Young hunting dogs are like youngsters just learning to hunt; they lack experience, but usually have boundless amounts of enthusiasm! Lila and I have a six-month old black lab puppy who is an elephant disguised as a Labrador retriever. Riffle is going to be a heck of a retriever someday, but currently has two speeds, off and full throttle! Riffle’s current state of mind is very typical of young hunting dogs, having lots of enthusiasm, but not any experience.
After nearly thirty years with Blackfield Pointers and Labs, I am convinced that putting feathers in front of them is critical. We can use all the pigeons and quail that we can buy, but the real thing, woodcock, partridge and ducks will remain most important as their training and handling ability grows with experience. I’ve always believed that if the dog has not mastered sit, stay and come, taking him or her through the rest of the training process is nearly impossible. Success is tough to beat with a young dog! Introducing him to feathers should include placing either a dead or shackled bird, after dragging the bird along the ground, in a place where the dog will be working into the wind and can locate and follow the scent. Remember that more than likely, his initial effort may not be pretty, much less successful. Try to put the dog in a circumstance where he’ll be successful. Lots and lots of praise will go a long way towards helping him to understand what you want, given his natural instinct to please you.
Keep a couple of things in mind; patience and then, more patience will be required! Last but not least, make sure that the last task that you ask the dog to do before ending the training session is something that he can do. Make that session end on a positive note! Finally, having working dogs will give you opportunities to learn a bunch of new words!
Next month…Time To Vote!