Field Factors Part II

| January 29, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Preparing at the line.

Preparing at the line.

The following are some more factors for which you should train, especially if you are interested in hunt tests:

Many dogs are reluctant to retrieve a bird thrown from a boat, particularly if the dog has to go near the boat to do so.  Some dogs will not run from a boat unless trained and given time to feel comfortable in the boat.  It is demoralizing to get to a hunt test, find a boat as the line, and your dog won’t get into it.  Depending on the venue, various hunt tests have handlers and dogs run from a boat.  It used to be the boat was anchored in water, but this has changed due to some handlers physically being unable to do this.  Now, the boat can be sitting on the bank at the edge of the water.

Even if you train alone, if you can find a boat (even in your backyard!), practice having your dog get in and out of it, run from it and feel comfortable getting back into it.  Better yet would be if you can find a boat on the edge of water so your dog has to leave and enter directly into water.  Also, you can have someone throw from the boat onto land so your dog gets used to retrieving a bird near a boat.  Again, the best case scenario would be to have your dog become accustomed to throws from boats into water or into cover in water as would usually be done at a test.

Something I recently encountered was having both the dog and handler sit on a hay bale with the dog running from the bale for the last mark down.  Field trial dogs generally have been exposed to running from hay bales (though not with the handler sitting on it beside them), but many hunt test dogs have not.  In addition, sometimes there is a breaking bird almost in front of the dog and handler. A forward lean might have the dog falling off the bale, then figuring in for a penny, in for a pound, off it goes to retrieve the bird without being sent.  If you find some hay bales, here is something else you can use for practice.

As discussed in earlier columns, it is important to train where terrain comes into play.  Your dog needs to learn to handle marks landing on a hillside, at the bottom of a hill, on rough ground, across ditches, etc.  Do not always train in the same place, Try to find as many variables as possible, and work your dog in those areas.  Drills can help a dog to understand and be comfortable in many situations if you are training alone.

Out of order flyers can really throw a dog that is used to the flyer always being the last bird down.  The same goes with the guns riding a flyer way out or the flyer being shot off a hill which lands in a valley or on lower ground.

Train with different wind directions and in varying weather conditions.  Sure, it is much more pleasant to sit beside a fire with a good book on a blustery, wet day, but “force’ yourself to take your dog out and do some work in case you encounter the same weather at a hunt test or WC/WCX.

Throw a dead duck in among the decoys in the water.  Just be sure the decoys are set so the dog cannot easily become tangled up in their lines.  Be sure your dog is used to decoys.  You can begin by having your dog heel through and around decoys and then having the dog run through decoys on land for a bumper or bird.  I have seen a lot more goose decoys being used lately, and have even seen a decoy heron as well as a decoy flamingo!  If your dog is only used to seeing one or two decoys, see if you can rustle up a lot of them, and you and your friends work on having your dogs feeling comfortable running through them for a mark, or by them, or in them.

Some water marks that can challenge a dog the first time (and sometimes many times) are throws from a point to an island; throws from island to island; throws through water landing way back on land; throws landing at the water’s edge, particularly if the dog has already had to pick one up way back on land after swimming through water; throws through tules into water; throws through tules onto land through water; throws across a channel with the gun on the near side; and throws which require a long land entry before entering the water. At a recent Master Hunt Test I ran, a throw went from a dike into a group of tules.  The duck landed in some open water in the center of the tules.  The dog had to angle across water, go onto the dike then cross it, and then have the courage to go into the tules to find the bird.  From the dog’s perspective, the bird just disappeared into the tules.  Years ago, I ran a NAHRA test where a bird was thrown into tules without the dog seeing it done, and you had to send your dog into the tules and have the dog hunt it up.  Once your dog was in the tules, you had no real control as you couldn’t see either your dog or the duck.  You held your breath and waiting to see if your dog returned with a bird.

A book I read when I first started proved to be very helpful to a complete novice, and I reread it at various time for many years.  I think it is still published, and I know the author has written additional books (although I have not read those) which may be of value to you.  This was “Retriever Training Tests” by Jim Spencer.  If you go to the GRCA website and pull up the FEC web page as well as to the LRC website under the Library section, some excellent training reference material is listed.

The above article was originally published in  Some minor editing has been done from the original version.

Category : Blog, Hunt Training, Hunting

About the Author ()

Glenda Brown owns both Goldens and Labradors. She is on the Board of the LRC and is the field liaison to the Golden Retriever News. She is a Founding Member of the CRTA, has judged a Master National Hunt Test and the National Amateur. She has competed in conformation, obedience, tracking and hunt tests but her primary venue is field trials. Her husband competed in agility---with some of the field dogs. She has and has had Field Champions with both her Goldens and her Labs.

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