Posts Tagged ‘Purina’
Friday, April 25th, 2014
I spent a number of days this spring running my German shorthaired pointer, Trammell, through woods I know hold timberdoodle on their migration north. It was interesting to watch Trammell navigate the scent determining when to point and when to press. It got me thinking about the incredible ability of a dog’s nose, so I reached out to Bob West of Purina Dog Foods and a professional trainer with 50 years of experience to teach me more about bird dogs and scent.
The Scent Cloud
“Although the bird dog world has referenced it as a ‘scent cone’ for years, scent doesn’t follow a geometric shape. Scent more closely resembles a cloud,” explained West.
West explained that scent does indeed get bigger as it disperses downwind from the source, but the air current, temperature, humidity, and individual animal’s body heat are just some of the factors influencing the path of scent particles.
Using smoke bombs to simulate scent, West has observed the unpredictability of these scent clouds. “I’ve watched scent travel in a path similar to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. There are indeed holes in scent that one dog can shoot through and another just a few feet away will encounter.
Temperature & Moisture
The temperature of the environment, the body heat emanating from the bird, and the moisture of your dog’s nose are all critical variables as well. Cool, moist days are better for dogs to locate bird scent. Scent seems to hold tighter to the ground longer under cooler and moister conditions. Likewise, Bob West’s field trial research indicates before 10AM and after 4PM are the optimal times of day for dogs to locate birds, which generally coincides with the cooler portions of the day.
Moisture is also important in your dog’s nose. A dog’s ability to scent requires the sensory receptors in the pup’s nose being clean and moist. This is one of the reasons abundant water is necessary in the field.
West also believes dogs have the ability to sense, or perceive the body heat of a bird. “Birds are warm blooded animals and I believe our dogs have the ability to determine a bird’s location by using more than just the sense of smell. I believe bird dogs also factor in heat from other animals, as well as disturbed vegetation.”
The combination of a concentration of scent, disturbed vegetation and the bird’s body heat create “hot spots.” Oftentimes, these hot spots are the cause of a flash point or a flusher’s increased tail motion. It’s perfectly okay for your dog to focus in on these hot spots. The key is for the dog to process the clues mentally and decipher the bird’s subsequent moves forward.
A pup needs to be in good physical condition to accurately process scent, heat and disturbed vegetation. “It’s my job to talk about nutrition because of my role at Purina, but it is in fact critically important to your dog’s success in the field. A dog that’s appropriately nourished, well hydrated, and in good physical condition for the rigors of hunting is certainly more able to find birds as well as mentally process scent and clues,” added West.
I’ve long believed my shorthair had the ability to observe the difference in habitat between the grouse woods and the pheasant fields, then to know what bird she was scenting for during a particular hunt based upon the cover being hunted. What I wasn’t anticipating was that she’d be able to distinguish different species by scent in the same environment, but that’s exactly what happened on a recent hunt club visit when Trammell locked up on a rooster pheasant with a bobwhite quail in her mouth during a retrieve.
West confirmed the photo’s story, “There is no doubt dogs know the difference between species of birds. They also can differentiate between individuals of the same species. For instance, I’ve observed dogs point roosters with a rooster already in their mouth. Dogs definitely know the smells of different species and individual birds being hunted.”
West also went on to explain that dogs do not get desensitized to smell like humans. “If you walk into a room with fresh cut roses, you’ll notice them for the first few minutes but then the ability to distinguish that rose sent fades. That fade doesn’t happen with dogs. Their noses are exponentially better focused than our sense of smell.”
Hunting Dead Birds
West also reports that dogs can tell the difference between a dead bird, crippled bird and a living/healthy bird. So, when you drop a bird in the tall grass that isn’t immediately retrieved, just stop. The worst mistake a hunter can make is barging into that spot and start breaking down that vegetation. “Let your dog work the cover and scent. If that bird has been hit, imagine the scent from broken tissue or a ruptured digestive track. Your dog will find that scent if you don’t tamper with it. Don’t underestimate your dog’s ability to read disturbed vegetative cover too. They can piece together the puzzle.”
Up Wind, Down Wind, Cross Wind
“Hunt em all,” proclaims West. “You’ll never encounter a day where hunting up wind will always lead you back to your truck. Dogs are used to hunting through variable wind conditions and these different wind directions can make your dog a better bird finder in the long run.”
Just Add Luck
As we finished off our conversation, I asked West to break down into a percentage how much of a dog’s success was the result of its training/master and how much was the dog’s ability. Here’s how he broke it down for me.
