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Determining Factors In Bird Dog Abilities

Laying A Genetic Foundation
In more than fifteen years of breeding dogs, we have taken great care in selecting traits for hunting, conformation, and overall health in order to ensure a quality household and hunting companion. We have learned that breeding opposites together will not necessarily produce “happy mediums” nor does the “give and take” method used by convenient mating make consistent litters of individual offspring.

We read classified ads with words like natural ability, proven hunters, guaranteed, etc. and can’t help but cringe as a breeder and trainer knowing how little these terms can mean. Experience and many dollars in tuition have taught us that genetic progress is made with strict selection practices that balance traits and focus on breed improvement. These practices may include spaying or neutering an animal with trait defects and proving breeding animals through performance testing and health certification. Taking shortcuts to reach your goals will rarely produce the desired traits. In the end, the quality of your hunting companion will come down to three basic factors in ability.

Natural Ability
This is the ability God has given each individual animal based on the traits brought forward from their parents. Pointers should naturally point just like retrievers should naturally retrieve and flushers should naturally flush. These untrained traits are displayed naturally when exposed to hunting situations. Have you stopped to wonder what is going through that young pointing dog’s mind when he is pointing that first pheasant or quail? Do you think there is excitement or fear during that first duck chase across the open water by a young retriever? All great hunting companions have natural traits and abilities bred into them from selected breeding plans that were conceived well before his litter.

This is the ability to learn and retain commands through repetition and experience. Many trainers would agree that these traits are often overlooked or misunderstood in a solid breeding program. When we have a student come into our training program, a strong desire by a dog to learn what is needed and expected of them to move forward in training creates a true pleasure for the trainer. These dogs move to the head of the class through a willingness to retain the training and achieve higher goals than fellow classmates.

This might be a new word for many dog owners and some would suggest that bid-ability is the most important of the three. Bid-ability is how an individual dog responds to a correction or whether there is a willingness to accept training at all. Signs of bid-ability can range from excessive alpha dominance, an animal that will not submit to your needs, to excessive timidity in dogs that avoid any training stress at all. Bid-ability can be difficult to determine without a willingness by the breeder to prove sires, dams or offspring through standard performance tests. There are many events available to demonstrate these traits and a reputable breeder and trainer will use them to prove a well rounded dog from a well balanced line.

Bringing It All Together
It is important to consider all three factors in ability when selecting a hunting companion. Choosing proven dogs from reputable kennels is the best way to ensure your companion is the product of healthy trait selection that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of both the breed and the individual dog. Nothing guarantees your hunting success, but your chances are greatly improved when your hunting companion displays a great combination of natural ability, train-ability and bid-ability earned through exhaustive trait selection.

To learn more about Steve Ries and his training methods, visit

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