Bird Dogs & Training  |  07/20/2021

Developing a Bird Dog Lifestyle


Establishing a routine, reaching a milestone 

Words by Douglas Spale, Pictures by KC.Photography

Part 3 of a 5-Part Series

As our lives become intertwined, Kohtop’s confidence begins to grow and her enthusiasm for life burns brighter each day. 

Now that she has learned her foundational commands, I will begin to challenge her knowledge and build her drive. While her life will be guided by training milestones, the journey itself defines our relationship. Kohtop will depend on me for her livelihood. In return she will provide me immense devotion. That is the gift our dogs give to us. 

The ability to maintain a balance of work and life for our dogs is the bird dog lifestyle.  


While I happily welcomed Kohtop into my life shortly after the passing of my previous dog Sunka, I often find myself comparing the two dogs against one another. 

While it is important to learn from the mistakes of the past, it is not always fair to measure a puppy with a finished bird dog. Even though our successes are mounting, I must remind myself to be patient with Kohtop’s development. Nevertheless, I remain fascinated that both dogs can have such a significant impact on my life. These dogs have led me to so many lifelong friendships and memorable experiences. 


Our days begin with a regular routine: a morning walk with heel work, place training, and then a few retrieves. 

Afterward Kohtop enjoys resting on the cool vents throughout the house before breakfast. 

While my work dictates her nap schedule, the lunch hour and recess are festive times for Kohtop. Although this schedule may seem strict, the structure keeps Kohtop focused and limits her destructive chewing habits. 

As I transition from work-at-home back into the office, and in an effort to prepare for our travels this fall, Kohtop has become accustomed to spending time throughout the day relaxing in her crate as music plays in the background. 

Once the workday is complete, her fun begins. We enjoy taking walks throughout the city, road trips to the dog park, and lounging on the patio. During our time in public, I focus on her temperament while also giving her plenty of opportunities to socialize in her new world.
As she becomes excited to meet new people and their pets, I use these interactions to teach her that jumping on others or nipping at hands are undesirable behaviors. As the sun goes down and the temperature cools, she enjoys roaming around the yard to chase the flickering fireflies. These relaxing evenings together are all part of enjoying the journey, as we continue to prepare for the prairies of fall. 


While city life provides many opportunities to socialize Kohtop, some training setups are best suited for professional training grounds. At 16 weeks, Kohtop was proficient with her commands, so it was time to attempt her next milestone. On that decisive morning, we headed north to Castile Creek Kennels for an evaluation and her first introduction to live quarry – an important test for a young bird dog.
The scents of the country excited her more than I had anticipated, so our introductory session began with some place work by casting her left and right on three different stands to burn some puppy energy.

As the moment of truth approached, I placed a long check cord on the pup and steadied her on the place board at the beginning of a mowed path. Once she was focused in the right direction, a bird was released a few yards in front of us. To my excitement, Kohtop marked the fall and retrieved the bird by its wing after a few short tugs on the check cord. We repeated these marks a few more times, with each retrieve building her drive for birds and praise. 

Milestone complete. Although our lives will be filled with countless feats, the memory of her first retrieve is a special highlight. 


As summer goes on and as Kohtop continues to grow, I am anxiously looking forward to her first days in the water.

The next milestone awaits.

View the companion photo gallery for this story

Douglas Spale decided long ago to live life with a bird dog at his side.


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