Bird Dogs,Bird Dogs & Training  |  04/03/2015

How to Foundation Train Your Bird Dog for Success

Foundation training emphasizes the fundamentals every bird dog should master. Thus, it is the key to having success in the field, according to professional bird dog trainer Rick Smith. 
Smith’s “Foundation Training” seminar was one of numerous presentations by professional bird dog trainers on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, held this past February in Des Moines, Iowa. The other presenters were Purina Sporting Field Operations Director Bob West, Tom Dokken, Delmar Smith, and Josh Miller.  
“It’s important to conquer the fundamentals prior to moving on to anything else in training,” Smith says. Before graduating to the field with your young bird dog, follow Smith’s tips for successful foundation training. 
  • Be the leader: Your dog should understand his place in the pack, so as a trainer, it’s your responsibility to step up and be a confident, consistent leader. “It’s not your dog’s job to lead the operation,” says Smith. “Ensure that every person in the household remains a leader so that dogs come after humans in the pecking order.”
  • Establish good habits: It is vital to create good habits early on in foundation training. “Old habits really do die hard,” Smith says. Examples of early good habits are proper socialization, skillful obedience and polite manners. Praise your dog for appropriate responses to commands so that he forms a good habit. 
  • Maintain a routine: Regardless of being in the house, yard or field, don’t let your dog become sloppy when responding to commands. While it’s important to let your dog have fun with activities such as leash walks, games of fetch and free play in the yard, you should remain consistent with your expectations. “It may sound like training, but make sure to keep play fun for your dog while staying firm with commands, such as ‘heel,’ ‘here,’ ‘recall,’ ‘whoa’ (for pointing breeds), and ‘sit’ (for retriever and flushing breeds),” Smith says. “When you become consistent, your dog becomes consistent.”
  • Respect your dog: Respecting your dog means not overindulging or spoiling your dog. “It’s harder to respect your dog than to love your dog,” says Smith. “Your dog is smarter and more capable than you think, so don’t let him slack off.” Set boundaries early on so that your dog doesn’t become careless when responding to commands. Remain calm and pleasant, never becoming angry with your dog. 
  • Keep your dog busy: “Dogs thrive on having a job to do,” says Smith. “The more exercise you can give them, the better.” Because outdoor exercise not always is feasible, put the lead on your dog and complete drills inside during inclement weather. Foundation training takes your commitment and time. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it, so make time to keep your dog active and happy.
  • Nutrition is everything: “Regardless of how well you train your dog, if he’s not getting proper nutrition, he won’t have a performance edge in the field,” advises Smith. Feeding a performance dog food affects muscle tone, lean body mass and joint health, thus keeping a dog healthy and in top condition. “I recommend the Purina Pro Plan SPORT formulas because they provide adequate nutrition to regulate my dogs’ energy levels and weight, especially during the crucial recovery time.” To learn more about the Purina Pro Plan SPORT nutritional platform and how it is vital to your hardworking dog’s success, visit