I spent last weekend out in Dewatto with a bunch of other newbie handlers learning about basic retrieving. We got lucky with beautiful weather–it didn’t start raining until the last retrieve set up at the pond on Sunday afternoon! (And then it POURED.)
At the beginning of the clinic, Harry asked us why we were there. Some people were there to learn how to teach their dogs to retrieve in real hunting situations. (Harry stressed the importance of conservation–you need a well trained dog to retrieve the birds you’ve shot, especially if they are only injured, so you are not wasteful of the resource.)
Others were there because they love seeing their dogs do what they were bred to do, they believe they owe it to their dogs to give them a job, they want to preserve the retrieving instincts in their breeding program, and so on.
I don’t hunt myself, and probably won’t in the future. But our dogs (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers) were bred to retrieve–it is in their blood and an important part of what makes them such amazing little dogs.
I fall into the second camp more than the first–I love seeing them do what they were bred to do and we hope to keep that part of the breed alive in the Tollers we produce. More than that, I love doing things with my dogs (Taylor and any future puppies I have). Working together towards an end goal creates a special working relationship with your dog that cannot be achieved through sitting on the couch (we enjoy that bonding, too, it’s just different). Field training isn’t the only option, of course– obedience, agility, rally, tracking, herding, and other dog sports are all great opportunities to work with your dog (and I hope to participate in more than one of them at some point!).
I am very much a newbie to the field test world, but I’ve watch my mom train with Sunny the last few years and I have seen how the field training is strongly linked to traditional dog obedience. You cannot be successful in the field without a strong foundation of obedience. (This is an area I need to work on with Taylor–he’s great at home, but he hasn’t been “proofed”… the excitement of the field makes it all fly out his little head!)
A straight sit is important in obedience–and it helps to direct your dog to where they need to go or where to watch for the bird. Dogs hold and retrieve dumbbells in obedience–birds in the field. Bar and broad jumps in the obedience ring–brush and logs in the field…
I have a lot to work on with Taylor to be successful in the field (he did retrieve birds with encouragement on Sunday!)–most of it is rooted in obedience. I know that what I learn with him (and it’s been a lot over the last 6.5 years–and we have a lot more learning to do together!) I will be able to use on the next pup, and then the next, and so on.
I didn’t get to take too many photos over the weekend. I didn’t run Taylor on the last retrieve so I managed to snap some… it was raining, but still beautiful. (An added bonus/incentive of field training: spending time outside in beautiful locations!)
(Click on photos to view larger.)