Exploring the idea of barrel training and how to apply it to your bird dog
My aim for this episode is to address many listener and viewer questions that I’ve received about my dog’s barrel training. It’s not to be considered an absolute truth, but based on my adjustments and modifications, it is MY truth that I would love to share if it helps anyone interested in barrel work.
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It’s very apparent that most pointing dog lovers admire a dog with an upright tail that stands tall with its head in the clouds. I often daydream about the thought of my Vegas dog locked up on bobwhite quail in the midst of a field trial in classic pointer fashion, as stately is its English name assures among a gallery of onlookers who whisper and trade praises about “THAT dog.”
I shamelessly pride myself on the allure of my dog’s potential. Admittedly, my standards are high as I seek a champion trial dog in the spring and a bird finding machine in fall and winter. What it takes to get there is a combination of yard and field skills that piggy-back on one another in almost stair step fashion. Many folks desire to pose a dog in training, but the details on how can often be vague, misleading, or there just may be too many ways to “skin a cat.”
What I detail in this episode of The Gun Dog Notebook is my personal account of working my young pointer on the barrel — a tried and true process that elects a proper stature for a young puppy starting from 7 weeks old and developing throughout its career and campaign.
Throughout this process I detail a number of critically effective steps (hopefully not ignoring any of the finer details) that place value on the minute details of what the barrel training process entails. It’s a slow process in the beginning — along with being repetitive and enduring — but after four or five sessions, a young dog should begin to find its legs on the barrel.
It should also be noted that this process is not of my own innovation, but learned from a legend of a field trialer and one of the original founders of the Field Trial Hall of Fame, Bud Moore. Bud has spent a great deal of time speaking with me on the process, and you can take notes from his “A Minute with Molly” DVD parts one and two that go further in depth on the barrel process. He has since turned his “Fast Money Molly” into quite the trial competitor. Additionally, a short snippet from field trial legend Ferrel Miller is referenced to support the process of barrel training. Both these dog men have placed high ranking dogs in the American Field and set the tone for proper bird dog work in the field.
Little Vegas has since come quite a ways since I started him on this process at 7 weeks old; early on he learned to enjoy being up off his feet. It’s also important to be aware of learning indicators that tell a handler when the dog is receptive and receiving the information as well as when a dog is nervous or unsure. All of these I’ve experienced with my dog during this process, but they’ve given him the confidence to help him feel sure about himself — key to his growth as a young bird dog.
Stay tuned for this episode and take from it what you must as the barrel training process should be fun for both the handler and the dog, encouraging a diligent and hands-on state of mind.
*Included in this episode are new updates for a title sponsor of The Gun Dog Notebook and many more recent events from the last few weeks of traveling.*
Durrell Smith is a 28 year old Georgia native, visual artist, wing shooter, and dog handler. While creating compelling ink and watercolor illustrations based on his field experiences and hunting dogs, he also runs a podcast called The Gun Dog Notebook, which can be found on iTunes and Soundcloud. Aside from hunting upland game and waterfowl, he participates in Hunt Tests with his Labrador Retriever. As a first generation hunter, Durrell seeks to learn and contribute to the community by connecting with visionaries and veterans within the bird dog community who are willing to share stories and knowledge about the various breeds, creating a bridge to welcome new and novice dog handlers to the gun dog community.