Locating Birds (finding): 30% Human influenced / 70% Dog’s Natural Ability
Handling Birds (pointing, flushing, working a runner): 25% Human influenced / 50% Dog’s Natural Ability & 25% LUCK
“You simply can’t forget about luck,” Bob finished. “Sometimes all the training and dog power can’t equal a dose of good luck.”
If you’d like to learn more about bird dogs and their scenting abilities, Bob West will be a guest this Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on www.KFAN.com at 6:35 AM Central.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
Before heading to the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee for National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic Feb. 14-16, view the complete seminar schedule and plan which presentations to attend. There will be seven seminar stages for upland enthusiasts to choose from, with concurrent seminars running on-the-hour throughout the three-day weekend. The event is presented by MidwayUSA. Highlights include:
Bird Dog Bonanza Stage. Between six panel experts – Delmar Smith, Rick Smith, Ronnie Smith, Tom Dokken, Josh Miller and Bob West – this dog stage hosts more than 260 years of combined training experience. Includes presentations on “Basic Obedience Training and Starting Your Dog Off Right,” “Remote Training and Tracking Your Dog with GPS,” “Shed Antler Hunting – Train Your Dog to Help You Find More Sheds” and a question-and-answer session with a panel of experts. The Bird Dog Bonanza Stage is presented by Purina and SportDOG.
Wild Game Cooking Stage. The cooking stage will feature presentations by authors Hank Shaw and Tovar Cerruli as well as David Draper of Field and Stream magazine. Session titles include “Getting the Most of Your Upland Birds for the Table,” “Preparing Wild Game from the Tailgate,” ”From Tough to Tender, Making the Most of your Venison Cuts” and “The Mindful Carnivore – A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance.”
Habitat Stage. The habitat presentations include “The Food Plot Establishment and Management for White-tailed Deer and Pheasants, Best Practices,” “Landscape Scale Habitat Efforts – The History of Pheasants in Wisconsin,” “Pheasant Management” and “Pollinators and Great Upland Wildlife Habitat.” The Habitat Stage is presented by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Farm Service Agency and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Additional seminar stages include the Upland Hunting Stage (featuring the likes of Scott Linden from Wingshooting USA), the Building Habitat Forever stage, the Get into the Hunt stage and Rudy’s Youth Village stage presented by Cabela’s.
All seminars are free upon admittance to the show.
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Meet top bird dog trainers and get expert advice on nutrition and conditioning while visiting the Purina and SportDOG Brand booths at this year’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center Friday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 16.
Purina Pro Plan brand dog food and SportDOG Brand are bringing the country’s best bird dog trainers to the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage at Pheasant Fest for hour-long seminars throughout the weekend. These trainers also will be on hand at the Purina and SportDOG brand booths to answer your questions.
Here’s a look at the professional trainers Purina and SportDOG Brand are bringing to Pheasant Fest this year.
Delmar Smith honed his skills at teaching the public how to get the most from their dogs over his 55-year training career operating Delmar Smith Kennels in Edmond, Okla. Smith dogs have performed in all 50 states and some foreign countries.
Ronnie Smith, like dog trainers in previous generations of the Smith family, knows that bird dogs are more than just a business, they are a passion and a way of life. He has operated Ronnie Smith Kennels in Big Cabin, Okla., since 1982.
Bob West, Director of Sporting Field Operations for the Purina Professional Engagement Team, is passionate about sporting dogs and those who own and train them. He also walks the talk, having put more than 100 titles on sporting dogs over the past 40-plus years as a part-time professional trainer at his Napsinekee Kennel in Le Claire, Iowa. West is a longtime contributor to the Pheasants Forever Journal, Pheasants Forever Television, Cabela’s Television, and Gun Dog Magazine.
Rick Smith of Crozier, Va., continues the Smith family tradition of his father Delmar Smith and cousin Ronnie Smith as he conducts seminars across the country. His titles include three National Open Brittany Championships, seven U.S. Open Brittany Championships, six International Brittany Championships and more than 100 Open Brittany All-Age stakes.
Tom Dokken, the inventor of the DeadFowl Trainer, has more than 30 years of training experience. He is the author of Retriever Training: The Complete Guide to developing Your Hunting Dog and is a leading innovator in shed antler hunting with dogs. He owns and operates Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels and Dokken Dog Supply based in Northfield, Minn.
Josh Miller and his dog “Easton” are one of the leading shed dog hunting teams in the U.S. Miller also is the only two-time North American Shed Hunting Dog Association World Champion. He operates River Stone Kennels in New Richmond, Wis., where he trains gun dogs of all breeds.
