Training to Quarter
Whistle your way to several easy extras for pointing dogs.
Maybe you think there isn’t any sense in training your dog to quarter. You don’t have a spaniel. Your pup will point, so there’s no reason to run a windshield-wiper pattern within gun range.
Perhaps that’s true, but no matter the range, you might want to switch fields, check likely cover in another direction, stop before trespassing on posted ground or just pause for lunch. Furthermore, this training can help to establish the preferred range for your terrain. If you teach quartering now, while it is incredibly easy, your dog will always know the necessary whistle commands for turning back and coming across, or for coming all the way in.
Beginning around 10 to 12 weeks, take the pup to short clipped cover for easy running. If he doesn’t leave your side, just stand there. He’ll become bored and move out to play. When he’s a few feet away, lightly blow the “turn and come across” whistle as you thrust your arm in the opposite direction and walk off. He’ll run to catch up and will probably pass you. When he’s a few feet ahead, again whistle as you reverse your direction and thrust out your arm. The sweeps will lengthen to your preferred range as the pup grows bigger and older. Continue this on all your walks and the pup will grow up automatically responding to the whistle.
If your dog is already too old for puppy training, you’ll need a check cord to enforce the turn-backs. I like 50 feet of stiff, tightly woven, 3/8-inch rope that slides through weeds easily. Limp ropes are always hanging up on something. Tie a large bolt snap on the dog end with a bowline knot. Two overhand knots tied about a foot apart near your end of the rope provide two chances to prevent it from sliding out of your hand. Wear gloves to avoid rope burns.
Blow the long whistle tone when the dog is just a few feet from the cord’s end. He’ll suspect that you’re responsible when he comes to a sudden halt, but avoid direct eye contact at that moment to leave him in doubt about it. If he believes that he might have done it to himself, he’ll quickly learn to outsmart the rope by timing his turns to the sound of the whistle.
Sound Like a Bird
I hate the shrill trill of a traffic-cop whistle in the field. If you agree, buy a double-ended whistle minus the pea in one end. The pea end can be saved for the day you get lost or separated from your group, while the more birdlike sound can be used for training and hunting. Practice ahead of time. You don’t want a brief beep that the dog can easily learn to ignore when he’s at a distance where you can’t enforce the command. If, however, the “turn and come across” signal is always blown as a long and continuous tone, you can keep it up until you have the dog’s attention. Most gundogs catch on quickly because they have a natural interest in bird sounds. The “come in” signal also must lend itself to being blown as long as necessary. But it should sound more urgent, even nagging, as with a staccato. Place the whistle against your lips and blow as you say “tat-tat-tat” with your tongue.