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Big Dave2

Gun dog training with pigeons

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Anyone here have any experience with keeping and using pigeons, especially homers, for dog training?


I have an almost 2 year old Brittany that has not even been out hunting yet....:( Last fall he was pretty young yet plus I had some health issues that kept me unable to walk around the woods or fields.


I'm not trying to turn my dog into some kind of world champion hunter or anything. I just want to be able to spend more time, all year long as opposed to only hunting season,  doing the thing he loves to do the most. We already have a great time on a daily basis playing an endless game of fetch and he is the most prolific tennis ball catcher (after one bounce) that I have ever seen. He also spends his days chasing rabbits, birds and squirrels in our fenced in yard along with lounging in his very own pool on hot days. He is trained to do all the normal things like sit, lay, shake, come, etc and I have no doubt that he has lots of natural hunting instinct so this seems to be where the progression of his training should head.


I do live in town but as long as I'm not keeping dozens of birds at one time, I don't think it will be an issue. I will check with the city before proceeding though. I'm thinking of getting about 6 homing pigeon squeakers and keeping them in a hutch in my yard. Is there any problem with the birds being in the same yard as the dog?


I'm thinking I could go out to the country on any given day and plant a few birds for my dog to sniff out. I have access to private property to do this on but I am wondering, is it legal to do this on wildlife management areas? I think I recall that after a certain date it is OK to train dogs?


Anyone else do this? Any advice?

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I do it, have experience with both homers and shooters. I am not a die hard as I was a few years ago but will get back into more when I get a new pup here in the near future.


The birds are not to bad to care for just need food and water. My experience and most troubles have been trying to keep critters out of the pigeon loft. Mink etc like to wreak havoc and it sucks when you lose all your birds to a stupid rodent. Especially the homers after you put in all the work to get them coming back. I haven't had any issues keeping birds at home by the dogs. Best part with the homers is if I train away from home, most times the birds are back home in the loft before I get back lol.


As for working the dog, you probably want to invest in a bird launcher as well especially since your dogs a pointer. Not sure how steady your dog will be or what kind of prey drive it will have. Hopefully you letting it chase birds already didnt cause any issues. I would just slowly introduce them to the pigeons. Might even start with just clipping some flight feathers and throw it in an open area and see how your dog reacts and go from there.


It should point naturally but just use the launcher to steady the dog up. Just look up methods with a check cord etc. when using the launcher. If you want them steady to flush or steady to shot that's up to you but that's way down the road yet. Some of that  pointing should come natural but with this dog being a little older you never know what your gonna get but never too late to start either I guess. 


good luck

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@rundrave has great advice. For your homers beyond the peeper stage, you will need to keep them for at least 3 weeks and 4 weeks is better before letting them go. When you say squeakers I assume you mean peepers or young birds just learning to fly. They will imprint within a week or two.


You can use WMAs after July 15th and before April 15th. They are closed to dog training from April 15th to July 15th each year to protect ground nesting birds. Don't use gamebirds for training on them.


Get cracked corn, it's cheap about $8 for 50 lbs at fleet farm. Keep them fed and watered. To help prevent screwneck, put a cup of apple cider vinegar in every gallon or 2 of water you give them. I assume they will be free flying so odds are you won't have an issue with the city  for providing a place where they can roost.


Watch out for owls and hawks. Those are the most likely to pick off your pigeons. So keep the entry hole no larger than 8" in diameter. with a perch for several birds below it for the pigeons to get out easily. Don't have a perch on the outside because it will attract hawks and owls. 


Mink, weasels will likely be your biggest issue as far as rodents go. Just make sure the coop is off the ground and they are blocked from climbing up the legs to the entry hole. A male mink will kill every pigeon in the coop.


I know this sounds difficult but it really isn't too bad. I don't use homers unless someone wants to get rid of them and don't allow my birds to free fly and never have an issue with any kind of varmints because I have no entry holes they can get into.


I hope you have a blast with your Brit. If you had a Springer I would invite you to train with us. :) 

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