Proper Bird Introduction
One of my favorite parts of training a young bird dog is the introduction to birds. I like to use a smaller pigeon and/or a bobwhite quail with their flight feathers clipped on one wing. They can flap and flutter but cannot get away. The prey drive woke up instantly in these 5 1/2 week old brittany puppies. Their first instinct is to freeze (point). As the pups get a little bolder they begin to stalk and chase the birds. Then they mouth the birds and try picking them up and carrying them around (intro to retrieving). For you non-hunters, typically the birds are not harmed in any way. Just a bit of slobber and feathers ruffled.
We try to make their first bird contact very casual and fun. No pressure is placed on the puppies to do anything but investigate and follow their instincts. This is a good time to take a look at which pups are more birdy, more outgoing, better retrievers, etc. Nothing is set in stone at 6 weeks old, but it does give an indication of the puppies desire. The main thing is to make it positive and fun with lots of praise and atta boys. All the puppies did well and showed great signs of prey drive. Our little runt Sandy was the surprise of the day. She was the most interested in birds and the first one to retrieve.