Pro Dog-Training Tips: To Break or Not to Break. . .

Written by: Dave Brown, Dave Brown Outfitters

A “broke” pointer has an intense focus.
All photos courtesy Dave Brown

For most pointing-dog enthusiasts, having your dog holding point until you can cover and the birds flush is good enough to get the job done. Fair enough, as it is usually the owner and a couple of friends shooting over the dog. But what do you do when your dog starts taking out the birds because it thinks that’s the right thing to do? Your dog’s safety is a factor, especially if you hunt with people you really don’t know. The answer is its time to “break” your dog.

Dixie points a covey of Hungarian partridge.

My definition of a “broke” dog is one that holds point until the birds are flushed and he is released by verbal command. The dog should also stop if birds are bumped (“stop to flush”). The advantages you have with a broke dog are that it is safer for you and especially others to shoot over your dog. The dog he will be steady if he accidentally bumps some birds, leading to possible shooting opportunities as you are not trying to call your dog back in to the area where the covey or birds got up. The dog is still there and on point, giving you a shot at any stragglers.

A Brittany and a Pointer relocate on a covey of Huns. The birds are either going to flush wild, freeze, or a dog may bump a straggler as they move forward. If that happens, the dogs will “stop to flush,” allowing shooters opportunities. This covey ran across the road, and the dogs picked them up again, resulting in some good shooting and dog work.

Relocated across the road, and the Huns are pinned.


Breaking a dog is not that difficult. Depending on what you have access to, you can work with either wild or planted birds. In a nutshell, your goal is to discourage the dog from chasing the birds once they flush. This can be accomplished by use of a check cord and/or an e-collar turned down very low. I use both.

A check cord is used on Tank to keep him steady as a hunter moves past Buddy. Once the birds get up, Tank and Buddy will be released with the verbal command “Okay.”

I break all my dogs that are older than 1.5 years, but of course every dog is different and it will take time because you need to expose your dog to a lot of birds. Whoa training via yard work will help reinforce steadiness. You want to be both consistent and patient. If you are training on wild birds, forget about carrying a gun, as you need to focus on the dogs that you are working The shooting will come later. There are a lot of great resources out there on breaking a dog, so find a method that will suit you and go for it.

A pair of pointers stick a covey of Mearns Quail. Tight Dogs means more shots, especially with the camera.

Although field-trialers have a much more disciplined definition of a “broke” dog, wmy standard works for me and my dogs, allowing for great, safe shooting opportunities and at the same time allowing the dogs to naturally relocate and use their initiative in hopes of locking up or pinning wild running birds.

A couple of pointers locked up: despite the distance they will stay on point until they are released after the flush.

The whole point of the game is to end up with more birds, such as these Huns, in your bag.

Dave Brown operates Dave Brown Outfitters, offering guided fly-fishing trips in Alberta and British Columbia, as well as guided bird hunts in Saskatchewan and Arizona

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