BRIAR: con­tin­u­ing the Ba­sics

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GUNDOG TRAINING -

Briar is now nine months old and re­ally growing. She is al­ready as tall as her mother and start­ing to fill out nicely. At her age, the phys­i­cal side of her ex­er­cise is still lim­ited as her joints form and she grows. So I am still fo­cus­ing on the ba­sic skills, in­clud­ing heel, sit and re­call.

Her drive for re­triev­ing has in­creased ten­fold and her per­son­al­ity is be­gin­ning to show. She has bags of drive and has started to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents of the re­trieve. She now un­der­stands she only ever gets sent for a re­trieve when she is on my left. Be­cause I have al­ways en­forced this, it means she is des­per­ate to get into pole position, which is ex­actly what I want.

She is also start­ing to push the bound­aries slightly as she gains more con­fi­dence. I use this term lightly as it is rare for a dog so young to be de­lib­er­ately naughty. It is more a case of the dog not un­der­stand­ing or be­ing con­fused. How­ever, some­times there are cases where the dog is aware of what is re­quired and the de­sire to do some­thing else takes over. Briar is so keen to re­trieve, she some­times for­gets her sit and runs-in.

While this is not a be­hav­iour I want to en­cour­age, I also must be care­ful not to quash her drive for the job. So as she run­sin, I in­ter­rupt her by clap­ping my hands and say “no”. As she glances at me, I en­cour­age her back and tell her she is good for com­ing to me. I then walk out my­self, pick up the re­trieve and start again. This way she doesn’t get the re­trieve when she runs-in and I stop her rel­a­tively gen­tly. If the dog ig­nores the at­tempt to stop them, I would use a train­ing half slip lead/col­lar, so I have some­thing to hold to stop the dog.

I have also started to in­tro­duce her to sim­ple mem­ory re­trieves. This helps to en­force the steadi­ness. For the time be­ing, I am only do­ing mem­ory re­trieves in open, easy ground. Not only be­cause she is a baby, but also be­cause when I cast her for the re­trieve I want her to fo­cus on where I am send­ing her and not my hand. I can make sure she can see the dummy I am send­ing her back for in open ground.

At this stage of her train­ing and life, there are plenty of new ex­pe­ri­ences

I have planned for her. For ex­am­ple, pick­ing feather and fur, hear­ing bangs, see­ing live game run­ning around, jump­ing, cover and so on. All of th­ese things are im­por­tant if I want an ef­fec­tive, obe­di­ent, good all-round shoot­ing dog. How­ever, there is by no means a rush to in­tro­duce them. Her joints are still soft, her hear­ing and per­son­al­ity still sen­si­tive, and so an at­tempt to in­tro­duce them in a hurry can ul­ti­mately re­sult in caus­ing more harm than good.

I know of many dogs ru­ined when rushed into things and don’t know of any that have been ru­ined when the han­dler has taken their time. To this end, Briar still has plenty of play­time, en­joys chew­ing her toys and be­ing a puppy.

“Briar is so keen to re­trieve, she some­times for­gets her sit and runs-in — not some­thing I want to en­cour­age but I must be care­ful”

For the time be­ing, El­lena is only send­ing young Briar for mem­ory re­trieves in open, easy ground

Briar un­der­stands that she will only be sentfor a re­trieve when she is on El­lena’s left

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