Bird Dogs,Bird Dogs & Training  |  03/06/2015

Purina Tip: Back to Basics

When it comes to bird dogs, getting back to the basics of genetics, training and nutrition is essential for success in the field, according to Bob West, Director of Sporting Field Operations for the Purina Professional Engagement Team. 
West was one of five professional bird dog trainers on the “Ask the Experts: Over 260 Years of Dog Training Experience” panel on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage during the three-day 2015 National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa. The others were Tom Dokken, Delmar Smith, Rick Smith, and Josh Miller.
“It’s imperative to build a solid foundation from the ground up,” West says. “That way, should something go awry in training, you have firm groundwork on which to fall back.”
Rick Smith agrees, and adds, “Regardless of your training principles, you and your dog must grasp the fundamentals before going into the field.” 
In order for your bird dog to be successful, he or she must run in control, exhibit sound bird manners, and be properly conditioned while doing what they were bred to do, whether it’s retrieving, pointing or flushing. Follow these genetic, training and nutritional guidelines to ensure you’re laying the proper fundamentals. 


Make sure your dog has plenty of it! Choose a puppy from a selectively bred litter out of a reputable, blue-ribbon pedigree. This means finding a credible breeder known for having a proven bloodline and producing healthy dogs that will perform what they were bred to do. Before picking out a pup, do your homework and select the one that best exemplifies the traits you desire in a bird dog.

Master Basic Obedience Commands

These include “heel,” “here,” “recall,” “whoa” (for pointing breeds), and “sit” (for retriever and flushing breeds). Versatile breeds should be taught to “whoa” and “sit.” Teach the dog to respond to the cue the first time he or she receives the directive. Make sure your dog understands and obeys commands during yard work and early training before transitioning to field work. Never give a dog a command you can’t reinforce.

Be Consistent

Everything you do with a dog should always be consistent. Constant repetitions are crucial to developing a dog that responds reliably. “By giving clear commands, a dog gains confidence,” West says. “This self-reliance will make them want to learn even more and help them achieve a performance edge.”

Provide Proper Nutrition

Top-tier nutrition plays a major role in a dog’s performance. It affects muscle tone, lean body mass and joint health. Thus, a performance dog food that keeps dogs healthy and in top condition is critical. “I recommend the Purina Pro Plan SPORT formulas because of their higher protein-to-fat ratios, which help sustain my dogs’ energy demands,” says Dokken. To learn more about the Purina Pro Plan SPORT nutritional platform and how it is vital to your hardworking dog’s success, visit