~ RETRIEVERS~ COMING AND GOING (warning graphic)


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Nov 1, 2018
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So I conducted a "group" training session for several owner / handlers and their retrievers over the weekend. I prefer to keep such sessions on the small / intimate size in scope with dogs being of similar skill levels. This approach tends to simplify setup of drills with minor variations mad on the fly, those adaptations made to address the skill set requirements of individual retrievers. All of the participants pitch in with regard to moving equipment, throwing birds, etc.

The session held focused on the proper mechanics of the retrieve, in essence, being sent for a bird and returning with it, that being the highly simplified version of "the retrieve". During the actual training, we focus on each handler working with their own retriever and tackling the finer points of the retrieve. Work was conducted on both land and water, Emphasis was placed on line manners, marking, steadiness on the line without vocalization., leaving the handler upon the send command and proceeding to the area of fall, the pick up, recalling to the handler, j-hooking to a sit, holding the bird upon return, and presenting the bird to hand upon issue of the command "GIVE". The group consisted of three owner / handlers and their gun dog trainees.

My approach in working with handlers is one of constructive instruction being utilized, much the way a coach works with their athletes. I want the owner / handler to understand the concepts involved in handling a retriever, tom become comfortable and fluid in doing so, and to bond with their retriever as a team as a result of the process.

~COME TO MAMA ~ Owner / handler Deb is seen on the line as her retriever JACKSON is seen returning to her with a partially frozen duck. Both bumpers and actual frozen ducks were used throughout this training session. JACKSON was the most advanced retriever in this particular group and he was worked on multiple marks consisting of doubles. JACKSON is a very strong marker and ran with precision both in regards to going out with great drive, style, and athleticism exhibited, and making his return to Deb to execute a classic delivery to hand. A member from the group can be seen along the left margin of the field from which he was throwing marks (birds) for the other handlers. JACKSON was worked both on birds thrown in fairly short cover as well as deep cover where he made use of his nose / scenting ability to locate the "downed" bird. JACKSON has a well developed ability for scenting / tracking.

~ WORKING HONOR ~ TEAM SHOOTER is seen "honoring" the working dog (JACKSON). Retrievers learn to "honor" other working dogs as a requirement of the upper stakes of hunt tests, and when hunting multiple retrievers from the same blinds during a hunt. Honoring is a particularly important skill for dogs that will be hunted with other retrievers while hunting waterfowl and as a function of hunting upland birds when trained to do so. Young retrievers are tethered on a lead or un a training tab as is seen here with SHOOTER and her owner / handler Greg. The training tab is an invaluable took in aiding the handler to teach the retriever that he / she is expected to remain steady on the line until released to do otherwise.

~ JACKSON "GIVE" ~ Seen on the receiving end of the retrieve, Deb commands JACKSON to "GIVE" and he ie releasing the bird into her hand. Deb initially had a bit of a revulsion for handling "dead birds" and she has made progress in overcoming that. I have provided her with gloves to use during the handling of actual birds and that has diminished her bird handling anxiety significantly. Deb continues to make excellent progress in working with and handling of her retriever JACKSON.

~ SHOOTER ! ~ Released by name for retrieve of a mark thrown, owner / handler Greg is seen at the line as his gun dog trainee SHOOTER accelerates with great speed off of the line and on her way to where she marked the fall of the bird thrown. Owner / handler Deb is seen with her dog JACKSON and she has issued him the STAY command. JACKSON is seen honoring off-lead and is expected to remain seated without interfering with SHOOTER, (the working dog). JACKSON is a very steady and well mannered retriever on the line and whilst put at "honor" of another dog.

~SHOOTER ON RETURN ~ SHOOTER having made the pick up is seen making her way back to her owner handler Greg with a partially frozen duck.

~ TEAM REX ~ REX is seen on the line with his owner / handler Greg where he is being trained to sit quietly and with minimal movement whilst marking a single bird thrown down field. Birds thrown were alternated between long and short throws to make the dog work on their depth perception. Alternating distances and angles at which birds are thrown encourages strong marking skills, and not overrunning or under running birds. The retrievers learn to run to the AOF (area of fall) and to hunt persistently until the bird is found and the retrieve is made. One can see the intensity of REXS' gaze as he looks downfield to mark the trajectory and fall of birds thrown.

~ THE SEND ~ Greg has sent his retriever trainee REX to make the retrieve of a thrown bird. REX is seen accelerating away from Greg's position on the line as he makes way for the area at which he marked the fall of the bird. REX is a very fast, stylish, retriever.

~ REX ON RETURN ~ REX is seen making his way back to his owner / handler Greg after having made the pick up of the duck he was sent to retrieve.

~ CLASSIC PRESENTATION TO HAND ~ REX has returned with the duck he was sent to retrieve. Upon his return, he makes a "J-hook" and SITS at the left side of his owner / handler Greg. REX holds the bird until Greg issues the verbal command "REX - GIVE", at which time REX is seen delivering the bird gently into Greg's hand. GOOD DAWG !!!

~ WATER WORK ~ Greg is seen with REX in the background as REX is being steadied on the line after having seen a bird thrown and land on the water. Deb keeps a close eye on JACKSON as he has been placed at "STAY" And will be expected to maintain said position while REX is working the retrieve. All of the dogs worked throughout this session were worked on "honoring" of the working dog. Deb and JACKSON are truly becoming a fine team and JACKSON has developed nicely with regard to his steadiness and quiet demeanor on the line. JACKSON is an intensive and very proficient marker and is very solid on his "honoring" skills.

~ REXFLECTION ~ Sent to make the retrieve of a single water mark (bumper), REX has made the pick pup and is seen making way back to his owner / handler Greg. REXS' reflection can be seen in this image.

~ COME TO DADDY ~ REX is seen on his approach to his owner / handler Greg where he will be expected to make delivery to hand upon reaching his handler. REX did exceptionally nice work with his deliveries made to hand throughout the session.

All in all, a very productive day of training was experienced by all of the owner / handler's and their retrievers. Heat and humidity were factors of concern and the session was purposely started early in the morning with the dogs being monitored and kept both well hydrated and cool. Land work was made the first order of the day and we moved onward to water as temperatures began to climb.

Each dog was presented with carefully planned drills that would challenge them both physically and mentally, but with the objective being for them to achieve success in doing so. All owner / handlers received real time / immediate coaching and feedback as they worked with their retrievers. I truly enjoy watching the development of not only the retrievers, but of their owner / handler's as well, in their overall development as a team. All three of the owner / handler / retriever teams highlighted in this photoessay demonstrate fantastic potential.

~ A DELIGHTFUL GIFT ~ TEAM SHOOTER presented me once again with a most delightful and generous gift of freshly harvested oysters. Immediately transferred into a cooler filled with ice, I transported the oysters home and shared them with a grand group of friends later in the day. The perfect conclusion to what was a most enjoyable day of working retrievers.

Always enjoy each moment spent with ye beloved sporting dogs !

The close up in the water for me. Great working dogs depicted again.

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