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Canine terminology is quite fascinating because every little area of specialty has crafted its own terms and discovering them can be quite intriguing, especially when people add that special creative touch. 

Among the world of gun dogs and hunters, the term "steady to wing and shot" is quite popular, but what exactly does it mean? 

No, there's no need to join your local hunting association or start asking around, as today we'll be discovering what "steady to wing and shot" truly means!

Gun Dog Training

In order to understand the definition of "steady to wing and shot" it's helpful to first learn a bit more about gun dogs and the training these dogs undergo.

Gun dogs are dogs that are used to hunt different types of game, but most of them encompass dogs trained to hunt upland game birds.

Gun dogs include retrievers, flushing spaniels, setters and several pointing breeds. Interestingly, each of these dogs are trained for specific tasks, although some dogs breeds are quite versatile and have been trained  to carry out a multitude of tasks.

In particular, dogs used to hunt upland birds are the ones that are often required to remain "steady to wing and shot. "

The term "ready to wing and shot' is common among dogs used for hunting. 

The term "ready to wing and shot' is common among dogs used for hunting. 

Ready, Set, Steady!

When a bird is spotted, it's imperative that the dog doesn't interfere as the hunter aims and shoots at the bird. "Steady to wing and shot" simply means that the dog stays immobile when a bird rises (wings) and when the gun is fired (shot).

In more advanced training, the dog is required to be "steady to wing, shot and fall", which means that the dog, on top of holding steady when the bird is flushed and shot, should also hold steady when the bird falls to the ground. 

The dog is then released by the hunter and the bird is then retrieved.

It's important to recognize that these behaviors are not natural for the dog as a dog's instinct is to chase their prey, therefore it takes some time for a gun dog to attain this level of impulse control. 

Generally, this ability comes with maturity and experience. Being able to steady to wing and shot is something that is required almost in all field trials.

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Portrait of several setter dogs hunting. 

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Training Dogs to Steady to Wing and Shot

Why is there a need for a gun dog to be "steady to wing and shot?" It's for the most part a matter of safety.

It would be quite horrifying for a hunter to be put into the position of risking shooting his four-legged hunting partner as he runs ahead the moment the birds are flushed, remarks Mike Spies, in the blog "Living with Bird Dogs."

On top of that, if a dog is hunting birds that form small flocks such as quails, Hungarians and sharp-tailed grouse, chasing them the moment they flush, would end up creating chaos, further points out Spies.

Did you know? If hunting with several dogs (brace) it would be important having the other dogs trained to honor the point. Discover more about this here: what does it mean for a dog to "honor the point?"

Some Alternate Views

Not all hunters though think it is essential to train a dog to steady to wing and shot. Indeed, steadiness in a gun dog is subject to controversy and there are different views on this depending on what hunter you ask.

Sure, having a dog trained to "steady to wing and shot" comes extra handy, especially when hanging out with hunters whose skills you do not trust, but having a dog who rushes ahead to retrieve rather than holding steady offers an advantage: being closer to any downed or crippled birds, which increases the retrieval rate, explains David Gowdey, author of the book "The German Shorthaired Pointer: a Hunter's Guide."

On the other hand, Richard D. Weaver author of the book "Training Your Pointing Dog for Hunting and Home" explains that in his over 35 years experience in the field, he has found that a steady dog is actually better as he keeps his focus on the bird and watches it fall. 

Watching the bird fall is easier if a dog is stationary versus a dog who is running around. Weaver further claims that failure to train a dog to steady wing and shot is due to laziness or lack of know-how...

So there you have it, two different views on training hunting dogs!

How to Train Dog to Steady to Wing-Shot-Fall with the Clicker

References:

  • The German Shorthaired Pointer: a Hunter's Guide, by David Mark Gowdey, Wide Sky Press (December 9, 2008)
  • Training Your Pointing Dog for Hunting and Home By Richard D. Weaver, Stackpole Books (September 1, 2007)
  • Photo Credits: Irish Setter with a duck, 1855 Karl Uchermann Public Domain

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