Jump to content
Thinblueline

My French Brittany and I Are New to UJ (Warning...Long Introduction)

Recommended Posts

Thinblueline

Hi everyone from the new guy from northeast Wisconsin. I'm very glad to have stumbled on this fantastic site. I'll preface my introduction by saying I'm a dog man through and through. Over the years, my dogs have been a genuine part of my family, living inside my house and in most cases, sharing mine and my wife's bedroom...I know, that's a little weird. I also have to admit I love every facet of bird hunting and shooting birds; so much so that I cannot describe myself as one of those guys for whom, "it is all about the dogs", or of those who wouldn't bird hunt if they didn't have a dog. In that sense, I'm not a purist. I love everything about the overall hunting experience, including shooting and eating birds, and while I love watching a dog hunt, I hunt with a dog to help me shoot more birds. I should apologize right now for any who are offended for what some might describe as a "meat hunter" mentality, but I am who I am. I don't have to shoot a limit of birds to find enjoyment, but I do enjoy shooting a bird or two.

 

I'm also no experienced dog trainer, which is evident to those who know me, or those who have read my posts on other sites, and will likely become evident to anyone reading any of my future posts on this site. In my youth, while living in Missouri, I was introduced to pointing dog bird hunting by a family friend with English Setters. I was young and dumb and had to have a couple of my own English Setters, even though I didn't have a good place to keep them, nor the time (with work and schooling), money and bird resources to develop them. While I admit their breeding had no royalty in their blood, they were neither one inclined to point the few game farm birds I exposed them to. I became disheartened and disenchanted with the English Setters because at the same time, my buddy with an English Pointer pup with no formal training would point and hold a bird until he starved to death. Since then, I have always been amazed at seeing how quickly and staunchly English and German Short Hair Pointers point birds at such a young age. Anyway, I made the decision as a young guy that I needed to give the dogs away to someone who had the time and resources to devote to the dogs while I was breaking into my new career.

 

Being a shooter, I decided to move on to Labrador retrievers and I had a couple of great ones over the years, that would retrieve waterfowl and flush pheasants despite my lack of training skills. My last lab died in late fall of 2016 and I began researching what I wanted out of what could be my last hunting dog, since after one more dog life, I'll be nearly 60 years old, and not sure I would take on another dog at that time (I'm a one dog at a time man). Now living in Wisconsin, my primary quarry is ruffed grouse and woodcock. After three knee surgeries and one ankle surgery, I've concluded I just can't run well enough over rough terrain to keep up with a flushing dog hot on a bird's trail, so I thought I'd try one more pointing dog despite my early failures with the two English Setters. I also wanted a close working dog so again, I wouldn't have to run 150-200 yards to get to a point before a bird flushed. Of course, I wanted a pointing dog that would make a fine house companion, and after having a 100 pound lab dictate where I slept on my own bed, we wanted the smallest pointing breed we could find. Enter the French Brittany.

 

When I got serious about finding a French Brittany in the spring of 2017, I found out they were expensive; largely unavailable due to a combination of relatively few breeders, long distance from my location, and lack of current litters or pups all being spoken for. It looked like I would have to get on one of those long waiting lists somewhere and break the bank when the time came. Imagine my delight when I stumbled on a guy only 25 minutes from my house who had two seven week old French Brittany pups still available. I was so excited at the opportunity, I disregarded the fact that there was no proven competition dogs within three generations of the pedigree, and most of the pedigree was just made up of unknowns owned by regular hunters like me. Maybe that was a mistake.

 

Anyway, the mother was seven or eight years old, and according to the breeder, after two previous litters where she was the perfect mother, this third (and last) litter she seemed to lose interest in mothering, giving them only the nutrition they needed and then getting away from them. She had six puppies, and for the first time the breeder said he lost one puppy during the birthing process. leaving only five, three of which were black and whites all spoken for, and the other two were orange and white, a male and female. For whatever reason, the mother blew off the orange and white male, and he declined in size, requiring the breeder and his daughter to bottle feed him up to size and strength. Even so, he was only two-thirds the size of his four littermates. The breeder said he was going to discount the little male because he didn't know what kind of development problems there might be and he didn't know what kind of hunter he would turn out to be. We loved the little guy but decided on his orange and white sister, who appeared a little "hung over", and vomited while we were there looking. The breeder allowed me to first take the female pup to my own vet for a checkup to give me peace of mind and he also agreed to give me my money back if there was anything seriously wrong with the pup.

