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Sight Pointing

Not all sight pointing is bad. Here are some common scenarios - click an image to see a larger version in a new window.
A Vizsla points a walking chukar. 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.
Steadiness on an up-close visual bird find. 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.
A GSP walks into a scent cone. 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.
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.

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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