Instructor: Cassia Turcotte
This class is designed for the upland hunting dog –hunt test competitor, upland hunting dog, or versatile hunting companion. While we will focus on pointers and spaniel tests, this course will apply to retrievers working to build a foundation for HRC or NAHRA upland tests as well.
We will build on Gun Dog Foundations to give you the skill sets you will need to progress to the next level and beyond. The focus will be on proper mechanical skills of both dog and handler to develop independent proficiency using a concept based approach.
These skills sets are broken into six specific context areas complete with progressions, fun training drills, and games. Each concept can be progressed and generalized at different rates based on the specific focus points of each team. This class is a perfect fit for those who want to do any level of upland hunt test work or take do upland hunting in the real world.
There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.
Registration will begin at 10:30 AM Pacific Time.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Gold Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to post questions and videos to the course forums. Students will receive instructor feedback on written and video assignments.
Silver Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to participate in the discussion forum. Students may ask GENERAL questions about course materials and may submit two, one-minute videos for instructor feedback. Any questions specific to your dog MUST be accompanied by a video.
Bronze Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to read all questions and answers posted in the class forums. Students will not post questions or submit written or video assignments.
For more details, refund policies, and answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Lectures: Foundation Hunting Styles, All About Wind, The Affects of Weather, Seeking Out Cover, Hunting Games to Improve Bird Finding Ability
Skills: Baseline, Mechanics, Games
Concept: Pointing (or Sit To Flush STF)
Lectures: Whoa Review (or STF), To Long Line Or Not to Long Line, Auto Whoa, Developing Staunchness and Intensity, Introducing Birds
Skills: Hunting Progressions, Pointing Baseline
Concept: Retrieving for Upland Dogs
Lectures: Delivery to Hand, Marking for the Upland Dog, Bird Generalizations, How to Introduce Cripples/Wounded Game, Residual Scent Versus Source Scent
Skills: Hunting Progressions, Pointing/STF Progressions, Retrieving Baseline
Concept: Steadiness and Honoring
Lectures: Steadiness to Wing/Shot/Fall, The Visual Honor, Fly Aways, Steadiness and Honoring Progressions, Balancing Arousal, Steadiness, and Desire
Skills: Hunting Progressions, Pointing/STF Progressions, Retrieve Progressions, Steadiness Baseline
Concept: Trainability and Foundations Review
Lectures: How and When to Use the Starter Pistol, Whistle Stop, Whistle Recall, Whistle Directional, Heeling
Skills: Progressions and Foundation Baseline
Lectures: Putting it All Together, Specific Test Scenarios, Developing a Training Plan for Long Term Maintenance, Incorporating Conditioning for the Upland Dog
Gun Dog Foundations
- A range of toys for tug/ball play and treats
- Video Camera Access to Youtube Upload
- Deadfowl Trainers or Bumpers
- Placebox or Barrel
- Long Line
- Upland Collar (Flat Buckle Orange Collar, Bell Optional, GPS Optional)
- Flagging (orange)
- Starter Pistol
- Blank Loads that fit your starter pistol
- Tall Traffic Cones or Driveway Stakes or Lining Poles
- Gamebird Wings (12-18)
- Flirt Pole or wing on a string
- Live Gamebirds (this is optional for younger/newer dogs, but necessary for dogs that are already working on live birds)
- Access to Field Locations or home yard at least once per week where you can use blank pistols… and birds (if you are at that level)
Lecture #1: Foundation Hunting Styles
What is Hunting?
Hunting is, very simply, the business of searching for game. In more detail, it is the dogs ability to use his nose and use the wind to locate upland game birds (and in some cases, various types of game). After all, in order to shoot and retrieve the birds/game, it must first be located.
There are a variety of different hunting styles which we will discuss below. Knowing the style of hunting required for your breed, as well as the normal body language that goes with it, can be important to the success of your hunt. If you are not sure what ‘style’ of hunting will be best for you and your dog, taking a basic walk in a field and watching how your dog moves naturally can give you quite a bit of information (this is a Natural Style Evaluation).
There are three basic categorizations of upland hunting dogs: long range, gun range, and natural.
Long Range (Pointers, Setters, Retrievers - AKC Pointing Tests)
Long Range hunters are dogs that cover a wide amount of territory in a short amount of time. In other words, they tend to run hard and fast and range a good distance from the handler – frequently out of gun range. This does not meant that they should be out of control or out of sight for long periods of time, but it does mean that cover a greater distance than other dogs.
It is important for a Long Range hunting dog to “hold” the birds… in other words, keep the bird in one place until the gunners have time to catch up. This type of dog locates the bird, but does not flush the bird unless directed to do so (or holds steady until sent to retrieve a shot bird).
Gun Range (Spaniels, Retrievers - AKC Spaniel Tests, HRC Upland Tests)
Gun Range hunters stay close to the handler and hunt systematically back and forth quartering in front. These dogs typically flush (either aggressively or a soft flush) or flash point.
What is gun range? Well, that depends on the gunner ;). Confused yet?
