Class is in Session

by Steve on October 28, 2006

Working with a young head-strong retriever can really test your patience. After several seasons of hunting and training with my older dog I have to keep reminding myself that Moose is seeing the game for the first time. We’re working hard to get him ready for his first AKC hunt test in two weeks. The biggest issue at the moment is delivering to hand, not dropping the “bird” at the bank as he exits the water. Repetition and meeting him at the edge of the pond will cure that in time.

The only other problem that could cause him to fail is hunting short of the fall. He’s used to the limited range of our back yard. I caught myself getting aggravated today as I watched him working the field at 30-50 yards out with the fall at 75. Patience. Eventually he hunted down the dummy and came charging in with it. On to water work. I made the mistake of setting up at the shallow end of the pond which forced Moose to deal with 20 yards of marsh grass before getting to open water. He would charge out through the grass and shallow water and then start hunting just beyond the grass.

What happened next amazed me: Moose has never been sent after a real duck and, as far as I know, doesn’t know that a wounded duck will sometimes dive to avoid a retriever and yet there he was with his head completely under water rooting around for the dummy. From his viewpoint the fall was just beyond the grass and since he didn’t find it there it must be on the bottom. Not great marking on his part but already I had witnessed this young dog using his nose on land and groping for a diver in the marsh. Patience, coach, patience. We moved around the bank and worked clear water, stretching the distance to an open-water mark. He did just fine, delivering to hand most of the time. He’s heeling off lead and not breaking too often – he did find out rather abruptly that he was tied to my left leg but only twice. With ninety pounds of spring-loaded Labrador leashed to your leg you had better anticipate the break or you’re going down. All things considered I think he’ll be ready.

What does Moose have to say about all this? “Bring it on, Boss!”

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