A dog honoring the point, may sound like an odd description, but in the world of hunting dogs, this term is quite popular.
It all starts to make sense once you understand the importance of maintaining a certain level of order when dogs are hunting in the fields.
You want everything to remain quiet and still at the crucial time when your hunting dog has spotted the prey.
It goes without saying that training a dog to "honor" is a form of advanced training and therefore sign of a well-trained dog blessed with superb impulse control.
What Does Honoring Mean?
Often times, hunting involves bringing along several dogs. When several dogs are left off leash to hunt together, things can get messy if you don't establish some level of order. This is where honoring comes into play.
Honoring, also known as backing, simply means in dog hunting terms recognizing that another dog has spotted birds and respecting that by standing still and in place without interfering.
It's sort of being a "shooting gentleman" explain Jerome J. Knap and Alyson Knap in the 1974 book: "Training the Versatile Gun Dog, A Complete Guide to Training Versatile Gun Dogs for Hunting in North America."
In order for a dog to be considered to be honoring a point he must remain perfectly still and not advance in front of the original pointing dog nor show any intent to "steal" the point.
Did you know? When hunting two or more birds dogs together, it is called a "brace." Ideal brace partners are dogs who are compatible and capable of hunting independently, yet while still being cognizant of what the other dog is doing.
What Does it Mean for a Dog to Honor The Point?
More specifically, honoring the point means respecting another dog (brace mate) who has detected the presence of birds.
In other words, a good bird dog who works with other dogs, knows very well that if he happens to move while another dog is "on point" that could spell disaster with the end result of flushing the birds.
Upon spotting another dog pointing, a dog trained to honor the point would therefore stop in its tracks and remain still and motionless behind the pointing dog throughout the whole process without interference.
Why Does My Dog Like My Girlfriend/Boyfriend More?
If your dog likes your girlfriend/boyfriend more, you may be upset from such preferential selection. As upsetting as this may sound, there may be several good reasons why Rover shows his preferences, but don't get upset by it.
This means you'll have two dogs "steady to wing and shot." One because he has detected birds, and one because of having detected a dog who has detected birds.
Honoring therefore required a certain level of training, a dog with good composure and no jealousy or competitiveness.
The dogs should remain perfectly still until the hunters come to flush and shoot.
Natural or Trained Behavior?
There is debate over whether the ability to honor is something that is hard-wired or requires some training.
Some pups appear to back instinctively, while others may need a "whoa" reminder, while some other needs more step-by-step training using a check cord and the verbal cue "whoa" and lots of repetitions.
It goes without saying that to train a dog to honor, you need exposure to a finished dog who has a rock steady point and who doesn't mind or gets distracted by a youngster hovering around to learn about backing.
Here is where things may be get quite creative: some hunters use a "stooge dog," that is a fake dog such as large stuffed animal dog which can mimic a pointing dog's steadiness, some other cut out the profile of a dog pointing out of plywood and then painting some details to make it look "real."
The surprise element is important: the stooge dog should therefore be placed in an unexpected area, so the trainee sees it unexpectedly and reacts.
What Does it Mean to Steady to Wing and Shot?
Previously, it was said that a dog who is learning the ropes of honoring the point, must be fluent in steadying to wing and shot, but what does this mean exactly?
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.