Photo Essay: Thoughts on Training Dogs

Written by: Dave Brown, of Dave Brown Outfitters

Tish and Martha doing some hilltop chilling with clients.
All photos courtesy Dave Brown

I think we all can agree that dogs are man’s best friend. For those of us who spend a a lot of time with working dogs, this unique relationship between man and beast holds true. They sense your mood, and when push comes to shove, they are quick to perform. In a weird sense they become an extension of you.

Tank, a Brittany puppy, is a retrieving fool: proof that playing a fun game of fetch with young dogs goes a long way.

Over time, I have mellowed out on my training methods. Yes I want the dog to be obedient, but I also understand that the dog needs to respect you as the pack leader. Rewarding the dog for doing thing right is the key, and if you are not getting your point across to a dog, then start over and try a more relaxed approach.

Loulou and Dixie cooling down by the truck.

I think that many people forget that a dog’s purpose in life is to please its owner. If a dog is doing something wrong in the field, it is usually because the dog does not know what the owner wants, not because it wants to purposely run around and screw up.

Dixie waiting her turn.

Every dog is different: just because Spike was pointing birds at three months does not mean that Rover is going to be the same, so be patient. Repetition and exposure are the key.

Spot and Dixie pointing a covey of Mearns quail.

I often run young dogs with my older dogs, so the young dogs can learn from the older dogs’ behavior. I often do this even when guiding. I just keep the young dog or puppy on a check cord, so they get lots of backing practice and when they do find birds, they are under control.

Squeaky, a female Brittany puppy and her mother, Lucy, tag team on a covey of Gambels quail.

My Labrador, Josie, is proof that taking a mellow approach and some time are key. We knew she had the correct breeding for what I needed, but despite her being wired “Hot,” she is a soft dog and very excited to be out in the field. At first I could not get on the same page as her, but over time I was able to channel her energy into what I wanted. Things changed, and she has proven to be a more-than-welcome addition to our string.

Josie the Black Lab, retrieves a mallard.

Dave Brown owns and operates Dave Brown Outfitters in Patagonia, Arizona.

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