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Training - Earl Twombly's method

Earl Twombly, dog training, Game Warden

Earl Twombly training a pointer and talking with Leon Litchfield, a VT Game Warden

Earl Twombly, dog training, English Setters

Earl Twombly training a brace of fine English Setters

Earl Twombly had a wonderful method he has shared with us: twenty-four training seasons of journal entries telling of raising and training hundreds of “early American” English setters. Many of Earl’s clients left their dogs with him for the summer for training and bird-field work. He worked them in the mowed fields and uplands near Waterbury, VT.


Journals from June through September recorded progression of the dogs in seasonal training before the opening of hunting season in October, and revealed his expectations and successes. Earl used planted birds (pigeons mostly) and wild birds, often in the same session. When he felt the dog was ready, he would move directly from planted birds in the field to the woodcock cover, for real-bird experience. (And, he got to see where the wild birds were/how many, etc. - planning ahead to his own fall hunting season!) Earl’s methods were all pre-electronic collar.


Phrases like “she lost off” and “if I hadn’t a rope on him he sure would’ve gone to glory” tell of training perils pre-e collar. Others like “can’t run this pair as a brace” and “He is ready...(for customer and the hunting season) reflect his “method”. Never rough-handed, Earl kept most litters in his kennel until about 8 months of age, made his evaluations and observations and then sold the pups. When he told anyone “this dog will be a great gun dog”...he wasn’t bragging, he was being truthful based on what he knew.

Training - Today

We now offer two, 6-week training sessions per year, one during the summer in Vermont, and one during the winter in Virginia for Twombly Setters and their owners. We also are happy to work one-on-one with our owners and Setters on weekend or short-term sessions. Specific goals are developed based on the dog's current level and the family's objectives. Much time is spent on socialization and exposure to a wide variety of people, places and situations, not just hunting coverts. The typical pet/hunting partner may spend 15 days afield, with the other 350 days doing "non-hunting" activities, so it's very important to train for all the days you'll be spending together! For specific info and pricing, please contact us.

From Eric, who purchased his Twombly Setter "Duke" born 8/5/16 and trained during the summer of 2017: 

“My previous experience with professional gun dog trainers (a Ryman Setter

Kennel/Trainer in Eastern PA. and a Lab/Pointing Dog Trainer in Eastern CT) used “pressure-type” tactics forcing the dog to perform what they wanted him to do, with less than satisfactory results for my two other dogs.

Duke spent six weeks training with Legh and Jenn last summer in Vermont. Legh

and Jenn practice a very different approach. They have refined techniques that

awaken the dog’s genetic ability.  Yes, they “train”, but it’s through situational

association, not drill instructor “pressure” type tactics.   Duke is my first setter who naturally hunts with style and confidence, and he’s my first who willingly retrieves to hand. I couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Puppy owners, Coronation Kennels

From Dave, who purchased "River" born 8/5/16 and trained in January 2020:

River and I had the opportunity of visiting and training for a couple of days at the 686 Farm in Dillwyn, VA with Legh and Jenn. They are excellent hosts and made us feel right at home. The setting of 686 Farm is terrific, their property has a great variance in cover and topography that allowed River and I to work though different setups and scenarios.

Our training sessions were very productive and I learned so much from Legh and Jenn. In just a couple of days they have equipped me with valuable tools that I can apply in my own training at home with River. Training at the 686 Farm was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be bringing River back for additional sessions.


River out hunting


River in the field


River relaxing, ahhh

We provide frequent progress reports on your pup in training, such as the following example: 

English Setter on point

Tober on point

"Today was Tober's last day on birds for this season. We counted up the birds planted and shot for him since we got here. He was exposed to 32 different setups, sometimes alone but usually with one of our steady dogs in a brace. He loves it, points and stops with his head high and tail at classic 9:00, steady to wing and shot with the rope on and is still working on retrieving. He is tentative and not wanting to damage the bird. The most aggressive water retrieve he did was to keep his bird away from our Cider.

We started him on collar obedience Feb 9th... he was always the first to come when called but as the distractions are added he has responded well to the corrections. We use Garmin pro550s with tone and vibration, using stim levels of #1 and #2 occasionally.  These collars are too powerful at higher settings and we only use higher levels for porcupine and deer breaking, not day to day bird work."

We train bird dogs in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont during most of the year, and travel to Dillwyn, Virginia for the snowy winter months of November through March or April.  We are fortunate to be able to utilize many different types of covers and terrain for training, many of which are gated and fenced in for the safety of the dogs.   In Vermont, we use three different dairy/agricultural farms with fields and upland covers as well as our "secret" hunting coverts. During the winter months, we train in Buckingham County, VA, at the "686 Farm"; 160 acres of upland woods, rolling terrain and broom straw fields, perfect for young dogs and started hunters with the safety of a mile of 52 inch-high fence surrounding it.  Challenging topography and excellent cover offer even the most finished, "polished" dogs an experience and fitness challenge beyond the flatter training areas of Georgia and Florida.


For training, we use big birds (chukars and Hungarian partridge) for older dogs and use quail for the youngest dogs and thrown fly-aways in steadying drills.  We plant birds in trees to simulate actual scenting conditions.  Everything we do training with birds is meant to simulate as best we can setups and bird plants that are found in actual upland bird-hunting situations.

We have been able to add E-collars to Earl’s “method” and tool box. We use Garmin with tone and vibration collars, and DT Systems with vibration.  We've been using Tritronics/Garmin collars and working with their evolution since 1984.

Most dogs succeed with very little stimulation, and respond positively to the tone or vibration features as a means of reinforcement. We have the ability and the grounds to bring your puppy to any level you want, from "started house companion" to "finished gun dog".

English Setter, birddog training
English Setter, birddog training
English Setter, retrieving bird
English Setters, Rebecca Twombly Higgins
English Setter Pup on point

George Hickox with Clover       George with Burdock             Bird manners for Clover          Becky Higgins still training!       Young Promise on Point

We've had the opportunity to participate in one of George Hickox's training seminars for bird dogs, and were excited to see our dogs chosen for       demonstration purposes.

hold with bird
English Setter with Grouse
English Setter, retrieving bird
Trent n Jenn
English Setter, puppy, dog training

Frank out training at the 686 farm

Dog training grounds, Virginia

Willoughby completes a point and retrieve of a grouse in Micigan.

686 Farm in Dillwyn, now fenced in!

Training "hold" with a bird


Puppy whoa training

English Setter retrieves grouse

Burdock retrieves a grouse

English Setter, dog training

Duke of Coronation with Eric training in the Northeast

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