The pointing instinct is born out of the stalking instinct. Imagine a cat stalking its prey. He ever so slowly moves closer and closer towards his quarry, and then freezes and watches. Then, he starts slowly stalking again, freezes, and then… pounces! Your Weimaraner has this same instinct and the freeze is called a point.
You may have noticed that some Weimaraners have more pointing instinct than others. There is definitely a hereditary component to how much point a dog has, but it can also be nurtured and developed (or destroyed) by training.
The key to developing a dazzling point is to expose your Weimaraner to birds that fly, and as contradictory as it sounds, allow him to chase in his early development. (Some trainers will strongly disagree with allowing a bird dog to chase even in early development. That discussion is beyond the scope of this article.)
Birds are the Best Teachers
We all know that Weimaraners learn best if they come up with ideas on their own. If you put your Weimaraner in situations where he can hunt and find birds that he cannot catch, he will chase and chase until he realizes that the chase is fruitless, and he will eventually try a different tactic. Who knows what he will try at first, but eventually one of those choices will be to point.
This is where wild birds come in. They will teach your dog everything he needs to learn about pointing since wild birds are far too savvy to be caught. Your dog will eventually point, so be ready! You must reward his point and give him what he wants! What does he want? He wants the bird, or course! The only way to get what he wants is to point and wait for you to shoot the bird he points — that means working in cooperation with you.
Let the birds do the work, and then your job will be to put the finishing touches on him if you want a finished dog.
No Access to Wild Birds?
If, like many of us, you do not have easy access to wild birds, you will need to buy healthy pigeons or game birds that fly well and will not allow a dog to get too close to them.
You can also use a launcher to time the flush more closely to what a wild bird would do.
If you must, use a check cord to restrain your dog just enough so he doesn’t grab or catch a bird off the ground. You can also use tip cages to keep your dog from actually catching the bird. Both of these scenarios mean some sort of physical restraint on your dog, so it’s not ideal, but will work in a pinch.
Don’t Help Your Weim!
Most of us get frustrated by dogs that don’t have much pointing instinct or whose pointing instinct is late to develop. Unfortunately, Weims tend to be slow maturing as a breed, and even more unfortunate, it’s not uncommon for some Weims to be lacking in prey drive.
Do not be tempted to help your dogs by using a check cord and making him point by restraining him when he gets scent of the bird. Helping your dog in this way sometimes creates a dog that doesn’t look as intense on point. You can’t smell the bird and you are creating unnecessary pressure on the dog who is the one that can smell better than you! A limp tail, lack of intensity in tail and body, flagging (wagging) of the tail, laying down and/or sitting are all signs that your dog is feeling pressure!
The best way to develop a stunning point is to let your dog learn this on his own by getting him into the right situations. This means you have to create the situations. If it means a hunting trip, great! But it may also mean a more structured plan in order to CREATE situations for Weim to succeed “naturally” without your interference.
You will soon find that your Weimaraner will understand that pointing is a way to work in cooperation with you so that you both get something out of the hunt.
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