When is a Dog Ready for Brace Work?
By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
The time to start brace work is after your dog has lots of experience running by itself and is hunting well for you. Also, before you introduce it to hunting in the presence of another dog and handler, it should know how to orient off your locating call or whistle.
If you run a dog in a brace before it is ready, it can develop some very undesirable habits. You can cause the dog to become a "Me too" dog, or it may start backcasting, backtrailing, or stealing the other dog's point. Therefore, it is important that your dog points, is staunch on birds, and has developed physically, before hunting it with another dog.
The "Me Too" Dog
If you run a youngster in a brace before it is ready, it may let the other dog do all the work. Once your dog is successful at finding birds by following another dog, it may become a "Me too" dog. Then it will watch and follow the other dog or trail it, and not develop as an independent hunter.
Backcasting and Backtrailing
With another dog in the field, a young dog that is not fully developed physically will often be drawn out much farther than it's used to going. If it can't keep up with the older dog, it can become lost. Once lost, it may begin to backcast (circle around to hunt ground it's already covered) to look for its handler. Becoming lost can also cause the dog to backtrail (follow its own path back until it finds something familiar).
Both backcasting and backtrailing, if allowed to become habits, undermine the development of a dog's forward-running hunting pattern. An efficient hunting dog seeks birds most effectively by always covering new ground out in front of the handler.
In addition, any time a lost or disoriented young dog backtrails to find security (you or the truck), it is rewarded for the action. If you let the habit develop, you can cause a very nice pup to be branded a quitter for returning to the truck too often.
Backcasting Can be Caused by Poor Handling
A handling tip: we have noticed that the habit of backcasting can also be caused by the handler failing to move forward as he is giving a command to turn his dog. The picture of a handler just standing there puts the brakes on a dog's forward momentum. If you are headed into the wind or in heavy cover, this can cause the dog to come in behind you as it comes across the field. Therefore, whenever you turn your dog, you should move out with purpose, so that your dog will see the direction you are going. Your movement will cause it to stay out in front of you.
Running a dog in a brace before it has been taught to honor can lead to another problem. If the dog won't back another dog on point, it may develop the habit of stealing another dog's point. Since we have already discussed how to prevent this problem in our Backing Dog article in the Jan./Feb., 1996, issue of Pointing dog Journal, we won't go into it here. But be aware that it is a serious problem that can develop by running your dog in a brace before it is ready.
False Pointing and Honoring
One final problem that can arise from brace work has nothing to do with the preparation you have put into your own dog. It has to do with the behavior of the other dog. If a bracemate tends to false point very often, your own dog's good honoring habit can drain away in a hurry, and you'll see your dog start blinking opportunities to honor. What has caused the blinking is that your dog has realized that the other dog "doesn't know what he's talking about." Since the other dog doesn't seem to know where the birds are, your dog will disregard the other dog's point.
Teaching a Dog to Ignore its Bracemate
When you begin brace work with a dog, you must teach it to ignore the other dog unless it is on point. It must also ignore the attraction of another handler giving commands to his dog.
If you see your dog being attracted to its bracemate (other than when the bracemate is on point), give it a command to turn. If it doesn't turn on your first command, reinforce your second command with your e-collar. It is best to use low-level stimulation in this instance. If your dog is always called away from the other dog, it will quickly learn that there is no pleasure derived from chasing after the other dog.
Teaching a Dog to Ignore all Commands but Yours
Use a slightly different method to teach your dog to ignore the other handler's commands. When your dog is attracted to the other handler, allow it to get close to that handler, then use the e-collar to reinforce your "Here" command as you call the dog away. After a few lessons, your dog will disregard the other handler regardless of how much noise he makes.
Dobbs Training Center