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John's Journal... Entry 94, Day 1

Puppy Philosophies

click to enlargeEDITOR'S 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.

click to enlargeQuestion: 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 weaned?
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.

click to enlargeQuestion: 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 the bird.

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.

click to enlargeFor 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 cameron@froglevel.net.

TOMORROW: Next Step of Puppy Training




Check back each day this week for more about How To Train A Bird Dog Puppy ...

Day 1 -Puppy Philosophies
Day 2 -Next Step of Puppy Training
Day 3 -Hide and Seek with the Puppies
Day 4 -Solving the Gun-Shy Problem Early
Day 5 -Choosing a Bird Dog Puppy and Finishing a Dog

John's Journal