Typically gun range for upland dogs is no more than 30 yards in any one direction. If you will not be gunning and are looking for your dogs to cover as much ground as possible in short amounts of time, 30 yards is a great range to teach.
However, in real world hunting a smaller ranging flushing dog can be beneficial depending on the gunner and the terrain. My personal preference in a flushing dog is about 15 yards, but then again while I am an accurate gunner, I am not terribly quick to get my gun to my shoulder (so a few extra seconds of advance notice is helpful). A dog that ranges more closely gives me more time to shoot.
Natural Hunting Style (Real World Hunting)
A natural hunting style is exactly what it sounds like… this is the practice of ‘rough hunting’. I would still highly recommend having a trained retrieve before you begin rough hunting an upland dog.
Essentially, natural or rough hunting is taking your dog out with limited training and letting them learn through experience first-hand. For a dog with excellent natural abilities, this can be an effective way to learn – especially if they hunt with more experienced dogs as an example. Although, many dogs take significantly longer to learn this way as they can become more focused on socializing than hunting – easily fixed, just pick one of the other hunting styles to teach the desired behavior!
On the flip side, not all dogs figure things out and there are no guarantees in rough hunting – your dog will hunt in the way which is most reinforcing for himself, not you. This can make things tricky if you are competing or looking for something specific.
There are a variety of ways to teach hunting and ‘quartering’ skills. We will discuss introducing cover and how to plant targets/birds in order to successfully establish your desired hunting range in another lecture. For the purpose of introducing the Hunting (H) concept, we simply want the dog to understand that the Hunt Em Up cue (Go Search, Go Find - insert your cue of choice) means that the dog should independently search for a target.
However, for the purpose of this first lecture, we will cover basic skills to teach hunting and quartering. The goal here is develop basic foundation scenting skills, understanding of the search cue, and learning your dogs’ body language.
Planted Target Hunting
This is probably the simplest way to teach quartering and hunting skills. The dog is searching for target items and how you plant them will develop your dogs’ range (we will go into how to plant items to develop ranges in a different lecture).
Examples of direct targets are anything that your dog finds naturally reinforcing to search for and that you can easily control: food tubes, toys, balls, dummy/bumper/dokken, wings, birds, etc. Direct targets are ideal for the flushing or close working dog when the targets are planted 10-30 yards from the handler. For the longer range hunting dogs, you want to increase the range so that your hides are 50-150 yards away.
One word of caution - many of these dogs become very savvy at finding the quickest way to the hide locations. If you send your dog from a direction where he can find the track (or scent trail) of where you walked or drive to plant the item, he may quickly learn to search for your scent instead of the item. So when you are planting your hides, make sure you walk way out of the way and consider throwing them away from your trail.
In this style of training, you are focusing on developing two things: (1) your dogs’ natural ability to work the wind and use his nose and (2) your own eye at reading your dogs’ body language when hunting.
In the early stages of training, we are just developing hunting skills, not a bridge behavior (ie Whoa or Sit to Flush), so my recommendation is to keep it as a separate game.
Derby Demo Baseline Hunting Skills
Step 1 - teaching the cue and searching behavior
Step 2 - basic cover
Step 3 - Blind Hides
Direct Target Progression:
- Teaching Hunting Skill and Cue
- Develop your range
- Introduce Cover and Difficulty
- Incorporate into your HPR Sequence
See how simple this is? Play hide and seek with your dog, that's it! :)
Establish a hunting baseline. If you are brand new or starting from the beginning, begin with a short video of your Natural Style Evaluation or Planted Target Hunting Skills.
For those that are more advanced, you can submit videos of actual field hunts for live birds, but I caution those that are just starting out to build your skills with easier targets if possible so that you can develop a hunting style and range before incorporating natural skills.
If you are not sure what you should video - just ask me in your thread and we can discuss where the best starting point will be!
A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ...
Cassia does a great job with breaking the class into approachable and clear steps. I have never trained a dog for Gun sports or hunting. I have not hunted with a dog either. My background is tracking and obedience. Having taken 3 Gun Dog classes at Bronze I have a clear picture of how to approach training, issues to be aware of and what the end picture should be.
Thanks for another great class, Cassia! Beamish and I still have a ways to go (especially with the whole sit to flush thing), but I love that he's enjoying the hunt and I have high hopes for pheasant season. Thx! : )
Thanks for a great course, Cassia! I really appreciated all of your experience and insight and your ability to break things down and progress things carefully! And I can't begin to express how wonderful it is to be able to ask any questions about gun dog training and know that the answer is going to be dog-friendly.
Upland Training is another fabulous class with Cassia Turcotte. I enrolled with my Golden Retriever, hoping to learn a structured approach to teach him the upland pheasant hunting game. We've done some rough hunting, but he was only interested in the retrieve part of the game. Now he's enjoying the hunt and I have plenty of things to work on over the summer to get him ready for pheasant season.
Cassia is a great teacher, and does a really nice job of personalizing feedback for each team. She helps you identify weaker skills and gives you ideas for how to improve those areas. I am looking forward to more gun dog classes with Cassia & FDSA. - Samantha D.