Let's go back to my May 2011 "Tip of the Month", where this is described in detail. It deals with teaching your dog to "hunt dead":
Spring and summer are a good time to evaluate our dog’s performance during the past hunting season. Maybe your dog did well on points, flushes, and retrieves. However, locating downed birds may have been a problem. Training your dog to “hunt dead” and to track is a great program to focus on during the off season.
In the case of a younger dog, I like to start with a tennis ball. These make great, inexpensive toys. Go to your local tennis club as they have discards they will gladly give you.
Begin by playing “hide and seek” with your dog. Start with simple hides where the dog can readily find the ball and return it to you. If your dog enjoys retrieving things, this drill will be learned rather quickly. If not, you will need to work on instilling a desire to retrieve in your dog.
Say the command “hunt dead” or “dead” in a low, calm voice. Say the command each time after you have hidden the ball. Your dog will pick up on it after a few repetitions. Once the dog easily locates the simple finds, increase the level of difficulty. Hide the ball under a table, or better yet, under a towel or cloth. Your dog will then learn to use its nose to find the ball which is what you want.
Next, move the game outside into your yard. Place some liquid game bird scent on the ball. The textured surface of the tennis ball holds the scent well. Again, start with simple finds and then move up to more difficult ones. Keep the game fun so as to not curtail you dog’s enthusiasm.
The next step is to move to a wing wrapped training dummy. Any game bird wing will suffice. I use zip ties to hold the wing in place. Again, add the appropriate bird scent to the wing, which will attract your dog to that “wonderful aroma”. Increasingly difficult finds are achieved by placing the dummy in heavier cover and at longer distances. Don’t forget the “hunt dead” command. If the dog is having trouble locating the dummy, lead them to it. Praise them lavishly even if you have to lead them right to it. This way your dog will gain confidence as the sessions are repeated. Next, you can increase the “ante” by using dead birds. Progress to flight limited live birds.
One purpose of hunting over a dog is to recover downed birds. Occasionally, due to conditions, even the best dog will lose a bird. However, if you are diligent in teaching your dog to “hunt dead”, bird losses will be minimal.
Next month, we will be expanding “hunt dead” training by discussing how to teach your dog to track crippled birds. See you then.
CJ & Shawnee