In Part 1
I asked professional trainer Xavier Thibault
about the various French pointing breeds and the French breeding system. Today I asked him about his approach to training those breeds.
When it comes to training a dog from one of the French pointing breeds should a trainer take a slower, softer approach or one in which more pressure is applied?
|Xavier in the field with a Braque Français|
In general, a lighter touch is best, but you can’t apply one method to all dogs, they are all different. So you have to adapt your approach to each individual. When I was a child, before learning to read and write, I learned to use a pen and pencil by coloring pictures in coloring books, and then I learned to draw letters and so on. For a young dog, it is the same sort of progression. The dog has to discover things, learn from its mistakes and successes. The trainer’s job is to guide a dog along the path he has chosen for it. And it takes about three years to fully train a dog, so don’t rush. Stay calm and carry on!
No matter what approach you take, it always comes down to being patient and giving dogs enough time to reach their full potential. Every dog, every person and every type of hunting terrain is different, and our French breeds clearly reflect that. Each was developed in its own region and each has its own character, style and look. So there is no single way to train a dog, there are as many ways to train as there are dogs, breeds and types of hunting terrains. You train a dog with your brain, not a training manual.
In general, English pointing breeds seem to mature earlier than many of the German pointing breeds. But what about the French pointing breeds? Are they slow to develop or are they more on the precocious side?
|Xavier with a Braque Saint Germain|
Pointing can come seen quite early in some dogs from the French breeds but in general, that has nothing to do with how well the dog will eventually turn out. Some dogs point early and some point a bit later on, but what’s the use of pointing if the dog doesn’t know how to find game to point? Let's not forget that there are only two kinds of dogs: those that just seek and those that seek..and find!
A puppy is a puppy and will be that way until it matures. Trying to rush things along is useless. The most common mistake I see among amateur trainers is trying to do too much, too soon. If the dog is good, it will always be good. There is no need to hurry. I only start taking my dogs out to expose them to real game and actual hunting situations when they are about 6 or 7 months old. In the first few months, I don’t worry about how early they starting pointing or how far they range out. Developing a pointing dog is not a race.
What French breed would you recommend to the following kinds of hunters:
1. One that hunts mostly in the marsh, duck, teal, goose, but a little woodcock in the forest?
2. One that hunts, partridge, snipe, grouse, and from time to time, waterfowl in the marsh?
3. One that hunts a bit of everything, but in a hot dry conditions?
|Xavier and a Braque de l'Ariège|
Each breed will adapt to the terrain it hunts, but it is usually best to choose a breed that has been developed for specific local conditions. In general, for wetlands and forest work, I would consider a dog from one of the épagneul
breeds from Northern France like the the Picardy Spaniel
, Pont-Audemer Spaniel
, Saint Usuge Spaniel
, French Spaniel
etc. or a Kortahls Griffon
. For dryer, hotter conditions, I would consider one of the French braques like the Braque Français
, Braque Saint Germain
, Braque de l'Ariège
etc.. That said, I sold a Braque Saint Germain to a guy in Canada and it did really well there. But that is because our dogs are like us: they are at home wherever they end up hunting!