Here goes… It seems there is a lot of confusion about the West/Gibbons way of training. Maybe what I write here will help some understand the way of training and why it works. It will be long 🙂 You have been warned. It might confuse you even more, I hope it does not. I am going to write it just like I am working the dog, I sure ain’t a writer.
Let me set the stage a bit. The writing that follows is for pups and young dogs that have been exposed to birds, hunting and the gun. Age of the dog is not really important, what is important is how the dog reacts to this environment. If the dog is hunting and finding and pointing birds for you and is sure of himself then more formal type training can start. Dogs don’t know how old they are anyway, that’s a people thing that we put on the dogs.
What follows would be a typical workout with a young dog being taught manners, it is a progression and you add a little bit each day or workout.
I usually will have 2 good wild carded pigeons out, at this time I don’t care about the dog pointing. I start out by working the dog on come here and stand still several times before I start towards a bird. What I want to happen is for the pigeon to get up wild. When it does, I stop the dog easy and make him stand still and watch the bird fly away. I praise the dog for standing with a real lite touch or stroke, then move on and work more on standing still. I always move in the opposite direction of where the pigeon landed. This teaches the dog it must go with you, always do this and you will not have problems later with delayed chasing and pointing marked birds.
The dog is worked more around the field on standing still and then I work another bird. If the dog points, great, if not that is even better. If the dog knocks the bird I just stop him easy and make him stand still, watch the bird fly away, the dog is learning it cannot catch the bird. Release the dog and work in the opposite direction of the bird. All of this will become habit with the dog, you must be consistent in your training. That would probably end the first workout.
I would try and repeat the same type of workout for 3 or 4 more times over the next week. Then I would start adding to it. By now the dog is starting to understand the cue to stand still, I start adding the ecollar on a low level so it begins to mean the same thing. I do this around birds but not on birds, no bird scent involved. I still let them work birds but never touch him with the collar if the bird is still on the ground. Once the bird is flushed and flying away then I stop the dog with the checkline, pinch collar and ecollar on low at the same time, real lite touch. You know things are working when the dog stops and stands still when a bird gets up wild or even when the dog points the bird but knocks it. If the dog knocks the bird but stops and stands after that then you are getting the desired results from the training…. The dog is learning not to chase.
At this point I start testing the dog to see if he understands the ecollar, each dog is different so you have to find the level that works on each different dog, always start low and move up until the dog reacts. The dog lets me know it understands the collar by stopping and standing still when it feels the collar. I give a slight cue to stop with the pinch collar and hope the dog ignores it, when it ignores it I touch the dog with the ecollar, if the dog stops and stands still I know I am on the right track. Once the dog is really good at this, then the ecollar can play a big part in finishing the dog.
The next step would be to continue with all this training in every workout but start making it a little tougher. By now when you stop the dog to stand he understands that he must stay there until released. The dog will allow you to flush around in front in a mock attempt to flush birds. Sure the dog will mess up some, keep your cool and keep after the dog, no need to be mean just show the dog what is expected, stand him back up.
Once the dog understands the ecollar then start testing him. I stop the dog and make it stand still with a bird close by but the dog can’t see it or scent it. The dog is used to me stopping him and making the mock attempt at flushing, now as I am flushing I flush a bird that the dog has not scented. If the dog stands through this, good, if the dog starts to chase I stop him with the collar. The dog has been taught what to do so I am not going to cause problems with the dog. Most dogs will try and chase. Once you have stopped them with the collar a couple times they understand they have to stand still in that situation too.
All of this foundation training starts to dovetail together, continued work on birds that will flush good will have you well on your way to finishing your dogs manners with all the style and class left in the dog.
I continue on with the checkline work with the ecollar, working a couple birds per workout and really fine tune this training while the dog is at this stage of training. Once I know that I can stop the dog with a touch of the collar when a bird flushes then I start letting them drag the checkline and work birds, no need for a long checkcord if the ecollar has been taught right, it is the same thing as the checkcord and pinch collar.
Once the dog is steady to wing, then the gun is added back into the training. Once the dog is steady to shot then the bird is sometimes shot for the dog, but the dog is not allowed to retrieve at this stage, someone should retrieve the shot bird back to to dog that is still standing.
After the dog has proven that he is steady to kill then let him retrieve some shot birds. You add a little bit at a time, no big jumps in training steps and you will not have to be tough on the dog. All the class and style will be there when you finish.
Gonna add a couple more thoughts and then I am done, hope this does not make things more confusing.
The foundation to this method is the checkline, pinch collar and ecollar. What makes it work is birds that are spooky, birds that want to flush and escape. Dizzy birds, sleepy birds or any bird that is fixed so it can’t escape will tear this training concept to shreds, you got to have good birds for it to work. I know a lot of folks can’t get wild caught pigeons or can’t use carded pigeons because of the field conditions or too many trees.
I think to a certain degree remote launchers could be used with good results as long as you don’t worry about trying to point everyone of them. Make the training on launchers work for you like carded pigeons, don’t try and point all of them.
Here is a example on how carded pigeons will react. If you fly out 2 carded birds and they are good wild caught birds you won’t get but 1 point out of 4 contacts, the birds won’t allow it. Use the launchers in the same way and I think you will get good results. Once the dog is green broke then move on to good flying chukar or quail to finish the job, free released not dizzy or put to sleep.
Hope this helps and hope I did not cause more confusion.