We have a 5.5 month old male GSP we bought when he was 3.5 months old. He is the apple of our eye. I just found your forum and have read as much as I can on my lunch hour at work!!
We want to train him to follow a scent trail - as we bow hunt and you don't always get a clean shot and we need some help. We have heard that you don't start scent training for this until they are about a year old. Any harm in starting this earlier? As long as it is kept short and fun, I wouldn't think so, but we am new to the bird dog world and would appreciate any advice you experienced bird dogger can give us!
I have read here that you don't start training them with birds until they are about a year old also. I have read that people with 8-10 month old puppies winning competitions. ?? I am sure it is up to the individual dog (like people, each one is different with differnet personality, etc.). I have started teaching our boy the basic obedience - sit, heel, down - and he is doing well with these.
When reading some of these stores of pups doing these things, I feel that we are hindering our boy by not teaching him all these things now.
there is no problem for you to begin scent tracking and introduce birds.
There is lots of info about tracking I can give you, it's loads of fun.
I do not know anyone who waits so long to introduce birds. There is lots of training to do w/o birds and in empty fields,too.
You may want to contact your local NAVHDA chapter. You will get help hands on help training.
Most important to remember is that this time is still funtime for pup, keep pressure at a minimum. Sounds like you will have a busy summer.
I got my gsp for the same reason; I am a bowhunter and want to train him to track wounded deer, but my pup is only 8 weeks old. We just picked him up last Friday.
Anyway, there is an awesome site if you haven't already found it called unitedbloodtrackers.org that is specifically dedicated to this task. The guy who runs the site is a pioneer (in the US) on using carefully trained dogs to track wounded deer and has been instrumental in actually getting laws changed to make it legal. I encourage you to check out the site where you can also purchase his book "Tracking Dogs For Finding Wounded Deer". I read it and it's an excellent resource.
To the point of your question, the author (John Jeanneney) of the book I mentioned above advocates starting scent training very early (7 weeks) while stressing the importance of keeping it fun. While I can't vouch for the validity of the claim, I certainly respect what the man has been able to accomplish with his dogs. There are lots of good tips right on the website that you can pick up without buying the book. Good luck!!!
I'm with Pete on getting dogs early exposure to everything, birds and blood. Everything in measure for the age. Good luck with your pup! Game conservation is an important job for GSP's.