Earlier this year I made the decision to take on the AKC Senior Hunter training duties for our boy, GCH AM/Can CH Gingerbred Celestial Thunder JH, CGC, Delta Society Pet Partner – “Zeus”. Zeus has had a great career in the show ring and made great progress in hunt training by achieving his AKC Junior Hunter title under the expert tutelage of Chuck Hilton. Chuck also began the foundation work for the AKC Senior Hunter title by getting Zeus used to double marks on both land and water, and beginning work on casting. After a long Northwest winter, we started talking to Chuck about taking Zeus to go after the Senior Hunter title. We were all ready to send him off when Zeus came up a little lame one day. It turned out to be nothing that a day of rest wouldn’t fix but it got us to thinking about Zeus. Did we really want to send him away for the spring and summer? He is going to be six years old in January and we decided that with all that he had done in his life, spending any more time away from home was not something we wanted for him. So we decided that even if Zeus never gets another title that I was going to take on training him for his AKC Senior Hunter title.
As the editor of Retriever Life it makes sense for me to take on the hunt training duties for my Labradors. I now handle my dogs in the show ring and this just seems like another step in this great adventure called Retriever Life! My good friend, Tonya Struble of Rush Hill Golden Retrievers, who has helped me become a competent handler in the show ring, introduced me to professional hunting retriever trainer, Matt Nolan, and we began the process of preparing Zeus for the Senior Hunter title.
Anyway, over the last few months I have been training Zeus with the help of Matt Nolan and on occasion with Chuck Hilton. We have had our ups and downs but one of the key takeaways I have learned during this process is that teaching Zeus what I want from him before I apply any pressure is extremely important to success. The other thing that I am learning is that this should be fun for me and Zeus. I need to be in the right frame of mind before I train. When I am positive and upbeat Zeus runs much better than when I am grumpy.
Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to log my progress with Zeus and our other Labradors via this blog. My goal is to have Zeus complete his AKC Senior Hunter title by next year and to have some of our younger dogs get their AKC Junior Hunter titles.