Delayed chase is when a dog runs in the direction birds fly once the dog has been released from pointing, backing, or stop-to-flush. If you compete in field trials or hunt tests, judges will fault your dog for attempting to pursue birds once they have flushed. Most hunters do not see delayed chase as a problem, and some welcome it especially when a covey flushes and their dogs take off in the direction the birds flew. Heck, it shows intelligence and an ability to mark the birds’ flight, but in competition, a delayed chase may keep your dog out of the ribbons.
A good bird dog naturally wants to follow the bird. The best way to teach a dog not to delay chase is to build good habits during formal training. Any time a bird has flushed in front of my dog, I say, “Here” and walk in the opposite direction. Some may prefer using the heel command, but either way the dog learns to go with you after bird work. I do not tap the dog to release him as I would from a stand command. Nor do I use a verbal cue such as “ok” or “alright.” Release commands can get you into trouble around birds. If you are consistent and always give the here command (or heel command) to ask your dog to go with you around birds, he will not learn to delay chase.
Over the years I have asked many dog trainers what they look for to determine a dog’s intelligence. Almost unanimously they say a dog that remembers where birds are is an intelligent dog. In the 1990s I had a big going Brittany on the circuit and was visiting the trainer. We ran this Brit. About half-way around we lost him, and it was not long before the trainer took off riding hard. He returned with the dog, and I was in awe that he knew exactly where to look. Later, I learned it was simple. This dog had had birds, remembered where they had flown and ditched us to go back and find them again. The trainer was not psychic, he had good common sense. He knew the dog and knew to look where the dog last had birds. Last summer I had a three months old pup that I had just started running on foot. The second time out he took off and was about 800 yards on the Garmin. This range floored me until he did it again and I realized he was running from johnny house to johnny house. Even at such a young age he remembered where birds were.
Dogs are predators and the better bred they are, the more intelligent and driven they are to find birds. Sometimes their ingenuity surprises us, but it is a good reminder to never underestimate the intelligence of a good bird dog. By anticipating a dog’s natural desire to delay chase, we can use the here command (or heel command) around birds and build good habits early.