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Puppies Mimic Older Bird Dogs

Yzerman (Izzy) mimics Trammell's every move, while the older pup ignores her shadow

As I embarked on the adventure of adding a second bird dog to my family, an age-old question hung in my mind: “Do puppies learn from older dogs or are they simply clay in the hands of a human trainer?”


For years, I’d heard opinions on both sides of this argument, but having never owned more than one dog at a time, I found it hard to pick a side to believe in this debate.  However, after just a few days of owning two bird dogs, I have formed a very strong opinion that puppies ABSOLUTELY mimic older dog’s mannerisms, actions and behaviors.  There is zero doubt in my mind that my 5-year old shorthair is constantly “training” my 12-week old GSP puppy.


I’ve watched Tram (the 5-year old) pick up a stick during a walk.  Moments later, Izzy (the 12-week old)  was carrying a stick of her own.  When running a field together, Izzy measures the distance Tram works away from me and stays at a similar distance.  Every cue Tram drops, Izzy mimics.


Recognizing my sample size in formulating this opinion was extremely small, I asked renowned dog trainer and Purina pro-staffer Rick Smith for his opinion in the debate during a FAN Outdoors radio interview.  You can Podcast the interview by following this link; listen for my question on the topic at the 19:12 mark of Hour 1 of the program originally airing on May 26th.


Without hesitation Smith confirmed my quick-formed opinion that young dogs learn a lot more from older dogs than from people. “I like having a young dog with an older dog,” added Smith.


The caveat Smith made special point of noting, however, was to keep in mind that young dogs are going to learn good AND bad habits from your older dog.  That hit home with me as well.  Izzy is now a dinner table beggar thanks to Trammell’s habits (obviously my fault to begin with), and Izzy also enjoys sleeping on the couch as opposed to the floor (guilty as charged).


Try and catch me!

This entire sequence of observations has me even more eager than normal for bird hunting season to see how much Izzy mimics Tram’s hunting expertise.  Izzy has already honored Tram’s point of a mallard pair, so I’m hopeful that’s a sign of things to come . . . yes, I realize there won’t be much need for either of my duck pointers.  Laugh it up!


So, for all those multi-dog owners out there, how much have your younger pups learned from your older bird dogs?  Any special advice you’d offer me in this two-dog process?


Catching some morning rays together.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.




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9 Responses to “Puppies Mimic Older Bird Dogs”

  1. Mark Strand says:

    Great looking pair of dogs, Bob! It’s cool to see them together.
    There goes your life as you knew it, but when you love dogs, it’s fun, too!

  2. @Mark Strand You are absolutely right about life-changing!

  3. Tom says:


    Now the bigger question. How is Tram taking all this? Sometimes you can read in their eyes. LOL…

  4. Larry says:

    I’m pretty sure that dogs are suppose to sleep on the couch. Nice looking dogs.

  5. Julie Seigler says:

    I have beleived in peer training for years – but have also seen it when the dogs were only a few weeks apart in age and in training – so I think it woorks for all ages! Two dogs together want to please their family/trainer so they see the activity, the reward (good boy!) and mimic it to get the reward. You mention bad habits – I think two younger dos together almost create those bad habits together ;-D, like twins getting into trouble and creating their own language! But I would give it up for anything.

    p.s. Your GSPs are gorgeous!

  6. Julie Seigler says:

    Oops – wouldn’t give it up for anything!

  7. @Larry @Julie Thanks for the kind words about my pups!

  8. @Tom So far Tram is basically ignoring Izzy. No issues, but they aren’t best friends yet either.

  9. matt says:

    I have three dogs total right now and the youngest ones are worked alone 95% of the time. Lots of bird work alone for the first season (95%), and all three of them pack bonding on our free runs in the field and woods (5%) before the season starts. I believe the inherited traits of a dog are going to come through exponentially more if you work each dog alone. Creating a new social bond with me is going to be stronger as well if a pup works with just me on birds early on. You bring up honoring points and I have done that early on with doing “frog leaping” with pup and older dog on the leash. It is more of old dog in front of pup early on obviously, but soon you can frog leap them after the pup knows whoa formally. This game actually can build honoring in dogs, at least that is what happened with mine. My three year old, when she was a year and a half, was on an off season hunt with my friend’s dog. When his dog went on point, we didn’t call mine just to see what would happen. As soon as she came running through, she turned quickly turned perpendicular to face downwind of the bird and slammed on point. That was my dog’s first time honoring in the field.


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