I have a flushing English Cocker Spaniel who has gotten into the habit of grabbing the pheasant in cover and not flushing them. This tends to happen at the game farm I belong to when the birds do not seem to readily flush from cover. Any tips on breaking him of this. Can they be trained to point?
Flusher grabbing birds
Cockers flush birds. It's what they do by nature. The problem is your birds are too weak to flush. It's a bird problem, not a dog problem. The best flushing dogs drive in hard on birds with intensity. A dog with a hard driving flush is highly desired by flushing breed owners and breeders. I would never want to see a flushing dog point birds. A flushing dog pointing birds is considered a flaw in that dog or breeding. I would tell the bird supplier that he needs to deliver better quality birds.
Strong prey drive in that pup. If you get on more wild birds, especially ruffies the dog will learn that they cannot retrieve what you can’t shoot. I had a flat coat mix with a great nose but she started jumping in and catching pheasants. Took her grousing a few times and she got more methodical after flushing six in a row way out in a dry river bed. Then, she started pointing the following year. Wouldn’t flush until I released her. She was a fun little dog to hunt with. Sadly we put her down last year at 14.
You have a good bird dog. Think of it as a bonus. No shells fired. No bbs in the meat. My 16 yr old Golden used to do that as well. Kinda frustrating at times but its great for the dogs"drive" to get a reward like that.
The inly way he got 'Fixed" was during grouse hunting he grabbed a porupine. A few needles in the snoot and he is now a pointer.
He is retired now, but my favorite memory of catching birds was at the game farm. he caught a black rooster with beautiful tail feathers. I would of got that one mounted but in the grabbing process quite few back and base of the tail feathers came out.
Hunt that dog all day long!!
This is the kind of prey drive a spaniel should have. Nothing is wrong with the dog. I would either switch game farms or give the birds more time before you hunt them. I doubt you will get them to plant birds with a softer touch.
BTW. I have seen wild roosters caught by dogs in South Dakota. My Springer did it several times two years ago. In my opinion it shows how hard my dog is willing to hunt for me. I don't think you have an issue.
Have you considered hunting turkeys with him? The dog flushes the flock, then call them back in. About 98% of the time, a dog won't ever catch a wild turkey. You can train on them starting ~mid-August for free, through the end of the season Dec. 31 - 4 1/2 months! Wisconsin has far more wild turkeys than all the pheasants on game farms. Non-native Chinese pheasants raised in barns are no more wild than banty chickens. Don't blame the dog for doing what comes natural. Put him on the grandest of all game birds. A wild turkey can outrun a lot of dogs, they don't leave the ground until the dog almost catches their tail. I'd show you a picture, but it happens so fast, so far away, no one ever got a picture. Nearly unlimited permits in half the state.
Just some thoughts that may or may not be practical
Try to hunt wild birds more often like grouse
Switch to another game farm and see how that works
Like Migr8r says, ask if the game farm can release the phez's with a softer approach.
My neighbors lab tends to capture phez's. The way my neighbor sees it, less lead pellets to ruin the meat.