The Blueprint for a Successful Bird Dog Training Program

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filson_dog_1The blueprint for a successful training program must be implemented in a timely manner and fundamental canine training principles must be adhered to in order to achieve the end goal.  Some of the bible principles I feel are important to guarantee the outcome are:

1.  Do not wait for the “pup to be old enough to train.”  Teaching the dogs to learn to learn is important and should begin early in the pup’s development.  Dogs that have not been exposed to new environments, other dogs, people, and learning to perform tasks in order to earn paychecks quite often are handicapped from achieving their full genetic potential.

I start clicker training at a very early age, somewhere around six weeks of age.  I teach the dogs that they can earn rewards by offering desired behaviors.  Simple tasks such as running into a kennel, standing for a short duration for the pointing breeds, sitting for the flushing/retrieving breeds, and recalling in order to earn a positive reinforcement taught at an early age develops a dog that believes he can succeed.  This is a dog that gives an effort to learn new tasks and solve problems.

2.  While the early classroom sessions of clicker training is going on so is field work.  In the initial stage of exposing the pups to the field I want to guarantee the pup has fun.  There are no controls expected or demanded of the pup in the field at this time.  I want life to be a bowl of cherries for the canine youngster at this time.  If corrections are implemented in the initial stage of introductory field work there is a risk the dog will associate the field as a dark alleyway where he may get mugged. If the dog is apprehensive in the field it will make the introduction to birds and subsequent formal bid drills more volatile.

I introduce the young canine pupils to birds early.  The benchmark is by sixteen weeks of age or sooner the pups will have been exposed to birds.  I release quail from a Johnny House that the pups see fly out.  I then release the pups and the hunt and chase is on. I am not talking to the pups or restraining them from chasing.  By releasing an ample amount of quail from the Johnny House I guarantee the canine hopefuls will find birds and have success.

filson_dog_23.  During the imprinting stage of up to twenty weeks of age I want to expose the pups to running with a check cord.  I will need to use a check cord to teach the dog to hold point and be steady to wing and shot when he is ready.  If a check cord or lead has only been utilized as a control for the recall and heel commands then the dog may be reluctant to run in front when the handler is holding onto a check cord.  Frequently at our training clinics I see dogs that are apprehensive when a check cord is attached to their collar.  If the dog is apprehensive that is a poor time to do any type of bird work.

4.  I teach the basic obedience commands in the classroom and not in the field.  As a benchmark guideline if the dog does not comply with a command in yard training the command should not be given in the field.  In the yard training I am teaching the dog to give an effort to respond to a known command in a timely fashion.

filson_dog_35.  In order to teach a dog to give an effort to respond to a known command/cue in a timely fashion it is important the trainer is consistent. Consistent repetitions are an important ingredient in developing a dog that responds with reliability.  Variable reinforcements are a big handicap.  If sometimes the dog is rewarded for a specific act and at other times he is corrected for the same behavior reliability will be a pie in the sky wish.  Teaching the dog to respond to the command/cue the first time he receives the directive is the objective.

About the Author

For over two decades, George Hickox has shown all levels of owners how to train great bird dogs. To learn more about his services and approach to dog training lease visit him at or email him directly.

Please make sure to visit Filson Life for wonderful hunting, fishing, and outdoor-related content featuring one of the sporting world’s most venerable brands.

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New to Fly Fishing? – Useful Resources for Beginners

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Beginner resources

So you want to try fly fishing?

Fly fishing is understandably daunting to the new angler…all the gear, seemingly elaborate casts, and hooks adorned with funny little feathers designed to look like bugs – but you are reading this because you would still like to try it out. You may have been intrigued by a friend or family member’s obsession, were mesmerized by the graceful beauty of  A River Runs Through It, want to impress that special someone, or simply want the challenge of learning something new. If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor to act as your “trail guide,” great…if not, where on earth do you start?

The fly fishing industry, led by Orvis, is doing a better job of making learning resources available for novice anglers. While nothing beats actual time on the water, these will instill a core knowledge-base and get you pretty darn close.  For the benefit of the dizzy first timer – who is trying to make sense of the 29,000,000 Google search results for “learn how to fly fish” – I have compiled a list of excellent resources that will hopefully point you in the right direction. My list is by no means exhaustive and I would also like our more experienced readers to share any additional resources or advice in the comments section below.

In-Person Resources

  • Orvis Fly Fishing 101 – Orvis offers free fly fishing clinics for the whole family. Classes are usually held at a local Orvis store and include instruction on casting and outfit rigging. They also offer Orvis Fly Fishing 201 which involves a local outing to catch fish on the fly (nominal fee may apply).
  • Trout Unlimited – Head to a local Trout Unlimited Chapter and get involved. You are not only helping in the conservation of our waterways but you’ll find plenty of very friendly and willing mentors.
  • Hire a Guide – If you can afford it, get a fly fishing guide for the day. These dudes are pros and teaching new anglers is what they do for a living…well worth a full or half day as a good guide will give you a very solid foundation from which to build.

