Bird Dogs & Training  |  05/04/2015

Ten Traits of a Good Bird Dog Trainer

Editor’s Note: With new pups on the way, this list is a good reminder for bird dog owners. The list is from Purina’s Sporting Dog Summit publication. I attended the summit last summer at Purina’s wonderful St. Louis, Missouri, headquarters where year-round activities abound for all comers. While the summit and 10 traits were geared toward competition dogs, they are still a good guide for the average guy or gal training a hunting dog. –Mark Herwig
1. Applies objectivity to his/her training to help a dog achieve performance goals. Flexibility and training a dog as an individual are important for success.
2. Keeps training fun! A dog that enjoys training is more likely to succeed.
3. Recognizes the importance of warm-up exercises prior to training or competing. Ten to 15 minutes spent on submaximal activities such as jogging up a hill, trotting, small jumps or figure 8s on an incline help warm up the muscles. Never take a dog from the crate to the performance field.
4. Realizes that overtraining can ruin a gifted young dog. High-volume, high-intensity exercise is a formula for physical and mental burnout.
5. Understands that physiological fatigue increases the risk of injuries. There is nothing worse than an injury that could be prevented.
6. Takes 10 to 15 minutes to cool down a dog after training or competing. Gradually ceasing exercise helps to reduce sore muscles and promote a healthy recovery.
7. Recognizes that dogs need time to recover from bouts of intense, hardworking exercise. Low-volume, less-intense activities during recovery help to improve a dog’s muscle strength, range of motion, cardiovascular health and functioning, plus contribute to less pain and fewer injuries.
8. Seeks veterinary experts who specialize in treating canine performance athletes when a dog shows signs of lameness or a sports injury. These experts understand that lameness is not insignificant and a dog that constantly refuses a training command may have an injury.
9. Realizes there is no off-season! Cross-training activities like hiking, leash walks and open running promote mental health and overall well-being.
10. Takes to heart that he/she has the power to influence a dog’s potential by catching injuries early. You see your dog every day and have the most power to affect the outcome.
Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at