If you are interested in getting your bird dog on birds, here are some tips on how to get started. Whether you are getting a new puppy or have an older dog, starting your dog on birds for the first time can be challenging. Especially if there aren't wild birds in your area, finding the right resources is going to be so important.
Join Your Local NAVHDA Chapter If you don't already know, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association is "a legally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering, improving, promoting, and protecting the versatile hunting dog in North America. It was created to supplement the activities of those clubs by providing a proven, standard method of evaluating the performance of all versatile hunting dogs, consistent with North American hunting practices, regardless of breed." NAVHDA has chapters all across North America that are dedicated to helping the local members get involved with the organization. Joining your local NAVHDA chapter would be an excellent way to have access to knowledgable people, birds, and additional resrouces. Chapters have monthly trainings for all members, regardless of how new or how experienced you are. My local chapter has been the biggest help in introducing both Blitz and me to all things, from her first birds to teaching me about shotguns. NAVHDA is a fantastic group of knowledgable, experienced people who are dedicated to helping others.
Find Local AKC Hunting Groups
Although I am not as familiar with this avenue, I recently visiting a local pointing breed group that was just as helpful as our local NAVHDA Chapter. This group is also full of experienced members looking to provide opportunities for trainers/handlers to prepare for AKC Hunt Tests. This specific club also has homing pigeons available for training, which are an invaluable resource.
Talk With Your Breeder I am thankful that my breeder introduced me to the local NAVHDA Chapter, which really set Blitz and me up for success. Breeders may be able to put you in touch with breed-specific training groups or individuals in your area. They might also have additional resources, such as educational DVDs or training seminars that they could recommend. A quality breeder should be able to point you in the right direction for local organizations that will bring out the best in your pup. Join Facebook Communities for Bird Hunters Facebook is a fantastic way to network with local hunters and trainers, as well as find upcoming events in your area. There are plenty of groups on a national and local level aimed to bring people together. I recommend joining the following groups: Wild Bird Hunters, Bird Dog Fanatics, and Bitches With Birddogs. You can also find groups that are more specific, such as Hunting With GSPs or NC Bird Hunters. Search for groups in your area, groups that are breed specific, or groups that are oriented in the type of training/competing that you are most interested in.
Work With A Trainer Finding a quality trainer can be so beneficial. Using the above resources, find a trainer that matches the type and style of training that you feel best about. Most bird dog trainers offer long-term (typically a few months) training at their own facility. This is a wonderful option for those that don't have the time or access to resources to train their dog on their own. Some trainers offer seminars or clinics that you can attend for a weekend to get some extra help. Finding a community of supportive, knowledgable members that have the resources (land, birds, and training opportunities) is going to be the most important aspect of successfully training your bird dog. There are more ways than one to train your dog, but fidning what works best for you is the most important.