 

We took that little female home and fell in love with her. Instant attachment. My wife, who did not want another dog, loved the female so much she pressured me to go back and get the discounted male too. I stood firm, being a one dog man, because I didn't want two littermates to bond so strongly they couldn't bond with me. Two nights later, while I was at work, my wife was laying in bed watching tv with our new little female French Britt, when the little girl let out a yelp from a sound sleep, and died instantly in my wife's arms. Pure devastation is all I can say.

 

True to his word, and devastated as much as us, the breeder gave us our money back. However, the discounted orange and white male was still available, and my wife and I decided to take him. Despite some shortcomings, we love this dog and we will keep him until the bitter end. He is still feisty and bitey and at one year old now, I can only declare him about 90 percent house broken, which I don't understand. He's a picky eater but yet will gladly eat his own crap given the chance, or better yet, the cat's crap. We still love him, because he is a loving dog. He is also a small dog, weighing only around 30 pounds, which I really like.

 

As far as hunting goes, I'm a little disappointed in him, but mostly myself. I noticed he would never point a wing on a string as a little guy so I permanently put it away, and while other guys have pups running around pointing butterflies and tweety birds, my dog never pointed anything while running around and exploring. Lacking any good bird resources and having no launchers, I just ran him in local birdless fields before the grouse season. I didn't give a proper bird/gun introduction at all, thinking my old method, which worked with my labs, would work with him. While he was running around at a distance and preoccupied, I periodically fired a 22 pistol at ever decreasing distances, and he didn't pay any attention to it so I thought I was in the clear. He was six months old on the September grouse opener, and I took him out every week. He never pointed a bird, nor did he put a bird up on his own. I only put a few up myself, but I did take a couple cracks at the birds, hoping to get one in hand to show him what we were after, but my wing shooting is subpar at best, and I never connected. My dog was a distance away when I shot those few times and he never reacted to it, so I never thought I could have a gun sensitive dog. Then one day I took an unsuccessful crack at a woodcock my dog didn't see when my dog was only a few yards away and from that point on, my dog kind of began sneaking behind me. I stopped hunting immediately that day. Hoping it was a fluke, I took him out again another day, and took a crack at a grouse when my dog was about ten yards away. He did the same thing, sneaking behind me like he saw a ghost, so I declared an end to my season right there on the spot until I could start from square one with a proper bird and gun introduction.

 

I found a source for pigeons at five bucks a bird and let him chase a few around while introducing the blank pistol at shorter and shorter distances again, always while the dog was chasing. No problem. Dog seemed to love the birds and not pay any attention to the gun. Borrowed a launcher and bought a few more pigeons, but dog would never point them, so I just launched my five dollar bills in the air never to see them again. Now I've had a couple sessions where I've planted birds in little Walmart baskets I've picked up, and brought my dog into them on a check cord, while a helper gets the bird up. Still, my dog doesn't point the birds. I bring the dog in cross wind, and I can tell he smells them, but he wants to work his way closer and closer to the bird. Were it not for me stopping him on the check cord, he would just root the bird right out with his nose and mouth. Anyway, I did stop him and keep him standing there, although he was clearly not in point mode, while my helper kicked the bird up and shot them. I think my helpers have shot six of the ten birds they tried to kill, and my dog thankfully never paid the shotgun any attention at all. He was focused completely on the downed birds, and went crazy hunting dead and jumping all over the wounded birds, getting a real taste for blood and feathers in his mouth.

