There’s no doubt you have a special connection with your bird dog when pheasant and quail hunting. You may feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, teamwork and awe when your dog does something remarkable in the field. You may even have a conversation with your dog that others seldom hear.
According to veterinarians and animal behaviorists, people frequently have conversations with animals. This dynamic relationship forged between humans and animals is known as the human-animal bond. Since the domestication of the ancestors of today’s dogs thousands of years ago, humans have realized that positive interaction with animals can improve their quality of life. Only in the past 40 years has a group of experts begun studying these relationships and deemed the human-animal bond as legitimate a factor in human health as diet or exercise.1
“Research about how the human-animal bond benefits humans1
shows that our dogs add value to our lives physically and mentally,” says Purina Director of Veterinary Strategy and Programs Kurt Venator, DVM, PhD. “Dogs help to reduce our blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while also decreasing loneliness and boosting self-esteem.”
Additionally, the human-animal bond can help your bird dog excel in the field. By forging a relationship with your dog during training and hunting, you can help him or her further develop into an enthusiastic, eager-to-please bird dog.
“Dogs are social beings, so they yearn to be with you and want to please you,” Dr. Venator explains.
By laying a solid foundation and forming a relationship during training, teamwork in the field should come naturally. Follow these tips to help unlock your dog’s potential.
- Build Teamwork Trust: Start with establishing yourself as the leader of the pack. A dog with respect for your dominance is attuned to trusting you. This relationship creates the opportunity for developing your dog’s natural ability through training and teamwork.
- Customize Training: Realize that each dog has a distinct personality and responds differently to training. The more time you spend working with a dog, the better you will become at reading his or her personality. These insights will allow you to work through problems and decide what works best for an individual dog.
- Keep Training Fun: A dog that enjoys training is more likely to succeed. Dogs live in the present and thus don’t worry about the past or future. By focusing on positive training, one accomplishment leads to the next challenge.
- Give Lots of Praise: Always praise a dog for a job well done and look for opportunities to offer encouragement. When a dog performs well, reward him or her at the moment of accomplishment. Be sure to end a training session on a positive note. Rewarding dogs in a positive way makes them much happier and enables you to accomplish your training and competitive goals.
The connection you can make with your dog during training is exactly the bond that has drawn humans and animals together for hundreds of years. It is clear that the appeal of the sport lies in the relationship between you and your bird dog.
1 Friedmann E, Heesook S. The Human–Companion Animal Bond: How Humans Benefit. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 2009;39(2):293-326.