The Art of Bird Dogging

We’ve all seen it before: a candidate or representative giving a roundabout, not-really-an-answer response to a policy question framed by a voter. We drive ourselves nuts trying to discern their position on an issue and hope we drew the right conclusion when it comes time to vote. There is, however, a solution: the classic art of bird dogging.

What is Bird Dogging?

Bird dogging is a tactic by which activists force a candidate, elected official, or organization representative to go “on the record” with their position on an issue. Just as a hunting dog will bark to draw birds out of hiding, activists who use this technique to prevent question-dodging from politicians.

Where can I learn how to Bird Dog?

Our friends at Move to Amend frequently hold training webinars on bird dogging. For a basic introduction, check out their June 2019 bird dogging webinar.

Some good tips to keep in mind:

  • Be prepared with a clear, concise question. It’s best to prepare and practice ahead of time.
  • Get your question in early, and make sure you’re noticed.
  • Bird dog as a team (or, there’s strength in numbers).
  • Remain calm and collected during your ask.
  • Make sure one of you is filming the exchange! You want to make sure your target’s answer is truly on the record.

What if I can’t be there in person to Bird Dog? Are there other options?

Of course! While not as immediately gratifying, letters to the editor can work as the written bird dog. In the end, though, any action you take is meaningful. Democracy requires activism to flourish. That’s why we stamp, after all.