 

Now my bird encounters have been put on hold as I sit here recovering from shoulder surgery. As I sit here, I'm feeling good my dog no longer shows any signs of gun sensitivity. He's probably had twenty shots from a 20 gauge fired near him with birds flushing, and he acts completely bird crazy without paying a bit of attention to the shots. My concern is that he shows no interest in pointing. In an ideal world, I would have multiple launchers and an endless supply of pigeons. I fully believe if I had those resources, I could do as many of you say, and just release pigeons from remote launchers the second I can tell my dog smells them and doesn't immediately go into point mode. I know that's what it will take. With one borrowed launcher and five dollar pigeons, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to pull that one off. My initial thoughts are to try to get him out a couple of times during the spring woodcock migration before the April 15 regulation for protecting nesting birds, and then maybe just try a few more pigeons before the bird season. Other than that, my plan is to just hunt him every available opportunity next season and hope he will stumble on enough birds that won't tolerate his pressure so that he eventually starts pointing. Rest assured, even though some will just think I'm a bloodthirsty bird shooter, I will not shoot any unpointed woodcock, nor will I shoot at any unpointed grouse anywhere in the vicinity of the dog. I'm just not going to lie and say if my dog is 50-75 yards on a cast off to my left, and I am clearly the one who puts up a grouse at short range, that I will not shoot if I have a rare clear shot. I admit, I am out there to shoot birds and I love eating grouse, but I will pass on those opportunities caused by dog blunders lest risking my dog turning into a flusher. I also realize by not shooting at an unpointed grouse, I can possibly have the opportunity to get my dog on him again, and that's what I'm really after for this next season. I'm not going to mortgage the dog's whole hunting career over a couple of possible bird kills in this next critical season or two.

 

I'm just hoping my dog is a late bloomer, but I'm having flashbacks to those English Setters who didn't seem to want to point either. So that's about me and my French Britany, Riley. Any advice, encouragement, or constructive criticism will be thoughtfully considered, even if it stings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wildcat

welcome from Colorado, many of us are not "purists' :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
salmontogue

Welcome from Downeast Maine on the border with New Brunswick, Canada.

 

You will find UJ to be a powerhouse of knowledge spread over generous and caring folks.

 

Perk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Greg Hartman

Welcome, TBL and Riley!!!  A few pics of Riley would be nice  :)

 

Nearly 60 isn't old to start a pup - at least my UJ (and my) standards.  I started my latest Brittany, Joy, at age 69 (me, not her) and she's great.

 

I've never had such issues with a pointing dog.  I have to teach them commands - come, whoa, heel and so on, but never to hunt or point.  Just exposed them to lots and lots of birds and they figured out the game.  Maybe always having an experienced older dog around helped?  So, I'm sorry that I can't offer you can specific suggestions on that.  No doubt others, far more expert than I, will come along to help.

 

As far as what may be some form of gunshyness, I've heard that this can be a tough problem to cure, but not an insurmountable one.  From what I understand, you more or less go back to the beginning and start out as if the dog was a new pup, but you go even more slowly and carefully, really watching the dog for reactions.  Certainly, quitting at the first sign of gunshyness was the right thing to do!  Once again, don't listen to me - there will be experts here who can give you really top advice.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MAArcher
51 minutes ago, Thinblueline said:

I'm just hoping my dog is a late bloomer, but I'm having flashbacks to those English Setters who didn't seem to want to point either. So that's about me and my French Britany, Riley. Any advice, encouragement, or constructive criticism will be thoughtfully considered, even if it stings.

 

Keep in mind I have limited experience, having only purchased and trained one bird dog, a German Shorthair Pointer.  I paid $1,000 for the best dog I could find within a days drive.  By best I mean puppies from the highest performing NAVDA breeding I could find at the time.  My dog was basically born pointing and retrieving on valentines day and did so pretty reliable for the following 11 hunting season until I had to put her down this past December.  I'm sure I don't have the patients and skill to teach a non-pointing pointing dog to point.  Throw in potential gun shyness and potty training issues and I'm definitely out.  So my advice would be to relinquish Riley to couch potato status and let him be your wife's pal.  Then start the search for a puppy you can really expect great things from.  And since you already have a smaller dog, maybe you could be open to other breeds, increasing your chances of finding a good local breeding.  That's my two cents and I hope it doesn't sting too much.  

