|I refuse to believe that any sportsman wants to spend the majority of his precious hunting time looking for his runaway dog who just vanished over the hill; or, watching his retriever chase a fly-away through the marsh. In fact, I just know there’s no hunter alive who wants to spend the day having to deal with a disobedient dog when he could be shooting and having a productive day in the field. In the “old days,” as a young man, I experienced the woes of an out-of-control dog and vowed that I’d never tolerate that once I learned how to train dogs.
There’s nothing more rewarding than spending time with a dog who understands that he’s part of a team; with a dog sitting quietly at your side as the birds come in, the excitement builds without the worry of the wrong kind of excitement arising. The companionship between dog and man, both out to achieve a common goal — getting game for the table — is irreplaceable. These days, that’s my usual experience, and I appreciate it greatly.
So, how do you end up with the team-playing dog? The one who looks to you for direction and can almost read your thoughts? It’s not really that difficult. All it takes is the building of good habits, because dogs are creatures of habit. Habits are built through repetition. Of course, bad habits, as well as good habits, are ingrained through repetition. If you start a pup out with the amount of discipline his young mind can tolerate — in tiny doses — he will begin to see that good behavior is rewarded.
As you go through his obedience lessons, his respect for you will grow. When you get to the force fetch process, he will already be conditioned to cooperate with you. Then, it’s only a matter of progressing steadily, step by step. If you’re lucky, the progress will be smooth. If your dog is like most dogs, there will be bumps in the road. But, as hurdles and problems arise, a reservoir of good behavior should make corrections fairly easy.
You can go online these days and get lots of good advice, but you can also get lost in the maze of differing opinions and advanced techniques. Still, if you take what fits your own situation, and have a dog who has learned good manners, the advice you choose to follow won’t matter all that much. That’s because you’ve never allowed your dog to get off that tried-and-true track of properly progressing training.
The pride of owning, and hunting with, a well-trained dog will not only last a lifetime, but will also elevate your standard as to the kind of dog you will accept as a hunting partner. Your patience and diligence will pay off when you hear the whirring wings of those birds coming in and know your companion dog is right there at your side — a steady and reliable friend.
Have fun training!
Grady Istre can be reached at reiber.com