94, Day 1
NOTE: Many different philosophies exist on how to train a bird dog
puppy. But John Cameron of Cameron's Hunting Preserve and Bird Dog Training
School in Panola, Alabama, considers instilling in a dog the desire to
find, chase and catch quail at an extremely early age the quickest and
most-efficient way to train a bird dog puppy. Cameron never has known
a time when he hasn't trained and hunted with bird dogs. His father, Bubber
Cameron, trained and hunted bird dogs all of his life and had his two
sons, Rush and John, always at his side. This week, John Cameron will
explain why he believes the old way of puppy training is the best way.
Question: At what age do you start training a
bird dog puppy?
Answer: I start puppy training when a dog's 6 to 7 weeks of age.
As soon as the puppy's weaned and can eat dogfood, I try to put the desire
that a bird dog needs to hunt and find quail in that puppy.
Many bird dog trainers suggest that you wait until a pup's 1- to 1-1/2-years
old before you start training. Why do you start as soon as the puppy is
Answer: If you wait until the dog's 1-1/2-years old, the learning
process takes longer. Often 1-1/2-year-old dogs don't know the difference
between a butterfly and a quail. When you start training a pup at 6 to
7 weeks old, he learns from an early age what a quail is, what a quail
smells like, why quail are more fun to hunt than other game and that quail
are what he's been bred to hunt. So the dogs I train can be finished dogs
before they're 6 months old, using the old system of puppy training.
Question: Do you train your quail-dog puppies
with a quail's wing tied to a cane pole?
Answer: One disadvantage to hunting a wing on a string is that
the puppy quickly learns to look for the wing and starts pointing when
he sees the wing rather than when he smells the wing. If you use the wing
on a string for more than a week, you're teaching your dog to rely on
his eyesight rather than his nose to hunt for quail. Besides, the puppy
won't be hunting a quail's wing. He'll be hunting a live quail. So the
more you can expose that puppy to a live quail, the faster the puppy's
instinct to hunt quail is going to develop. Because we have a quail preserve,
we keep thousands of quail on the ground year-round. We also produce many
of the quail that we release on our property. So, we always have an abundance
of live birds to work with our dogs.
How does puppy training start?
Answer: I put all the puppies in training in a pen out in the middle
of the preserve and supply it with plenty of food and water. Every day
I go to the pen, and take a live quail into the pen with the puppies.
While I'm playing with the puppies and the live bird, I give quail calls.
This technique allows the pups to see a live bird, smell a live bird and
hear the calls the live bird makes. Then I'll turn the bird loose, and
the puppies will chase the bird, catch it and take it away from each other.
I want the puppies to get the idea that quail are fun to chase, to catch
and to hold in their mouths. Sometimes the puppies will kill and eat the
bird, and sometimes they'll just play with it. Eventually one of the more
dominant pups will start to play keep-away with the quail. He'll hold
the quail in his mouth and run away from the other pups. The other pups
will chase the dog and the bird and try to get the bird. This tactic helps
to bring out the natural retrieving instincts in the dogs. It also helps
the pups that aren't holding the bird to have more desire to try to get
Question: How long do you let the pups play with
the live quail?
Answer: I play with the pups and the live birds for about a week.
The pups really look forward to this activity. After the first week, I
open the gate to the pen and leave it open for the rest of the time the
puppies are in puppy training. Although they have 2,000 acres to run over
at our preserve, they rarely cover more than 200 or 300 yards because
they know that the pen is where they sleep and eat.
more information about puppy training, contact John Cameron at 1001 Brockway
Rd. # 4, Aliceville, AL 35442; (205) 455-2420 or (205) 455-2268; or, email
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOMORROW: Next Step of Puppy Training