Bird Dogs,Bird Dogs & Training  |  05/09/2016

Tips From Purina Pro Plan: Bird Dog Foundation Training 101

From studying pedigrees to selecting your pick of the litter, you’ve done your homework. Now that your puppy is ready to come home, it’s time to get your nose out of the books and enroll your bird dog into Foundation Training 101, the kindergarten of dog training. From part of his “Foundation Training for Pointing Dogs” seminar at the 2016 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, held earlier this year in Kansas City, Missouri, professional bird dog trainer Rick Smith of Hunt Smith Kennels in Crozier, Virginia, shares his tips on how to properly foundation train your young pup.
  • Recognize the Importance of Socialization: “Everyone wants to hold a 7- or 8-week old puppy. Take advantage of those handling offers because socialization can help your dog develop mental stability,” Smith says. “However, realize the pup will want down and make a fuss at some point. Make the pup ‘be still’ before putting him or her down. Now you’re building a foundation.”
  • Find a Mentor: “If you’re new to training dogs, it may be helpful to have an experienced trainer on standby to mentor you,” suggests Smith. “You also can get involved with your local hunt or field trial club, which can supply you with all the training tools you’ll need.”
  • Be the Pack Leader: “As a trainer, you have to establish yourself as the pack leader so the dog knows where he or she falls in the hierarchy,” he says. “As the leader, you also should always have a good attitude without getting angry or impatient with your dog.”
  • Practice Generalization: “You should teach a dog to respond in a timely manner to a learned command under any circumstance or in any location,” says Smith. “Don’t progress to anything more advanced until the dog enthusiastically and reliably responds to the command with the desired behavior.”
  • Consistency Is Key: “As a trainer, you should be disciplined and consistent,” he says. “This early training is crucial because it directly transfers to working birds later on in the dog’s life.”
  • End on a High Note: “Quit while you’re ahead so you don’t work toward failure,” advises Smith. “Don’t end a training session on a negative note, or you’ll lose what you gained.”
In addition to foundation training, it’s important to provide your new pup with complete and balanced nutrition, part of the foundation of optimal performance and recovery for days afield. The Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Puppy Formulas are designed to meet the nutrient requirements of growing puppies, while the Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance All Life Stages Formulas, suitable for puppies and adult dogs, will help sustain your dog’s energy needs and keep him or her properly conditioned. For more information, please visit