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    1. #1
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      a.curtin2011's Avatar
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      Training my first hunting dog.

      I mostly lurk, but have been reading Coalman's thread on Bay and Belle for quiet awhile. It has been strongly suggested to me that I keep some kind of "diary" about my training with Hailey to look back on and mark our progress. So I thought this seemed as good a place / way to keep that information as any.

      Some background / intro.

      My family has always had a dog, though never more than two. Around 1990 (I would have been about 6) my Uncle asked us to take in his Lab puppy bc she was destroying his apartment, just until he could find a new home for her...and the rest, they say, is history. My Dad fell in love with Petra, took her to obedience classes (I used to go and watch) and I know he did some upland hunting with her (bc I went at least once, I remember playing with the birds, oddly enough). Petra became the standard by which I measured all other dogs. Her obedience was amazing (to me) and it wasn't just when my Dad handled her, I could take her or my Grandfather could take her, and she was just as good.

      When I was 9 (1993) my family added a second dog when they got me a Beagle puppy, Daisy Mae. I had many fantastic years with that dog. Over 15 of them actually. She never hunted as she turned out to be horribly frightened of gunfire, thunder, etc. but we used what my Dad had learned in basic obedience and while it took a lot of work, I had a Beagle that heeled off leash in public, which I thought was pretty impressive. That was the last time I had a puppy, at quite honestly, at 9, I doubt I was doing much of the training, lol.

      When I started dating my (now) husband, he had a 3yo Lab, Katie. Spoiled rotten hellion. My husband is one of those who thinks dogs should just be left to be dogs, so there wasn't much I could do with her - but I did put some manners on her and she turned out to be a pretty wonderful dog (despite her early years, lol). Loved her to pieces. We lost her in March 2013 to lymphoma.

      Fast forward, husband and I decide we're ready to get another puppy and make plans to purchase one in Spring 2014. Researching, contacting breeders, etc. I'll spare any readers all the details on that adventure. Not having raised a puppy for over 20 years, I started doing a lot of reading. I am also into horses and know from my experiences over the years how information and the way of doing some things changes. Plus at 9, I just wasn't an informed child and didn't care to be on what dog food was best and why, etc. You trust your parents at that age.
      March 15th we brought home a 7 week black female, Hailey, or formally known as White Oak Hallelujah (whelped 1/28/14). While we wanted a field type, she was always just meant to be a companion, but it became evident to me early on how keen she is on birds. And she's been ridiculously easy to train (not that there haven't been difficulties and frustrations).

      About 9 weeks ago I started with a obedience class. My first mistake was, I found a local trainer who offered Saturday morning classes and just signed up without observing first. The people are wonderful, but it's not the "traditional' training I watched my Dad go through with Petra. This is much "softer" (not that I'm about abuse or anything), but they think choke-chains are evil (and they are bad if abused) and don't teach heel and we walk our dogs in martingale collars with "leash wraps." Not that there haven't been benefits, but it wasn't quite what I was wanting. Many of the things I've taught Hailey already I've done from reading online (about needing to be steady on the line, honoring retrieves, etc).

      This whole time I was searching and struggling to find some kind of group willing to take in a novice wanting a train her dog for waterfowl and at least a JH title. Last week I finally found some local people, two of them quite by chance. And the amazing thing is, one of them is the lady who taught the obedience class my Dad took Petra to all those years ago - and she *remembers* Petra and my Dad. And not as in, I said the name and it rang a bell. Once she heard my maiden name she asked about the dog by name. I thought that was neat. She is into obedience/rally/agility. Her husband is a hunter has trained dogs for hunting (though he's never run a hunt test) and the third individual I've met is into obedience trials and hunt tests (but doesn't hunt).
      Right away I've started collecting pointers.

