Although my guys are generally steady to wing, there are occasions when they break on birds and are not as consistently steady as they need to be. While they do fine on planted birds, wild birds will flush 3-4 times the distance and that can introduce bad habits, particularly with their steadiness.
So after discussing their hunting/training regimen with my trainers, this year I began working with Doc and Mia on a weekly basis during hunting season, rather than waiting until the off-season to train. Nothing serious, just a weekly 15-minute training session to correct things I see them do out in the field.
Both Doc and Mia have shown that they need work on casting and blind retrieves, since that’s an area in which they’ve never been trained. But since I’ve had Labs most of my life, training a dog on the basics of retrieving isn’t a big deal but now it’s time to advance them.
However firming up their steadiness and honoring comes first. I believe that steadiness and honoring is a state of mind and not a “technique”; steadiness and honoring in one area helps create steadiness and honoring in other areas.
The top trainers I’ve studied will talk about how a dog needs to honor or respect not only their brace mate, but they need to respect the bird as well. Or for that matter, honor the bumpers they retrieve, honor each other’s food bowl, rawhide bone, even honor each other’s spot on the couch. And don’t think of training a dog that doesn’t respect you – respect that cannot come from heavy handed, domineering treatment but only in understanding your dog.
So back to the topic at hand. This year I’m supplementing their hunting with a little ongoing training beginning with the “whoa” command.