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Gun Dog Training: How to Steady your Dog

by Gun Dog TV   |  October 5th, 2011 13

Many retrievers have a natural instinct to break their heel or steady position once a bird is in the air or a gun has been fired. Basically, the dog will break naturally if you let him. Not only is this a nuisance when you’re hunting, but you’re dog won’t mark near as well when he’s breaking.

Steadying can be a long process, but it’s an important one if you want to give your dogs the tools to help you succeed in the field. Here’s a training technique that will help keep your dog steady until you’re ready for it to retrieve.

  • Randy Flathau

    I have used this method on my labs and it works very well. You must stay on the dogs so that they do not pick up bad habits. I also transition to the E-collar with a nick when they try to break so that I can then use the E-collar later.

  • JN

    Another method along with this is the use of a healing stick to reenforce the sit command… after all sit does mean sit.

  • George

    Bird dogs don't sit!

    • Rusty

      All dogs sit if you train them to sit.

      This is useful for those of us who want a steady dog while duck hunting or dove hunting. Thanks for the advice.

  • JET

    In our country the dog taught to be steady is giving the wounded rooster a big head start to disappear in the cover and other birds scent. Also will be the last dog to the spot when hunting with other hunters & dogs. Much rather have the dog to take line to the anticipated drop sight and return bird to hand.

  • Steve

    Depending on the situation, the dog which takes off early could end up shot. Steadying in the right situation can be very effective and could also lead to lost birds. If you are in to field trials, this is far more important than hunting.

  • Duane

    Making your dog sit until released only seems justified in a field test. I agree with JET. A downed bird needs the dogs utmost attention.

  • Joel

    For me, if my dog breaks after the shot then i am fine with that. Thats the moment we all train our dogs for and also the moment our dogs are most excited. On the other hand training is a good thing. Each dog is different and at the end of the day if your dog does what you expect then all is good.

  • Lance

    If I'm upland hunting my dog always ahead of me, flushing. But this is good for a duck hunting situation. That's when you really want them steady. Steady to the shot in the field is more important with a pointer I think.

  • luke

    Different strokes for different folks guys. If you want your dog to be steady, then train him to do that. If you want your dog to give chase as soon as the bird is fell, then train that. I think that bottom line is to just train your dog to do what YOU want him to do. Take or leave the advice of the professionals as you see fit.

  • Ron

    A steady dog will allow you more shots at low flying birds, putting more birds in your bag. It is also safer for the dog.

  • Gary

    A steady dog is a dog that is in control and working with the handler as a team. Cripples are usually quite easy for the majority of dogs to locate. Just requires learning opportunties. Another issue is when you are hunting with multiple dogs. We train all our dogs and client dog not only to be steady but to be released on their name. A well trained dog will remain steady and honor another dogs retrieve and or point. You could have two or more dogs in teh field when a bird is dumped in the dirt and only one dog will be released. Usually the dog that located and flushed or pointed the bird. Dogs like these are just a joy to hunt over. If you can have this type of response why would you not want to use it in teh field?

    As far as pointing labs, I'm a pro training out west here in Colorado, we expect them to shift gears on the fly from pointing upland dogt to retriever in an instant. They can do that job very well when trained correctly. Anyone interested in seeing some very nice pointing labs work feel free to email me. I can give you some links to You Tube videos.

    best of luck with your dogs


    • Kirk Johnson

      Gary, I just got a pointing lab (10 weeks) doing some light trainning w/dummies, never trained a dog before so i'm looking for a good book/dvd that would help in this. Like , do you train them as an "pointer" or what? and at what age do you work on the different area's the proccess. When to start with e-collars and such. Thank's for any info on this. e-mail

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