Retriever Training Tip: The First Hunt by Pro Trainer Matt Duncan
The way in which a retriever is introduced to hunting is critical is his development. Let’s face it we must have realistic expectations of our dog’s first season. He’s new to the game so put yourself in his shoes a bit. Your first season you were no hero in the blind so in all fairness we can’t expect him to have it all figured out on his first few outings. Regardless of how much training your retriever has received there is still a big learning curve. Training and hunting are two very different things. So why do we train so much in the off season instead of just going with an “on the job” training approach? It’s simple, although we can not replicate a hunt and all the variables involved we can give the dog the tools he needs to keep from being overwhelmed. As trainers we cannot train a dog how to hunt. However, by training in a controlled environment we can give the dog the skills he needs to fall back on his training and become successful when faced with adversity. There are also many firsts your retriever will experience his first season afield and as trainers we want to shorten that list as much as possible. We want to ensure the dog is properly introduced to the gun. The duck blind is not the place to introduce gunfire. Since we aren’t hunting plastic bumpers we want to make sure the dog has been introduced to birds, dead birds and if possible live birds as well. Boat rides, decoys, dogs blinds, dog stands and pit blinds are all things the dog should be accustomed to and easily incorporated into training prior to hunting. There are a lot of things we can do in training to get ready for that first outing in the marsh. The approach we take those for those first several hunts is key in his development. I say often there are two types of hunters that use a retriever. There are dog guys and there are bird guys. A dog guys is interested in his dogs progression and is willing to sacrifice some hunts for the sake of teaching his retriever the ropes, his retriever is his priority. The bird guy is there for one reason and that is to shoot birds. His retriever may eventually figure it out and he may not. I can attest to the fact that the “dog guys” tend to have the best retrievers. For your dogs first season be the dog guy. Put your dog in situations where he will be successful, be patient with him when he struggles and fight boredom on those slow days. Take the right approach when introducing your young dog to hunting and it may cost you a few birds that first year but it will pay huge dividends in the development of your retriever. Until next week. Happy Training.
Bourbon Bay Kennels