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The Couler’
Posted on 11/15/2007 in Notes From The Field.

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The Couler’
R. L. Dalrymple

In United Kennel Club (UKC) field trials, as in French field trials, there is a dog-trainer action called the Couler’ (coo-lay). The French to English Dictionary, in part, describes the couler’ as: to flow, to cast, easy going, follow through, and other related terms. This gives an idea of the couler’ in practice in the field trials.

In the French field trials and the UKC field trail the couler’ occurs at and after the time the dog is staunch pointing the bird(s) and the handler recognizes it. At the staunch point, and at the direction of the field trial judge, the handler commands the dog to move forward with the handler, but ahead of the handler, in concert, nearly side by side, until the bird or covey is flushed. At that point, in upper level trials, with the UKC and in France, the dog must remain steady to flush, wing , and shot until commanded to retrieve or to re-locate by the handler. The proper couler’ is always done at the command of the handler. The commands can be a verbal command such as “couler” or “heel” or some other chosen word. The command may be a command of the touch such as a touch on the top of the head, or the back of the head., or whatever command the handler has trained the dog to do in this case.

A translation about the couler’ from the French Field Trial Rules is helpful: “The dog, after having pointed the game (bird or birds) must couler’ decidedly (with definite purpose) ahead of the handler, and only at the handler’s order. Long coulers’ may be allowed, under the condition they are energetic and conclusive, this is, ending in the point of the birds and flight of the birds. The dog must remain steady at the flight of the birds. When the dog refuses to couler’, he is eliminated (taken out of that trial), except if the bird(s) is very close to the dog.”

At the end of the couler’, when the bird or birds flush, the handler should not caution the dog or command the dog to stop, that is, to say “whoa” , or as is sometimes done in France, to say “sssshhhhh”. To do so in a trial in France prevents the dog from getting the highest award he could for his performance at that time. For these trials , the dog should be trained to be steady to flush, flight, and shot after the flush.

Many bird dogs, in real hunting mode, have a natural, inherited and learned trait and skill to sense moving birds and chose by themselves to move ahead to attempt to relocate and stop the feathered game and establish another staunch point. This is commonly called creeping on point, cat-walking, “natural couler’ “, and other hunters names. This in not the couler’ of the field trial syndrome, partly because this action and behavior is first the decision of the dog, and not the handler in concert. The hunter, however, may encourage the dog in this skill and train it to be very precise and very skilled in the behavior as a hunting dog, not as a field trialing dog.