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Understand that the more time spent in the quail field the less your dog will want to retrieve to you. This means you may need to keep working on the retrieving away from the field.
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Keep the field a good place and view it as there is NOTHING your dog can do wrong in the field. A few things we ALWAYS adhere to while in the quail field are NO talking, NO whistle and NO encouragement.
The quail pen we are using will hold up to 100 birds. We put 75 birds in it the first week of June and probably have 18 still in the pen. We are finding about 30-40 birds in the field each time we run the dogs. That means that each of the dogs we have in the quail field is getting about 10-15 bird contacts three times a week, or 30-45 birds a week. This works out to about 120-180 birds for the month of June.
There are two points that I want to make here about costs and exposure. In one month, I will estimate 125 birds per dog. If we used pigeons it would cost $4 per bird and the birds would fly off. So for a month, pigeons would cost $500 for the month…PER DOG! So now I am at $1,500 in bird costs with pigeons. At this time of year, the quail cost me $2.25 each, I bought 75 birds and paid $168.75 FOR A MONTH’S SUPPLY OF BIRDS! Obviously, cost is one of the major reasons we use quail for the initial bird exposure.
Regarding exposure, if you want a bird dog, you need birds. If you want your dog to learn to trust its nose, you need birds. We will run the quail field through July and the three puppies will come away with at least 250 bird contacts each. Think about that. Our puppies will be between 20 and 25 weeks old at the end of July and will have had over 250 bird
contacts. Most dogs will not see 250 bird contacts IN THEIR ENTIRE LIFE! Rita and Cain are now 16 weeks old and have run the field for the month of June. Rita is a little ahead of Cain right now but both puppies are out hunting about 50-75 yards away and routinely run back to us when bored or they do not find birds. When they find/smell birds, it is a different story and they take off up to 200 yards. We run these puppies last so the birds are more spread out so that the session can be more challenging. We want the puppies to work and start associating that if they keep running/hunting then they will eventually find birds.
Trot is now about 21 weeks old and has been slow developing as compared to Rita and Cain. It has only been about one week that Trot has showed ANY interest in the quail. Although properly introduced to birds and a nice retriever, Trot just has not been interested. I needed a way to get him going to see if there is a dog inside of him so I broke a wing on one of the quail and threw it for Trot. As it could not fly, Trot was successful at getting the bird and I continued this for one full session. It seemed to help, as Trot has now shown glimpses of interest. We will not start gun introduction UNTIL he is aggressively chasing the birds NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES!