Sight pointing - when a pointing dog locks up on the sight of a bird, rather than
on picking up its scent - isn't, by itself, a bad thing. There will be times in the
field where even the best dog will see a bird before it gets a nose-full.
That's especially true with pen-raised training and preserve birds that aren't as
cagey as wild birds, and tend to just get up and wander around where dogs are working.
Not all sight pointing is bad. Here are some
common scenarios - click an image to see a larger version in a new window.
1. A confounded chukar is up and walking around in the
training field. This pointing dog came in from up wind and
had no chance to get scent... but there was no missing the upright
partridge ten yards off. He's doing the right thing, and standing
like a stone while his handler moves in to flush Chuck.
2. This German shorthair is showing the calm, cool
steadiness that only many such up close, visual bird encounters
can bring. For an un-trained bird dog, this is just too much pressure,
and that bird will get jumped by the dog. Better to reduce the risks,
and get that dog finding those birds by nose from farther away.
3. You can tell by looking at this GSP's body position that
he didn't see and "road in" on the bird he's pointing (buried
in the sorghum just to his left). He was moving straight ahead, and then caught
scent from his left. He locked up, and has his head pointed so far to the
side that he's doing the "tripod" in order to remain stable.
This dog may indeed end up seeing the bird he's pointing, but the evidence
says that his nose, not his eyes, told him to stop where he did.
So, sight pointing is still a good thing, in that it's better for the dog to stop in
its tracks and point the visible bird than the alternative: running the bird down. But
some dogs will start to ignore their noses and only really point when they
have a bird in sight. That's a bad habit, and can often lead to (especially in thicker
cover) pointing on birds that are literally a foot in front of the dog's nose. That
proximity means that the bird is more likely to bust out before a hunter can get close
enough to work, or that the pressure will be too much for the dog, and he'll just
pounce on that bird that's filling his entire visual focus.
Don't scold your dog because he points on sight (since visual bird encounters are
going to happen), but rather do exercises that help to reinforce the more desireable
longer range scent pointing. The classic maneuver is to work the dog into a situation
where he comes across the bird's scent cone in a cross-wind manner. Meaning, the dog's
moving ahead, with the wind coming from one side, perpendicular to his path. With the
bird some yards off to his side, his forward movement will bring him across the bird's
scent with plenty of room to work. Such encounters are usually blind (meaning, the
dog doesn't see it coming and can't see the planted/trapped bird), and if worked
correctly, will bolster the scent pointing urge, making sight pointing feel less important
to the dog.
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