Electronic technology may not be essential for dog training, but it certainly works faster and makes training easier than many of the older, cheaper means of educating our promising pups. Remote-controlled bird launchers are a prime example. If a pup breaks point, runs in and catches a planted bird, he will remember that it’s possible, giving you a serious correction problem. With a remote launcher, you push a button and the bird escapes. Repeated failed attempts to catch convince the pup that the fun is longer-lasting and more satisfying if he holds his point. He may even get the bird in his mouth for a retrieve.
Avoiding accidental catches also makes it much faster and easier to teach young spaniels and flushing retrievers to sit to the flush. This is a nicety, but it’s an important one. Chasing a low-flying bird after the flush can ruin a shooting opportunity or endanger the dog.
Teaching a retriever to mark once required enlisting a helper to blow a call, throw a dummy or dead duck high in the air and then shoot. Remote launchers eliminate the helper and make higher throws. A Zinger Winger Uplander tossed a 10-ounce dummy nearly 40 feet straight up. Some easily attached extra legs tilt the launcher forward for a throw of 50 feet. The Uplander also sports a “Multi-Shot Sound Release” that fires either a shotgun primer, a .22 blank, or a .32 primer in an empty case–or all three at once.
Propped at a 30-degree angle, the Dogtra model RRD with springs adjusted for a quiet throw pitched the 10-ounce dummy 25 feet. Placed at the shore’s edge, remote launchers are great for teaching water retrieves from duck blinds, makeshift training blinds or even large cardboard boxes.
Unlike planted birds, these remote launchers can’t be lost in heavy cover. Just push a second transmitter button and a speaker on the receiver sounds off. Digital electronics on the Dogtra even substitute for a helper with a genuine hen mallard call before the launch. Sound features keep retrievers alert and urge pointers and flushers to investigate further.
A seldom-recognized use of remote launchers is the setting of pointing distance. Some dogs approach birds too closely before locking up, which is useless on grouse and other flighty birds. Flag your preferred distance and advance into the wind. Note when the dog first catches scent and becomes cautious or quarters toward it. If he’s smelling scent and not pointing before reaching the flag, launch the bird. Repeated “accidental” flushes will make the dog more careful. Reward the dog with the bird only when the point is far enough back.
New avenues of training emerged when Tri-tronics upgraded its 150 remote-control system to the new Pro Control RL. The RL lets you plug in two launchers at a time, with separate control buttons. Have a pointer in need of steadying to wing? Load both launchers with pigeons, but don’t shoot the first one released. With the second pigeon still providing scent, the dog learns to stay locked up until the bird is released and shot. Have a group that trains together? The RL has a seven-position selector switch that can be set to control seven receivers. With two launchers per receiver, 14 birds can be spread over 700 yards of flat terrain, all controlled by one transmitter. ($329; 800-456-4343; www.tritronics.com)
For more on hunting dogs, go to www.outdoorlife.com/hunting/huntingdogs