog will point them. They are wild birds. With wild quail dwindling and scarce, woodcock can be found on public lands which Georgia has an abundance. A lot of our habitat supports both quail and woodcock. This year we found 4 wild coveys.

Abby’s first point on a woodcock was memorable. I could see the bird within a foot of her nose. It set the pattern for our career by my missing the shot on her first point. On her second point the same day on a wide open bottom covered with leaves, I approached her point disappointed that she was pointing an area that I knew from the literature no self-respecting woodcock would be holding. With the gun over my shoulder, the bird got up when I got close to Abby.

I eventually sought the aid of a local trainer to help me with “whoa”. Two sessions with live birds and her perching on a hay bale, she learned “whoa’. Unfortunately while she knew the command “come” both verbally and to whistle, she wouldn’t come when called that day because of the distraction of scattered released birds on the ground that hadn’t made it back to his call box from Tommy’s training other dogs and she went from bird to bird, all the while ignoring me. Tommy encouraged me to reinforce commands by the “reach out and touch” her technique with an e-collar. Five minutes was all it took to condition her to the e-collar and the “come” command.



We eventually bought a puppy, Willa, who is soon to be 7 in May. She, too, was from Steve Pickard. Partially because I had experience with Abby, Willa was far easier to mold. “Whoa” was taught on a leash on our morning walks. “Backing” was natural. “Come” was easily taught. Retrieving by both her and Abby was instinctive with some practice with a tossed dummy in the back yard. Not perfect, but more than adequate for my purposes. Conditioning has been primarily while on the job hunting. This season, as in the past, I managed to hunt with them less than two dozen trips over the course of 57 days of woodcock season. SC and Ga. overlap with Ga. coming in earlier than SC, but SC lasting until the end of January. Frequency is limited by temperatures here in the lowcountry. To minimize exposure to snakes, I limit their hunting to days preceded by frigid nights and morning temps during the hunts below 55 degrees.

So far this season, they have hunted 22 trips. We’ll have a few days of quail only. So far, they have been bird dogs 6% of the year; house dogs 94% of the year. The biggest complaint I have with Willa is she snores worse than the worst snorer I ever heard in an army barracks. One can easily combine a companion-family dog with a bird dog. It works for me and no one would mistake me for John Rex Gates.
Gil
 
This is my new brit/setter drop pointing a grouse tail. Her name is Bailey and the third one I’ve had of this breed. They are awesome pets with a great personality. I’m trying to train this one myself. She seems to have a little more Brit attitude than my first 2.
You can certainly have a pet/hunting companion in one dog.

View attachment 1066318
Lets put it into context. I am assuming, and you can correct me if I am wrong, that you didn't drive from your quarter acre lot in the suburbs of the ATL up to wherever that picture was taken everyday to let the dog run around. If you live in the country and can let the dog run around and exercise everyday, that is different than living in some neighborhood with a leash law where you realistically need to walk the dog farther than most people are willing to walk it each day. My point was if, you have a passion for quail hunting, duck hunting, or anything else for that matter, then yes a "hunting" dog can indeed function as a family pet, especially after they have a little age on them. However, in his owns words, this would be mainly a companion dog. If you were being honest, I think you would say there are in general, better breeds for companionship that a bird dog. If you don't really currently bird hunt, have no where to hunt, and haven't been doing it up to this point, the chances of you getting a bird dog and really putting the time into it is slim to none. He needs to get pet, that is what he wants. There are plenty of breeds for which a walk through the neighborhood each afternoon is enough exercise, and it will happily sit on the couch the rest of the day. A pointer or Brittany isn't one of them, especially if it comes from hunting stock.
 

Gaswamp

Senior Member
A bird dog points instinctively, not because someone taught it to point. Backing is also mostly instinctive. The two most important commands that need to be taught and enforced are “come” and “whoa”. With those two commands, one can have many fine days in the field with one’s dogs. Everything else is frosting on the cake. As for not having a large enough place to train, it’s not as if one must release birds 100 times to train a dog. I live in an urban environment in a neighborhood with small lots with houses 100 years old. Paved streets and sidewalks. My backyard is small but fenced. Yet I have two Britts, house dogs mostly, that are more than adequate for my needs. About 12 years ago after hunting with Floyd’s great, late Britt Snap for woodcock, I wanted one. I sent a deposit to Carter Brittany Kennels in Coffee County to reserve a female pup. I wanted one sired by Peter Gunn, Dr. Carter’s Champion Britt. When there were only males to choose from in the litter, my deposit was returned. My wife’s cousin was very pleased with the line from Jefferson County’s Steve Pickard. Based on his recommendation, I bought my Abby as a puppy from him. She turned 10 in January. With one session when she was 6 months with the cousin on his farm, Abby pointed her first released quail and was gun broke the same day. Her first point is depicted in my avatar. Several sessions at Floyd’s with boxed birds, she was on her way to become a bona fide bird dog. I used a 25’ plastic lead from Gun Dog Supply to help in the initial training.

Floyd and I specialize with woodcock for several factors. They will hold for a bird dog. A bird dog will point them. They are wild birds. With wild quail dwindling and scarce, woodcock can be found on public lands which Georgia has an abundance. A lot of our habitat supports both quail and woodcock. This year we found 4 wild coveys.

Abby’s first point on a woodcock was memorable. I could see the bird within a foot of her nose. It set the pattern for our career by my missing the shot on her first point. On her second point the same day on a wide open bottom covered with leaves, I approached her point disappointed that she was pointing an area that I knew from the literature no self-respecting woodcock would be holding. With the gun over my shoulder, the bird got up when I got close to Abby.