Samples Available at Purina Booth
Visitors to the Purina booth can learn more about the Purina Pro Plan SPORT performance nutrition line. While supplies last, Purina Pro Plan SPORT brand dog food samples will be available in six ounce bags.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
While running my shorthairs earlier this week, we encountered a large snapping turtle. The big “hen” snapper had left the confines of a nearby wetland to (I presume) lay her eggs. My older GSP, “Trammell,” caught a whiff of the turtle and b-lined for the reptile. After a moment’s wavering point, Trammell went in for a closer look only to be nipped in the snout with a glancing blow from the turtle’s pliers-like jaw. Seconds later, in spite of my scolding, my younger shorthair, “Izzy,” mimicked Trammell’s path. Fortunately, the younger pup was quicker and avoided the snapper’s jowls.
This encounter immediately had me recalling a visit to the Fort Pierre Grasslands of South Dakota in which Trammell locked up solid on point . . . of a box turtle hidden in a stand of beautiful bluestem.
My next thought was to Bob West, Purina’s bird dog expert who I often call upon when my own bird dogs leave me perplexed. “Do you have any idea why pointers have a propensity to lock up on turtles?” I questioned.
“I have no idea,” West responded with a chuckle. “I can remember a particular field trial many years ago where I lost track of points after dozens of pointers locked on box turtles that day. There is just something about the scent of turtles that makes a pointer lock up.”
Bob and I discussed the fact most turtles in the north (painted and snapping) spend almost all of their life in the water, so turtle points are less common compared to areas further south with lots of terrestrial box turtles. Either way, West went on to assure me, “There is nothing wrong with your dog, it’s very common for pointing dogs to lock up on a turtle.”
How common is it? Has your bird dog ever pointed a turtle?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Our 9-month-old puppy is peeing in his kennel every day. I bought a smaller one but he is still doing it. Any ideas on what to do?
-Todd Marlette via Pheasants Forever’s Facebook page
Just to be safe I recommend a trip to the vet to be sure infections or other problem don’t exist.
Going to the smaller kennel was a good idea. Another one is being extra observant to body language, pup will usually signal by behavior change, i.e. circling, sniffing. But you can also head this problem off by making sure the pup is well exercised, then taken outside for airing/potty break right before kennel time. Younger pups aren’t expected to hold for very long, so frequent exercise and trips outdoors are advisable, especially in the beginning.
-Bob West is Purina’s Director of Sporting Dog Programs
If you have a bird dog-related question – training, nutrition, hunting or other – send it to Pheasants Forever via the contact information below.
Monday, November 5th, 2012
Prior to departing for this year’s Rooster Road Trip, I dialed up Purina’s top dog and professional trainer, Bob West, with a simple question: “How often should I feed my two German shorthaired pointers during the five heavy-hunting days of the trip?”
“That’s a very common question. Most bird dog owners have heard stories of ‘twisted stomach’ or ‘bloat,’ which prompts this question,” explained West, “but there is actually more to the answer than the one danger associated with feeding a hard working dog at the incorrect time. At Purina, we’ve done a lot of research and recommend one feeding at the day’s end for hard-working dogs in normal health.”
West recommends feeding bird dogs at least one half hour after heavy exercise, including hunting. “If you feed a dog immediately after the hunt, there is considerable risk of that dog gulping the food and water voraciously. That gulping action could lead to an inordinate amount of air gulped at the same time. These are the dangerous ingredients potentially resulting in ‘twisted stomach’ and possibly the dog’s death.”
In addition to avoiding the immediate dangers of feeding a dog too close to hunting, West explained the advantages of a dog having a full night to digest its meal. “First, a bird dog that can empty its stomach in the morning after a night of digestion can lighten its body weight and actually decrease the strain of the day’s hunt by carrying around less weight. Secondly, a full stomach during a hunt can lead to that food being slapped around inside the dog’s gut. We’ve all seen dogs afield that squat and try to pass a bowel and cannot. This is the result of a dog’s stomach being irritated through this food slapping situation, which can lead to internal bleeding, blood in the stool and bigger potential dangers.”
Lastly, West added that early season bird hunters have even more cause for evening feedings. “Our research has shown that the dog’s digestion process can also raise the dog’s body temperature a few degrees. This is extremely important to recognize during those early season hunts when the temps are already stressing the dog during times extreme physical exercise.”
West reiterated this guidance is for dogs in normal physical health and condition. Dog’s suffering from hypoglycemia, diabetes, or are simply out of shape necessitate a discussion with a veterinarian about the topic.
