Scott Townsend talks about what it takes to have a Pointing Dog -Part 1 of 2
A new two-part series on another sporting dog enthusiast! This time it is Scott Townsend of Crosswinds Kennels in Michigan. Scott has been training and competing pointing dogs over 20 years, and during that time he has produced and/or trained six different National Shoot to Retrieve Association National Champions. He owned, trained and competed the winning-est German Short Hair in the history of NSTRA. He has won a total of eight National Championships and five other National Championship runner-ups. He has placed in the final four in a National Trial twenty times.
Dr. Tim: What you are looking for in a dog to train and compete within field trial events? That is, what attributes do you seek in the dog?
Scott Townsend: I generally keep a puppy out of most of the crosses I breed between a male and female out of my kennel and existing bloodlines. I have been doing this for many years, so I do have an established stock of dogs that I breed. So each year I generally have three or four puppies to evaluate for potential field trial prospects. As those pups mature, the attributes I start looking for are a medium build or a medium to finer-boned dog. I prefer one with longer legs, which most often goes hand in hand with a finer-boned dog. I look for and want a smooth gaited dog. Being highly driven with lots of desire for birds is a must; a dog that is stylish and intense on point. The dog needs to be both physically and mentally tough; independent but yet biddable and intelligent.
Dr. Tim: Do you trial with dogs other than your own? Or are all the dogs you compete with a pup you raised from birth?
ST: Yes, I do trial dogs for other people. Sometime it is just to get some of the training dogs that are sent to me started on the trial circuit, then I hand them off to their owner. Other times it may be just for a national event. I do have some that I run year round on the circuit that belong to a good friend and customer of mine. My dilemma is most weekend trials I’m limited to competing with 3 dogs, so most of the time I run two of mine and one for someone else. National events I can run five dogs. As far as my own personal dogs that I trial, if it’s a German Shorthair, it was bred in my kennel and I raised it from birth.
Dr. Tim: When, in the scheme of things, do you first expose the dog to anything hunting?
ST: When the dog has at least went through enough training that it is pointing and holding its birds reliably. So if I have a young dog that is doing that, he has been heel and whoa broke, introduced to the gun, and has handled somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 birds in a controlled training situation. Generally remote launchers. Every field trial dog and brood matron is also hunted on wild birds.
Dr. Tim; When do you start taking the dog to the field? Is there an age consideration?
ST: I prefer to start taking the pups to the field around the age of 5 to 6 months. At that age I don’t attempt to teach them anything. I simply take a bag full of homing pigeons out with me and let the pups run around and be puppies. When they run past me I toss a pigeon out in front of them and let the pups chase to their hearts content. The pigeon flies back to the coop.
As far as actually starting to train the dog, I like to start them around the age of 10 to 12 months old. At that point they are mentally mature enough to withstand the pressures associated with training.
Dr. Tim: Does it help for the dog to watch other dogs do these types of activities?
ST: I think it may help some dogs out occasionally, but I’m not really a big fan of staking the young dogs out so they can watch. While there may be some benefits to it I think it is minimal.