I eventually sought the aid of a local trainer to help me with “whoa”. Two sessions with live birds and her perching on a hay bale, she learned “whoa’. Unfortunately while she knew the command “come” both verbally and to whistle, she wouldn’t come when called that day because of the distraction of scattered released birds on the ground that hadn’t made it back to his call box from Tommy’s training other dogs and she went from bird to bird, all the while ignoring me. Tommy encouraged me to reinforce commands by the “reach out and touch” her technique with an e-collar. Five minutes was all it took to condition her to the e-collar and the “come” command.



We eventually bought a puppy, Willa, who is soon to be 7 in May. She, too, was from Steve Pickard. Partially because I had experience with Abby, Willa was far easier to mold. “Whoa” was taught on a leash on our morning walks. “Backing” was natural. “Come” was easily taught. Retrieving by both her and Abby was instinctive with some practice with a tossed dummy in the back yard. Not perfect, but more than adequate for my purposes. Conditioning has been primarily while on the job hunting. This season, as in the past, I managed to hunt with them less than two dozen trips over the course of 57 days of woodcock season. SC and Ga. overlap with Ga. coming in earlier than SC, but SC lasting until the end of January. Frequency is limited by temperatures here in the lowcountry. To minimize exposure to snakes, I limit their hunting to days preceded by frigid nights and morning temps during the hunts below 55 degrees.

So far this season, they have hunted 22 trips. We’ll have a few days of quail only. So far, they have been bird dogs 6% of the year; house dogs 94% of the year. The biggest complaint I have with Willa is she snores worse than the worst snorer I ever heard in an army barracks. One can easily combine a companion-family dog with a bird dog. It works for me and no one would mistake me for John Rex Gates.
Gil
THANKS for sharing Gil...man I miss working with dogs...looking forward to the future when I can again spend time with man's best friend
 
So I may be crazy, but I'm seriously thinking of looking for a bird dog pup. I'm open to ideas on breeds but really like English Setters or a Brittany. Sadly would be primarily a companion dog but would like to train it on birds as much as I can. Would have to make use of bought birds and local WMA dog training areas as I'm north of Atlanta and don't have the time or money to send it off for serious boarding training.
Any advise, resources, tips, etc appreciated.
Thanks
Jed
There are plenty of bloodlines that make good hunters and pets. There are a good many wma dog training areas not far from the metro area. There are also private preserves that are very reasonably priced if you are using your own dog. There are also field trial clubs if you choose to get into that. You will have a lot of fun. Go for it!
 
Here is my two cents. I think you should get any dog you want, but you really have to make a commitment to it. I am a 39 year old father of 2. My dog, Gus turned 4 yesterday. I got Gus at 7 weeks old when my son was 1.5 years old, and had a little girl when Gus was about 2. I wanted a companion dog as well as a dog that can hunt. Obviulsy I am very busy from before sunrise and well after sunset with my family repsonsiblities, work, chores, etc. In my opinion you just have to make time for the dog no matter what. There is a quote from above "don't have the time or money to send it off for serious boarding training." If you do this and you want a good companion/bird dog in my opionion you need a lot of time and probably some money. Its actually less of your personal time to send the dog to a trainer. I didn't do that but in hind sight its probably actually a really good deal. I don't think its necessary but if you don't have the time to drive the dog somewhere and drop it off I would reconsider getting a dog at all.

Im lucky. I work five minutes from my house and I have a decent size fenced in yard. I walk the dog in the morning before my kids are up at 6 am. I then take him to work. I go home for lunch and I let him out in the backyard. I then take him back to work. When I come home in the evening I typically take my kids in the backyard while my wife cooks dinner and we play out there. I then take the dog out for a walk after the kids go to bed. I know not everyone can do that, but I think it is fair to the dog, I enjoy it, and I have basically done this since he was a puppy and its our routine. Obviously some days he doesn't go to the office or it rains in the morning etc....

My dog is from field trial lines, I can see why if you really just wanted a companion you might want something with less "drive." He is sleeping on his bed right now quietly, but the first year or two he was hard to live with. Even with lots of exercise, a consistent schedule, lots of one on one time, and CONSISTENT BOUNDRIES AND DISCIPLINE.

Once again, I think it may be a great decision, But in my situation to not exercise the dog every day, and put him in crate and leave for 8-9 hours of work and then sit around and watch tv at night, its going to be miserable for the dog, my wife, kids etc

I don't regret the decision at all, but it is more work then I had thought and I was ready for work. I'm not looking for praise as a dog owner, and others with much more experience may think Im doing it wrong. But this is my experience just living with the dog every day.
 

GA1dad

Senior Member
I used to do German Shorthaired Pointers when I lived in Arizona,, but I have a soft spot for Britt's. While it's true, there's not a lot of birds to hunt these days,,, I bet a Britt could make a fine squirrel dog too,,, as well as a great companion and kid friendly.
 
I bought a Shorthair from hunting lines and trained him on come and woah around the house and small back yard. We sent him to Oak Hill kennels when he was about 1 1/2 for their puppy training where they popped pigeons for him as he ran the fields twice a day for a month. That was the best $700 I have ever spent in my life and he has had no additional training. I could have done the same in my back yard or public land with a bird launcher and pigeons I caught in a parking lot. We live in Atlanta inside 285 but in an hour or so can be hunting at Buckeyes Plantation, National Forrest and WMA's and be back home before I could've played a round of golf most days. He retired for long hunts this year at 13 after being a better bird dog than most could ever expect to own in town or on a farm.
My main points are
1.My next dog will be trained to only sleep on top of the covers.
2.You can have a birddog and train him yourself just fine with no land of your own. If you fail you still have a dog that loves you and that is cool too.
 

GA1dad

Senior Member
This is the one book I've kept over the years. I highly recommend it. It has to do with bird dogs in general, but the author is a Brittany man and there is a lot of content about that breed.

20210218_181158.jpg
 
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