Teacher becomes student


We have all heard the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”. Well that might be true in most cases but not all.
      Last winter I bought my first bird dog, an English Setter named Mollie, from Decoverly Kennels in Factoryville, PA. After hunting multiple season with my brother in laws Setter, Bentley, I got the itch to get my own bird dog. For those of you who know the magic of watching a bird dog, I need not explain, but for someone that hasn’t experienced watching a bird dog work, you are truly missing out. Watching that dog gracefully run through a field, then pick up the scent and lock on point until you flush the bird is like nothing else.
     That is exactly why I wanted my own bird dog. My brother in law Chris had to spend a lot of time with his dog to get him to hunt as efficiently as he does. I knew it was going to take a lot of time and effort but was confident Mollie would get there.
     When I got Mollie she was less than a year old and was full of energy. I started out by taking her on walks on a leash and she would zig zag back and forth with her nose to the ground trying to pick up the scent of a bird. After a few weeks I figured it was time to let her off the leash to run on her own. Chris and I took Mollie and Bentley to his dad’s property to run them together. I was nervous my new dog might run away being off the leash so Chris suggested bringing Bentley to keep her close. When I took Mollie off the leash she ran like the wind covering as much ground as she could. After burning off some of that energy she started to watch Bentley working slower and more methodically. Next thing you know my young dog is imitating the older dog. The next few times we took both dogs out together and from that point on Mollie appeared to imitate Bentley in her techniques. Don’t get me wrong she still covers a lot of ground and runs hard but she is learning to slow down just a step.
     After a month of this training I started buying quail to put out for my young dog to work on.   She had the natural instincts that you can’t teach. She found every bird I put out for her. The problem I was running into was her not holding point until I could flush the bird. She was to anxious as they say most young bird dogs are and wanted to go right after that bird. I tried a lead on her and even bought a remote control bird launcher that I could put a quail in and wouldn’t be released until I pressed a button on the remote to do so. Both of this techniques helped greatly but the biggest help was when we brought the experienced dog, Bentley, back into the picture. After doing lots of work with Mollie and getting used to the sound of a gun we decided to take Mollie and Bentley to a hunting preserve to hunt together. What a fantastic idea that was. Mollie found the first bird of the day and held her point until I got close but she flushed the bird instead of letting me flush the bird. The next bird Bentley locked up on and I wanted to see Mollie’s reaction. Mollie came over to the area Bentley was locked on and slowly crept in front of Bentley. That is when I said to myself she is going to flush this bird. Right after getting in front of Bentley she locked right up and waited until I got there and let me flush the bird. I was thrilled because from that point on Mollie did pretty well with locking up and holding her point. She had a few mishaps here and there but overall much better. Again the older dog taught the new dog another new trick. But after the first few birds were shot the young dog returned the favor.
     Mollie would run after the dead bird and pick it up and either bring it right back to me or she would bring it back close to me and would try to bury it. Bentley is the best bird dog I have seen to this point with multiple times him finding birds in spots we thought there was nothing to be had but he knew there was one there. Bentley would hold a point for an hour if he had to until you got there to flush the bird but the one thing he didn’t like to do was retrieve the bird after you shot it.
     After the first bird was shot Mollie went right after it and brought it back to me without Bentley appearing to care. Then the second bird was shot and again Mollie brought the bird back but this time Bentley followed her to the bird and on the way back. Then on the third bird that was shot Bentley ran right to that bird and brought it back to Chris. We couldn’t believe it. The teacher just became the student. I don’t know exactly what it was, if Bentley didn’t want the young dog to show him up or if he just realized he should bring the bird back but he took a lesson from Mollie.
     I am by no means an expert dog trainer but from what I can see running a young dog with an experienced dog is the way to go. Give it a try and you might get lucky like we were and both dogs can teach each other a trick or two.

John Stravinski
Pro-staff writer

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