Internet Resources

  • Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center - Orvis has done a tremendous job with their online learning center. The completely free resource has a TON of useful information, videos, articles, animations, etc to cover any scenario.
  • Redington’s New to Fly? – The rod maker recently launched a good little site for beginning fly fishers. While not as comprehensive as the Orvis Learning Center, it is well worth a visit as they have some wonderful graphics and articles.
  • MidCurrent – I read this daily. In addition to their good all-around fly fishing content, the site has a large collection of articles around techniques and tactics which are immensely useful beginners and experts alike. The Techniques and Experts archive sections are great places to start.
  • Beginner Gear List – We recently published an interactive gear list especially designed for new anglers who have no clue what fly fishing gear to buy. Print it out and take it to your local fly shop or click on the links to purchase directly through our partner site.

Print Resources

  • The Orvis Fly-Fishing Guide – This book by noted author, Tom Rosenbauer, should occupy the top of any fly fishing curriculum…period. For those who prefer to read, this every thing you need to get started.
  • The L.L. Bean Ultimate Book of Fly Fishing – This comprehensive reference put out by the vaunted outdoor retailer is another must for those looking to learn how to wave a stick at hungry fish.

Before you go, please check out our new Fly Shop and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest!

 photo credit: Fishking_1 via photopin cc

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April 18, 2014: TGIF Link Round-Up

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april 18 tgif link round up

We scour the web for upland hunting and fly fishing content so that you don’t have to.  I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of the Feather and Fin Link Round-Up and as usual let us now your thoughts!

Upland and Turkey Hunting

Fly Fishing

Before you go, please check out our new Fly Shop and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest!

photo credit: sfitzgerald86 via photopin cc

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Texas Quail

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I was surfing the web today at lunch and discovered this little gem by that features some good ‘ol Northwest Texas quail hunting….enjoy.

Please check out our Clicks for Conservation campaign and make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest!

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Upland Bird Hunting in Eastern Washington

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As a Western Washingtonian, born-and raised on the rainy side of the Cascade mountain range, Eastern Washington has always held a special allure for me. Over the years it’s become synonymous with adventure, a place to escape to. I have yet to tire of the gradual transition from granite to canyon-land, green to gold, as I-90 slides down the Eastern side of the mountains. My eyes still wander eagerly across the landscape looking for familiar outlines against the horizon: coyote, red-tailed hawk, mule deer, and if I’m lucky that dapper little fellow the American Kestrel. It’s country that’s a little wilder, a little freer. I think that’s what keeps me coming back.

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I’ve never been one to pass up an adventure. So when my brother-in-law Josh invited me to join his father Tom, and their lab Rosie on an upland bird hunt near the Columbia River Gorge, I was all-in. I’ll take any excuse to get outside with a camera, and I’ve never been bird hunting, so I was eager to see what all the fuss is about. The fact that we’d be camping out in Tom’s VW Eurovan was just an added bonus for this road-trip junkie.

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Watching a trained dog at work is an incredible thing. The intelligence, tenacity, and endurance Rosie displayed is something I won’t soon forget. It was clear she was in her element, completely absorbed in the hunt. During one short break I watched as she stretched out in the sand, muzzle flecked with blood from the lashes of a thousand branches, and one crotchety porcupine. Despite the wear and tear I swear she was smiling.

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Tom has taken Josh hunting since he was 12 years old. Their relationship is a joy to behold. At this point in their lives they’re more like best friends than father and son. It was an honor to be included in what is clearly a special time for them.

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After just one bird hunt, I think it’s safe to say I get it. The beauty of the landscape. The gradually mounting tension as your dog locks in on a scent. The sharp smell of gunpowder. Even if you don’t bag a bird, it’s a great excuse to spend time in the wild. And the rush of a big rooster exploding from the brush should probably be classified as some kind of drug. It’s electric.

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About the Author

Elias Carlson is a contributor to Filson Life. Elias is a 31 year old freelance photographer, graphic designer, and videographer from Seattle, Washington. He has a thing for mountains, road-trips, and his wife Theresa. He is easily distracted by moving water of any kind, especially the sort with fish in it. When he’s not outdoors with a camera, he makes some pretty great things, for some pretty great companies using nothing but his mind and a MacBook Pro. Follow Elias on Instagram or check out his portfolio for more of his adventures.

Please make sure to visit Filson Life for wonderful hunting, fishing, and outdoor-related content featuring one of the sporting world’s most venerable brands.

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