I’m addressing a question I get asked on a daily basis by clients, “How far should I let my dog range”. This is a reasonable question. First I’ll define range. This is the distance that your dog hunts in front of you. Let’s not over complicate this simple idea. I could break this down to breed specifics, talk about pointers vs. flushers, scenting conditions, wind directions, cover density, etc. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to keep this as basic as possible.
I put a great deal of time into training a gun dog. I start each pup in a specific manner and methodically move them through the training process, with the ultimate goal being a finished gun dog. That being said, how far should we let them range? Simple, if I’m hunting and my dog is flushing birds out of gun range, the dog is too far out in front of me. If I’m hunting and the dog is pointing at greater distances, let’s say 200 yard out, sticking birds, holding them rock steady until the flush and shot, and making flawless retrieves, then that is a range the dog is capable of handling.
I think a better question to ask is “how do I control my dog’s range”? Whether you have a 40 yard bootlicker or a 200 yard rocket you still need to maintain control and adapt to conditions. I preach to my clients, that many people have sporting breeds but very few have hunting dogs and the difference is how the puppy is started from day one. So let’s remember the basics. We start off with every pup dragging a check cord. We do this for a reason. Yard work is the foundation for every future gun dog.
If we do not lay the foundation, range will be just one of the many problems you have with your dog. Maybe you need to go back to quartering drills to bring them into check. Maybe some reinforcement with the whoa command or sit to the whistle. All the simple drills we spent endless hours training before we transitioned the dog to the electronic collar need to be revisited. Remember guys, we should be able to drive our dogs through the field like high dollar sports cars. When a command is given we require an immediate response from our dogs or they are instantly corrected. So my general rule is I give my dogs enough rope to hang themselves. If they are doing great and sticking points I let them range. If they need to be brought in a bit we go back to our quartering and whoa work and the basic foundation we laid in the beginning.