When running a brace of dogs in the
field, one of those two dogs is usually going to scent the game bird first. In
the case of pointing dogs, that
first dog should lock up in a classic point, and hold its ground until his
handler deals with the situation. But what of the second dog? If she's away across
the field doing other work, then so be it. But when the the bracemate is
working near the pointing dog, it's just a matter of time before she realizes
that her counterpart is standing a bird.
Two views of a point. This pair of seasoned
have almost 20 years between them, and they know what they're doing.
Click an image to see a larger version in a new window.
1. The dog in the foreground
has his nose on the bird.
The dog in the background
is watching the first dog.
2. Same point, but from
the backing dog's point of
view. The pointing dog
froze in this obvious
position, which tells the
whole story to both
hunters and bracemate.
Dogs (such as wolves) in the wild have ancient instincts to work together and
hunt as a pack. They know that if they rush in on their prey, they may very well
spook it and lose their meal for the day. So there are some DNA-level habits at work
when a bracemate comes up on another dog that's already on a steady point. The
second dog will ideally see the first's stylish, head-high point, and immediately
stop in her tracks, essentially pointing the other dog. It doesn't matter if she
knows where the bird is, she will sense that the other dog knows, and if she has
good field manners, she'll honor the first dog's point, and wait patiently
while the drama unfolds.
In a true hunting situation, this behavior is critical. Consider:
There's almost nothing more gratifying than watching a mature gundog decide,
in the heat of the hunt, to come to a screeching halt and honor another dog's
fine work. Maturity is usually the key, too. Younger dogs don't have the perspective
to understand that the bird being worked isn't the last bird they'll ever see,
and can rarely handle the pressure
of watching another dog work that bird without some additional control or
restraint. When things go right, though, backing bracemates are a joy to behold.
With good breeding, maturity, and much practice, a bracement will honor not only
the other dog's point, but also his fetch of the the downed bird without interference.
- You don't want the second dog rushing in and spooking the first
- You may not even be aware that the first dog is on a bird,
but the second dog's behavior can clue you in, and you can follow
her stare to see where the first dog is standing his game.
- When the pointing dog's bird flushes and is shot, you want to know
exactly where every person and every dog is and what they're doing.
That's much better than picking bird shot out of Princess's hide at
the vet because she rushed in and jumped up at the bird just as
the gunners did their business.
- Encouraging (demanding, really) a solid backing performance from
your pointing dog reinforces that all-important field relationship: she
works for you, not for herself. If she didn't find the bird, it's not
hers to work.
Solid backing is an important enough skill that it's a pass-fail issue in both senior
and master hunt tests and
field trials. If circumstances in a
hunt test don't provide for a natural backing opportunity, judges will go to real trouble
to set up a dog on point and arrange for each bracemate to be handled into the scene
in a way that will test their honor. That process, and judges' decisions about
how well the dogs handle it, can be among the most contentious issues in a hunt
test. Preparing a dog (and her handler!) to deal with that pressure well can
be one of the hardest, and most time consuming aspects of training a pup, but
success in polishing an honorable dog is payment in full for the work.
Browse The EU Here:
A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-V | W-Z