I hunt with a small group of folks. I know their dogs and I keep up with their training but I still ask a couple of quick questions when anyone gets a young dog out when we are hunting. I never mind if a “hunt” turns into a “training session.” The only way to make wild bird dogs is to train them on wild birds.
The first question is always “has the dog been shot over / gun conditioned?”
It’s generally always been done but you must ask. There’s more than one stage of gun conditioning and there’s a difference between comfortable with gunfire around birds and comfortable with multiple shots when you are not the dog on point. It’s not hard to take a young dog from ok with gunfire to not ok in certain situations.
If the dog is at the point where we are comfortable running him with older dogs, it needs to have had a lot of gun conditioning. If not then we can run the pup alone and only shoot when the pup is on birds or we can leave the guns at the truck and take along a blank pistol to do more conditioning. Dog training is an on going job.
The next question is going to be “what are you comfortable with on this particular dog when it comes to shooting birds?”
This is going to be different for everyone and different for every dog.
Some folks are going to only want birds shot if everything is perfect. Some are going to be ok with shooting birds that are safe shots no matter what the dog does. I’m not saying one is right, wrong or better, it just depends on what the handler wants and what stage the dog is in his training.
Some folks get few chances to run on wild birds so they rush their pups or they put them in situations that the dog isn’t ready for at this time. Don’t do it.
You can mess one up real fast and fixing problems is a lot harder than avoiding them. Take your time.