Delayed chase is when a dog runs in the direction birds fly once the dog has been released from pointing, backing, or stop-to-flush. Most hunters don’t see delayed chase as a problem, and some even welcome it, especially when a covey flushes and their dogs take off in the direction the birds flew. However, if you compete in field trials or hunt tests, judges will fault your dog for delayed chase and attempting to pursue birds once they have flushed.
Last summer, I had a three-month-old pup that I’d just started running on foot. The second time out, he took off and was about 800 yards ahead of me on the Garmin GPS dog-tracking system. This range floored me until he did it again, and I realized he was running from johnny house to johnny house. Even at such a young age, he remembered where the birds were.
In the 1990s, I had a big-going Brittany on the circuit and was visiting the trainer. He ran the dog on horseback, and about halfway around he lost him. It was not long before the trainer took off, riding hard. He returned with the dog. I was in awe that he’d known exactly where to look. Later, I learned it was simple: This dog had found birds, he’d remembered where they flew, and he’d ditched us to go back and find them again. The trainer was not psychic; he simply knew the dog, and knew to look where he’d had last found birds.
Delayed chase shows intelligence and the ability to mark the bird’s flight, but in competition, a delayed chase may keep your dog out of the ribbons. If you compete with your dog, you need to teach him not to delay chase.
The best way to do this is to build good habits during formal training, while your dog is wearing a check-cord. Anytime you release your dog after bird work, say, “Here,” walk in the opposite direction, and give a light tug with the check-cord. You may prefer using the heel command, but either way, your dog learns to go in a different direction after bird work. Do not tap your dog to release him from bird work as you would from a stand command or relocation. Also, avoid using verbal commands such as okay or all right, which can get you into trouble when used around birds. If you are consistent and always give the here command (or heel command) to ask your dog to go with you, your dog will never learn to delay chase.
Bird dogs are predators. The better the breeding, the more intelligent they are, and the more driven they are to find birds. Good bird dogs naturally want to follow birds—it’s their instinct. Sometimes their ingenuity can surprise you, as well as remind you not to underestimate them. By anticipating your dog’s instinct to delay chase, you can use the here command (or heel command) during formal training to build good habits early, and to teach your dog to go with you, and not after the bird.