 

If you really want to make things work with Riley, I would say go right now to the best trainer you can find (someone who can tell you he's addressed problems like yours with success before).  You might get a bunch of good advice from folks here, but nothing really beats a little hands on help from someone who's been down the same road before.  An experienced professional will also be able to tell you if the problem is all Rileys or if you need some "training" too.  Having made mistakes myself, and witnessed others unknowing make mistakes, I've come to realize that the dog is not always to blame, just some insight from an experience trainer on how you can be a better trainer might be all it takes to save the day.  

 

Hope things work out well no mater which path you choose and you keep us posted. 

 

Contributing members get to post pics right from your hard drive and we'd love to see some pics.  Orange and white Brittany's are some of the best looking bird dogs!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brad Eden

Great intro, I admit to skimming it because my eyes are stinging from being outside and moving blowing snow up here in Maine. We are getting hammered.

 

I like you already. You may have noticed that I keep a blue collar glow to this Board, to keep it real. Glad you stumbled through the door.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Millriver

Welcome. Pull up a chair and peruse the posts. There's a wealth of information and experience here and those who can answer your questions about your dog and get him on the right track.

 

I'm no help because I hunt flushing dogs, but I think you'll find plenty of  people here who feel the same way as you about dogs, hunting, and life in general. Good luck with the pup!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sage Hen

TBL and Riley I welcome you both. I too was very glad when I found this place. Fist off Riley got kind of a late start at life in general so I certainly wouldn't give up on him easily he's only a year old and not all pups come out of the chute with all the skills at full tilt. So what you have now is a dog that is not gun shy has a strong prey drive and hunts dead. That's not such a bad deal for a one year old pup. I am not as experienced as many here at training but I could see where a good "meat dog" might still be in the cards for you two. Good luck and I'm glad you found us here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thinblueline

Thank you guys for the warm welcome. I’d put a photo of him on here but I’m not a technology guy and all my photos are on my phone. Not sure how to do that. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kansas Big Dog

Welcome fellow French Brittany owner. You are at the best place for on-line fellowship and advice about Upland bird hunting and bird dogs.

 

So, Riley is around 1 y/o? That is still fairly young for not pointing birds, considering his tough first year. In a perfect world you might be concerned, but I have had dogs not staunchly point birds until the second season. My advice is to follow your plan and try and get him on woodcock this spring. Don't worry about anything other than that until next fall. You may have put to much pressure on the little guy to soon. Sending a French Brittany to trainer is a waste of money IMHO. That would be just adding more stress and pressure. 

 

I have had Britts for over 30 years and have yet to see one not turn out to be a good meat dog. 

 

Mike 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thinblueline

Thanks Mike. Yeah I don’t have the money to spend on a professional, so that wasn’t an option for me anyway. I am thankful he responded well by going back to the drawing board with a better bird and gun introduction. That would have been a major blow to our plans if he went the other way toward full blown gun shyness. I’m still going to be very careful with him going forward, making sure he is pointing and seeing or hearing the bird flush before shooting, so he really makes the bird/gun association. No more random shots in close proximity to him when there’s a chance he has no idea why I’m cutting loose with the cannon fire.

 

He hunts beautifully despite limited age and experience so I think if I can get him much more bird exposure he will come along and eventually point some birds. I’ve reserved much of my vacation time for this fall so he should get some better opportunities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
fourtrax57

Hello from another b French Britt owner.

 

Welcome to the board.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kansas Bound

What a great introduction.  I laughed and cried but it will all work out.

 

Keep getting the dog out on birds and he will figure it out.  My first brit was from a backyard breeder that took 4 years to get staunch.  Some dogs just take longer but he will figure it out.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gunsrus

Welcome aboard , looking forward to pics and tales of your hunts .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
OldSarge

Great intro and welcome from your neighbor to the north. I don’t really have any training advice for Riley, but just try to get him on birds. Birds make the bird dog. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×