Dog training scents can help unlock and develop your dog’s bird savvy. (Photo by Chris Ingram)
“Trust your dog’s nose” is the saying. If you’ve ever stayed in the field behind a good bird dog you’ll understand exactly what it means. A good dog can show a single quail under bad odor conditions or bring a downed duck into the thickest cattail. Whether you’re running a pointer, flusher, or retriever, your avian dog genetically has a tendency to use its sniffer to give you a serious advantage in the field. Learning to use the nose and developing the confidence to think through difficult scenting conditions is based on training and experience.
We spend hours researching to find out which breed suits us best – but at the end of the day, most important to us is that our new recruit find us birds. The most important characteristic of any dog is its nose. A dog has hundreds of millions of olfactory receptors in its snout and even a number of secondary organs to process the myriad of smells it encounters. And while good breeding and instincts can contribute to a positive outcome, a playful pup takes time and experience to learn to follow their nose and become smell like. Dog training fragrances are a tool that can be used early in bird training or a means of keeping seasoned hounds at peak performance between hunting seasons.
Including bird scents in your training regimen provides additional nose work and ways to build confidence for your bird dog. (Photo by Chris Ingram)
Various scented products are available to support your dog training program. Most hunting dogs use oil-based and wax rub-in scents, which are available in a variety of bird scents. There are also scented training products for deer antlers, fur bearers, and blood stains for your versatile dog. The oils can be applied to or injected into your regular training manikins and lifelike Dokken DeadFowl trainers. Wax stick fragrances, like the Bird Down Series from ConQuest Scents and Dokken Dog Supply, are a clean, water and drool resistant option and work well with all of your training buffers and DFTs. Fragrances can also be applied directly to grass and scrub to enhance the avian aroma when hiding winged bumpers or planting live birds, or as a pathway to simulate a running or crippled bird. These simple scented products offer a gentle way of introducing puppies to the bird scent in front of live birds. They also provide a viable option for those training without access to live birds, or even used in conjunction with wings and training birds.
Training fragrances can be used in thick wraps to imitate wounded or running birds. (Photo by Chris Ingram)
Developing a nose for birds
While a hound with avian wisdom will be aided by his eyes from time to time, his main goal in the field is to locate bird odor through his nose. Many of our dogs are asked to perform a dual role for the hunter in locating birds – showing or flushing – followed by hunting dead or shot birds on hand. You must be able to use your nose to be successful at all stages of the game.
Brandon Mendez of No Limits Kennels in Heizer, Kansas trains a variety of breeds and helps puppies and older dogs learn to use their noses to become smelly bird dogs. While a dog naturally uses its nose, the goal of training is to ensure that the dog is using its nose in the environment and in the way we want it to be.
“Some dogs are very visually oriented so we would like them to become more olfactory oriented. Scented products are great additions to use with your regular training dummies, and are great opportunities for dogs to follow their noses on a marker in a thick cover or when tracking down floor odors, ”explains Mendez. He goes on to mention another scenario in which fragrance products could be beneficial. “If you have a very bird-shy dog who doesn’t pick up birds, a training scent can be beneficial in getting him to ingest something that smells similar to how you ultimately want it.”
Help your bird dog reach their full potential and learn to hunt with their nose. (Photo by Chris Ingram)
Mendez recommends not using these training scents when trying to teach a pointing dog to point. “You don’t want to teach them to show something that doesn’t fly. These products have their place as a training aid and can serve as a supplement to bird training rather than a substitute for the use of live or dead birds. Reddened and shot birds muffle other odors such as blood, intestines, adrenaline and stress hormones, so these fragrance products may not smell exactly the same, but they should be helpful as they are similar. ”
These products can be useful as a stepping stone in bird labor when you do not have access to wild or training birds. If you could tweak and speed up your dog’s ability to learn even the slightest bird wisdom, wouldn’t you be doing all you can? Give your dog every advantage in training just as you will in the hunt. Everything you put into your training pays off twice when it matters most.
Make the most of your off-season training by using bird scent and lifelike training dummies to simulate potential hunting scenarios for your dog. (Photo by Chris Ingram)