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When steadying our spaniels, our goal is to have a strong flush followed by the dog sitting and waiting for the command to retrieve. There are two high-risk times for the dog to break and chase or retrieve. The first is at the flush when the bird is in close proximity to the dog. Weak, low flying birds can cause the dog to chase and thus set back the steadying process. When using a pole, the birds can be "flushed" more vertically and then "flown" off. The second high-risk time is when the bird is falling after being shot. The pole allows us to prevent the dog from making the retrieve. When the dog breaks, the bird can be removed so there is nothing to retrieve. The dog can then be caught and returned to the site of the infraction. The bird can be replaced and retrieved - or not retrieved - at the handler's discretion.

The pigeon pole is not meant to replace normal training procedures such as steadying to dummies and thrown wing clips or the actual flushing and retrieving of birds that are shot. Rather it supplements or bridges the gap between thrown retrieves for the dog and having the dog flush birds to retrieve. The pole teaches the dog what it is supposed to do.

To develop birdiness and a strong flush, begin by having the dog flush and chase a pigeon on a pole. Tease him by letting him almost catch the bird and then use the pole to flip it higher into the air and/or reverse directions causing the dog to leap after the bird. Occasionally, allow the dog to catch the bird and bring it to you. If the dog feels that the bird cannot be caught, flush problems may result. As the dog is chasing and flushing the pigeon, shots can be fired from a blank pistol and later, from a shotgun. It is important to note that the flushing and chasing also teaches the dog that the pole is fun, which may avoid problems if the pole frightens the dog during steadying. This flushing - chasing - catching may be done until you determine that the dog is ready for steadying. With my present youngster, I will probably do this 2-3 times. When you are ready to end a session (a session may be five minutes), bring the bird back in (out of the dog's reach) as someone would with a fish on a cane pole. The dog will follow and can be leashed and praised.

The actual steadying can begin in the backyard, but it is best done in a training field where the bird is out of sight - which avoids having the dog "eyeball" the bird. Dogs don't seem to realize that the pole and rope are pointing at the

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