KEEPA: hunt­ing cover

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GUNDOG TRAINING -

A dog boldly en­ter­ing and hunt­ing cover is some­thing much de­sired whether you are beat­ing, pick­ing-up or dog­gin­gin. My open tri­alling bitch Nala is renowned for be­ing fear­less in cover — she seems ac­tively to en­joy hunt­ing in thick bram­bles. I never seemed to have to en­cour­age this par­tic­u­larly, so per­haps this fear­less­ness is in the genes more than a trained skill. How­ever, hav­ing seen Keepa hunt for a marked re­trieve in cover, I know he has that drive and abil­ity, so he sim­ply needs con­fi­dence and train­ing.

I am rather frus­trated when I hear han­dlers ex­claim their dogs will hunt cover, but only when they know a bird is in there. Some feel this is the sign of an in­tel­li­gent dog. To me this screams that the dog is ei­ther lazy or lacks faith in the han­dler and prefers to work alone rather than as a team. I want my dogs smash­ing through cover, hav­ing the be­lief that when I say to hunt there, they have con­fi­dence in their team­mate. So how can I help Keepa achieve this?

To be­gin with, now I have the op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise th­ese things in a real, live-game sit­u­a­tion, it is im­por­tant I en­sure the re­trieves I choose are a suc­cess. Ev­ery time he goes into cover, as a min­i­mum, he needs to find scent, if not the re­trieve. So, for now, if there is a chance there is no bird in the cover, I will send an­other dog. This way his con­fi­dence should not be knocked. If there is a clear mark into it, I will send him.

There is plenty I can be do­ing at home as well to help train for this. The first thing is to find var­i­ous forms of cover. This in­cludes ev­ery­thing from hedges, wood­land, bram­bles, ditches and so on. Now the shoot­ing season is un­der way, it is slightly harder as my ground for train­ing is cov­ered in birds. Once I have found some suit­able ar­eas, I start by putting sim­ple marked re­trieves into cover. When Keepa is con­fi­dently go­ing in, I start to send him for mem­o­ries and switch from where I send him, al­ter­ing not only the an­gle but also the dis­tance.

Be­cause she has a team of dogs, El­lena can pick and choose the re­trieves she sends Keepa for

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