April Training Day

By Craig McLaughlin
April’s Training Day is just around the corner, and we are planning another full day of training drills that will help members raise the level of their dog’s performance in the field.Once again, the Natural Ability level dogs will be addressed as a group; this pack will run through basic obedience drills to help enforce their attentiveness in the field, including recall, exposure to birds in the field, and tracking.  The warming weather should allow us to work on introduction to the water as well, and with any luck we may have most of these young athletes swimming by day’s end.

Utility- and Utility-Prep level dogs and their owners have the steepest hill to climb to be successful by summer’s end – these dogs are working on obedience, and control as their owners work to channel and shape their natural instincts into usable behaviors that will ultimately mold them into usable hunting companions.  Obedience in retrieving, steadiness in the field, and a self-confident duck search are all extremely important aspects of a Utility Dog’s training. We will focus on each of these in April, starting off the day with an interactive session on force fetch.Since the March training day, we have received many of comments from our members that are training UT-level dogs – they are interested in the “how-to” details of force fetching.  Force fetching is the ultimate drill in obedience for you and your dog, and while it is not a pleasant routine to travel through (taking weeks to complete), the process of force fetching yields a more obedient and cooperative hunting partner.  However, force fetching takes determination, requires good timing, and definitely takes patience to complete.

Force-fetching is best done as the primary/only retrieving  regimen; your dog will be easily confused by playing fetch, searching for ducks, or practicing duck drags during the weeks that you are working on force fetch – so it is best to take a break from all retrieving activities until after the force fetch period is complete.Steadiness in the field is a challenge for many versatile dogs, and we will run drills that allow members to build steadiness using a variety of methods and equipment, including the training table, release traps, check cords, and tethered birds.For dogs that are not entrenched in force fetch, we will conduct some drills that build young dogs’ desire and confidence in searching for ducks, using live ducks, small water bodies, initially exposing the dogs to ducks, and gradually building their skills by introducing them to larger areas and thicker vegetation.

Members who are taking their UT/UTP dogs through force fetch can find additional options to work their dogs during the day, including drills in heeling, and steadiness by the blind – neither will interrupt the flow of force-fetch or create training issues if practiced by a dog which is in the process of being force fetched.

We look forward to another strong turnout in April, and recommend that you RSVP and place an order for birds early, to ensure that we have a ready supply on hand to support the day’s activities.