"Hup!" - Phase II

(Continued from last article)
by Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

Step 5: "Hup" at the sight of a thrown bird

Teach the dog to "hup" automatically at the sight of a pigeon tossed out in front of him.

Now, we're going to teach the dog to "hup" automatically at the sight of a pigeon tossed in the air. Essentially, you are teaching the spaniel that this picture is a command to "hup," just like hearing your verbal or whistle "hup" command.

Throw the pigeon and give the command, "Hup." Repeat several times, until you see the dog hesitate at the sight of a flighted bird.

Once the dog has the idea that it must "hup" promptly at the sight of a flighted bird, you can use your e-collar if it is necessary to remind the dog to "hup."

This "chaining" technique will cause the dog to "hup" automatically at the sight of a flighted bird. The comparison is simple for the dog: If it doesn't sit, it gets a reinforced "hup," something it doesn't like; if it does "hup," it gets to watch the pigeon flying around, which is something it enjoys.

Be sure you let the dog watch the flying bird as long as it wants, and don't release it from its "hup" as long as it is looking at the bird. The habit of staying focused on the bird will really help to strengthen the dog's marking ability later on.

Teach the pup to "hup" to gunfire by having the assistant raise the gun over his head as he fires.

Step 6: "HUP" to gunfire

The spaniel should also learn that the sound of gunfire is a command to "hup." The dog that knows this will recognize the sound of gunfire as a reminder to be steady. Steadying a dog to gunfire also makes it easier to teach the dog to honor another dog's retrieve.

Heel the dog toward an assistant. When you and the dog are about 20 yards from the assistant, he should raise his arm and fire a blank pistol. Immediately command, "Hup," and if the dog doesn't sit, give a reinforced "hup" command.

We have found that it's important to have the assistant raise the gun over his head as he fires. The dog will learn this lesson much more quickly when it sees this picture in addition to hearing the shot. After a few sessions in which your assistant raises his arm to fire, you can transition the dog to sitting at just the sound of the shot. Fire the pistol, wait a few seconds, and then give a reinforced "hup" command if the dog didn't sit automatically to the shot.

Step 7:"Hup" to the sight of a volunteer bird

This lesson requires use of a mechanical bird launcher and some homing pigeons. Place the launcher out of sight in some cover. Be sure it is placed downwind from where you will approach with the dog. It's very important that the dog sees the bird come up, but doesn't smell it before it's launched.

Walk the dog toward the launcher. Be sure the dog is looking in the general direction of the launcher so it doesn't miss seeing the bird come up. When the dog is about 20 yards away, launch the bird.

After the dog sees the bird come up, command, "Hup." If it doesn't stop, reinforce a second "hup" command with the e-collar. After a few repetitions the dog will chain together these events, and you'll see it hesitate or even "hup" when it sees a volunteer bird come up. From then on, anytime it doesn't sit in this situation, immediately give a reinforced "hup" whistle.

Next, advance to launching the bird as the dog is running toward you. Leave the dog about 20 yards from the launcher, and you stand about 10 feet beyond the launcher. Call the dog and launch the bird right after the dog starts to come. Once the dog is automatically sitting at the sight of this simulated volunteer bird, allow it to come closer to the launcher - about 10yards but no closer - before you release the bird.

Practice this lesson in several different areas, always being sure that the launcher is out of sight and that its location is not known to the dog. You want the element of surprise, but you don't want bird scent involved! Therefore, always set up the launcher so that the wind will be at your back as you and the dog approach it.

When teaching a dog these "hup" lessons, it is a good idea to keep the dog "flushing hard" by giving it separate training sessions that teach it to accelerate into the bird. This can be accomplished by quartering the dog into the wind and having an assistant roll in a wing-clipped pigeon about 20 feet to the front.

Never associate a "hup" lesson with bird scent. You want bird scent to be a signal to a spaniel to rush in and make the flush!

First appeared in:
The Retriever Journal, April/May '9

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