Monday, August 13th, 2012
One of the most frustrating scenarios in pheasant hunting is crippling a bird, then not being able to locate it for the retrieve. Who among us hasn’t spent an hour beating the grass where we “know it went down?” I have a pretty solid retrieving German shorthair, but there is room for improving her ability to hunt “dead” birds without a mark. It’s with this training focus in mind that I called Purina’s Bob West, a professional trainer, for some off-season guidance.
“Finding a dead bird employs the same principles as tracking, so that’s where I focus my training,” West explained. To teach a dog tracking, he enlists a partner’s assistance. While West handles the dog on a check cord, his partner drags a dummy through the grass into thick cover to establish a scent trail. After his partner completes the trail, he leaves the dummy in the grass and moves away. Meanwhile, West moves into the trail with the pup under the control of a check cord wrapped around the dog’s haunches, which affords control of the dog without pulling the dog’s nose off the target. This drill helps reinforce the dog’s use of its nose in tracking the dummy through the cover, mimicking a crippled bird. (NOTE: West believes there is enough scent on a dummy and adding manufactured pheasant or quail liquid is not necessary)
During the first few runs, West allows the dog to watch the dummy and his partner establish the trail till the pup understands the drill. During this drill, West encourages the dog with the “track” command and attempts to amp the dog’s excitement level during the search. (It’s worth noting that West suggests associating a word with every behavior you set out to teach a dog). Bob ups the ante using a pigeon (dead first, then a living one) to increase the dog’s enthusiasm for tracking after the dog successfully establishes a foundation with a dummy. Once this tracking ability is established, the dog’s ability to hunt a dead bird without a mark utilizes the same instinct of relying upon searching with its’ nose.
“What most hunters don’t realize is tracking is 90 percent about a dog’s mental capabilities and only 10 percent about its’ nose,” West explained. “A dog’s nose is incredibly powerful; it’s up to the trainer/hunter to help the dog know how we want the dog to use its’ nose through tracking training.”
In addition, West said hunters make two common mistakes when trying to find dead birds that hinder a dog’s tracking skills. First, he said to avoid tramping down vegetation in the area where the bird went down. “If you go in there knocking over the cover and disturbing the scent left by the bird you are making tracking more difficult on your pup.”
Secondly, West reminded me the dog knows more than I do about where that bird is after I lost sight of it. “We’ve all brought our dog right to the spot that bird went down and watched the dog veer off in a different direction. The smart hunters will let that dog use their nose, because they are likely tracking that bird as it’s running away from the crash site. Too often, I see hunters correct their dog and bring it back to the landing spot muttering “I know its right here somewhere. You’ve gotta let the dog follow its nose.”
Lastly, West reminds hunters to know how to read your dog. “I know instantly when my dog is hunting for scent versus tracking an injured bird,” added West, “tracking dogs typically drop their tails a little, their back arches and you can hear them breathing through their nose as they focus on that scent. Knowing what your dog is doing in the context of the situation is invaluable to being able to adapt to situations on the move.”
I admit to being guilty of bringing my dog to a spot where I last saw a bird go down. Only after being exasperated by her unwillingness to search that area “thoroughly” did I let her follow her nose. Typically, she’ll bring the bird back to me from a direction I completely didn’t expect.
Is your dog’s nose better than your eyes at finding downed birds?
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
I learned to bird hunt behind a Brittany. I don’t remember my dad ever teaching me how to “approach” a pointed bird, but it has always felt natural because it’s how I got my start. What’s interesting and more than a little humorous is watching my various hunting partners the last few years who have only hunted behind flushing breeds react to my German shorthair on point.
In almost every case, I’ve witnessed “human vapor lock” as these friends look at me with twitching eyebrows, tip toe with caution as they approach the dog, then stop behind the dog and look at me again. Are they waiting for the weasel to go pop? Honest to goodness, I’ve witnessed pure fear on the face of a fellow hunter.
“When a rooster flushes in front of my Lab it’s all instinct and excitement,” one friend explained last season. “With your darned pointer, it’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and you know Jason is around the corner with an axe.”
I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle. The pointer purist worries about inadvertently causing “creeping” by approaching a dog from behind. “Creeping” being the unwanted broken point and creep forward of the dog toward the bird.
With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point. “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point. You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West. “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”
West went on to explain to me that he does believe young dogs could be caused to creep by approaching them from behind and an angled approach would be advised; however, he didn’t think a seasoned bird dog would be susceptible to the same problem. He stressed repeatedly in knowing your own dog’s tendencies and making the best decisions with your dog in mind rather than what some “expert” advised.
West did add that “perhaps more important than what angle to approach is the speed at which to make your approach. It’s critically important, especially with pheasants, to approach a dog on point at a pace as fast as safely possible. That bird isn’t going to hold all day and the conditions of the scent and scenario are also constantly changing for your dog.”
Lastly, West reminded me that the bird isn’t necessarily where the dog is looking. “It’s important to be ready the entire time you approach a pointed dog and be alert in all directions. The bird may be exactly where the dog is looking, but it oftentimes is not. Where the dog is looking simply is where that dog picked up the scent to lock into a point. That dog has been trained not to move any closer than the moment the scent reached a level to cause the dog to freeze. Its eyes should have nothing to do with it.”
To learn more about the pointing instinct and a variety of dog training questions, tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Thursday evening at 7:45PM (CDT) as Bob West joins the show for a live interview with me and host “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand. FAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at www.KFAN.com.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
I asked Bob West, a professional dog trainer and Purina dog food guru, for some advice on proper nutrition and hydration for my bird dog while on the 5-day hunt of the Rooster Road Trip. Here are his top tips.
- · Rotation. In a perfect situation, Bob recommends rotating multiple dogs through the consecutive day hunting trip for proper opportunity to rest, feed and rehydrate hard-working bird dogs. In this perfect scenario, Bob would run one dog in the morning, feed that dog at mid-day and let the dog rest all afternoon and evening before bringing that dog back into the hunt the next morning. Unfortunately, I have one dog – Trammell – and I have always hunted her all day long. The key, as Bob warns, is to really know your dog’s capabilities, conditioning and tell-tale signs of fatigue.
- · Cool Down & Calm Down. It’s important to wait till your dog has had an opportunity to rest and calm down after a hunt before you serve the food. A half hour’s rest should be enough to prevent your dog from gulping down that food. The danger in gulping is swallowing air bubbles which could lead to bloat and other problems.
- · Caloric Intake. It’s common sense that a dog exerting a tremendous amount of energy on a multi-day hunt is going to need additional calories. What most folks don’t realize; however, is that cooler temperatures also necessitate a need for more calories. Consequently, a bird dog working hard in the field in 20 degree weather may need nearly double the number of calories in a day compared to a leisurely summer day in the 70s. Note: each cup of Purina Pro Plan Performance has 493 calories. All dogs’ needs vary depending upon breed, size, conditioning and activity, but as a baseline, a 40-pound dog needs about 1200 calories in a day of normal activity.
- · Truck Naps. The cooler temperatures of hunting season also should be considered with your dog’s food needs depending on where that pup is sleeping. If that pup is sleeping in the truck, they are going to also need extra calories to stay warm through the night as opposed to the pup that’s sleeping in the hotel room on a hunting trip.
- · Hydration. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting by drawing air across their tongue and back of their throat. Panting is a dog’s single method to cool down. As a canine exercises in the heat, mucus forms in their mouth and on their tongue. As a hunter, you need to give your bird dog just enough water to give them a little hydration and, as important, water to rinse the mucus from their tongue to keep the pup’s heat regulation system operating efficiently. In cold weather, the air is often dryer, so a dog can actually lose more fluid than even in hot weather when they respire. Consequently, it’s of equal importance during cold hunting days to keep your dog hydrated in the field. NOTE: Bob suggests serving your dog’s food in water to help keep that pup hydrated.
- · Probiotic. Before extended hunting trips, Bob also puts FortiFlora probiotic on his dog’s Purina Pro Plan Performance food beginning four days prior to an extended hunt and every day during the hunt. FortiFlora, which is available from any vet, helps prevent upset stomach issues common with bird dogs from the stress of travel and just simply having a deviation from their routine.
- · Trick or Treat. It’s not uncommon to see proud dog owners after a great day of hunting ask the waitress of the local steak house for plate scraps for their pooch. Bob warns against this kind of indulgence. More often than not, good intentions wind up as loose stools the next morning. West suggests a spoon of canola oil on the dog’s food as a better treat and source of additional calories for your pup.
Monday, August 29th, 2011
Congratulations to Michael Caswell of Nashua, Iowa, who’s photo took home the most votes in Pheasants Forever’s Bird Dog Days of Summer Photo Contest. Michael wins a year’s supply of dog food courtesy of Purina, the Official Dog Food of Pheasants Forever, and a Pheasants Forever Dog Life Membership. Here’s Caswell’s winning photo:
Thanks to all participants for the more than 400 entries. You can view the entire photo gallery at the Bird Dog Days of Summer event page.
And though the summer bird dog photo contest has come to an end, Pheasants Forever is always on the lookout for great bird dog photos. We profile one bird dog each month In the Kennel in On the Wing, Pheasants Forever’s eNewsletter. Just email your picture(s) to to firstname.lastname@example.org.