    2. #2
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      a.curtin2011's Avatar
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      7/16/14
      Took Hailey to Bill & Mary's. They live very nearby so I hope to do this a lot.I had exposed Hailey to water (we have a creek) but not much really deep enough for swimming. We put Hailey on a long-line and took her down to their pond. We stood on the shore and Mary tossed a bumper in a little ways and Hailey shot straight in after it and retrieved it. Mary praised her and then tossed the bumper again and Hailey showed no hesitation in re-entering the water. So we started with her first lesson. I put Hailey into heel position (though she hadn't learned it previously). Sit/stay. Mary would toss the bumper into the water. I had higher hopes for Hailey staying, but she got very excited and would try to take off. I kept putting her back into sit/stay. After she was holding Mary would tell me I could release my dog. At first I released her as soon as Mary said to. I quickly realized though that Hailey was starting to respond before I got the words out, so after Mary told me to release, I would wait a few more seconds, to make sure Hailey was going on MY command. Mary was also tossing a bumper for one of her dogs (just playing) so we started using"No Bird" when Hailey wanted to retrieve the other dog's bumper. Not sure she understands yet, but it's a start. Every time Hailey picked her bumper up on a retrieve we marked it with "Good Dog!" Had no issues with her bringing it back, though she would drop it sometimes. A simple "fetch it here" and she would pick it up and finish her return to us. At this point we did not ask for anything more other than she bring the bumper back to our immediate vicinity.
      I am not sure how one judges these things, but Mary told me that Hailey is very smart, that she will take me far if I want to go on the ride and she'll"tie the learning curve in knots." I'm not sure whether to be excited or scared, but I am a proud mama right now, lol.

    3. #3
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      7/17/14
      At lunch I took Hailey out to play fetch with the chuk-it. I put her in heel position, sit/stay, threw the ball and then released her with "Hailey fetch." I always made sure Hailey was in the proper heel position before releasing her.If she crept forward, I put a hand on her collar and one under her belly and moved her back saying "heel." She caught on to this very quickly,until just touching her belly moved her back.
      Sometime earlier this week when Hailey was returning from a retrieve (even just playing frisbee) I would motion with my left hand, kind of making a loop at my side -moving it out away from my hip, then moving it back and around to my hip again(not sure how to describe this) and I would say "Hailey come, sit."And by golly, it seems to be working. I'd say she's at about 75% w/o distractions.

      I started putting the choke-chain in Hailey on 7/15, just letting her wear it on walks to/from the mailbox at work. So not very far. Put it on this evening so we could make a trip around the Christmas tree patch. She picked up on it immediately. I do not have to pop her very often (I have used a choke chain before, it's just been several years) and not very hard. She is picking right up on "heel." We did come across one bunny in our path. Hailey marked it and I put her in a sit and told her to stay. We waited for several minutes until Peter Cottontail decided to move along. I was pleased. We made random stops in which I put 4 treats in my left hand. I held my hand along my side, up by my chest and whenever she would look at me I would say "Watch, good watch" and slowly lower my hand down alongside my body until she could reach her nose up and take a treat. It took her a couple of minutes each time before she would look at me so I could reward her.
      We did some free-time with frisbee.

      Last thing before bed I took out the tennis ball I had doused in duck scent earlier in the week and sealed in a baggie. Closed all the doors in the hallway and sat so I was blocking the open end. Rolled the ball down the hallway letting Hailey chase it and bring it back. Marking every pick up with "Good dog!"Once she was over the immediate excitement of this exciting smell, I moved to the side and put her in heel beside me, rolled the ball down the hall, told her to "mark" and then released her. We did this a few times and then quit for the night.

    4. #4
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      a.curtin2011's Avatar
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      7/18/14
      Put the choke-chain in Hailey to walk back to the strip between plot fields like we do every day at lunch. Once we got to where I wanted to stop I asked her to heel/sit. I put 4 treats in my left hand and waited for her to look at me so I could reward her with “Watch, good watch” like I did the evening before. She was very wiggly and wanting to move ahead of me, so I put hand on collar and one on belly and moved her back. Then she just lay down. I told her to sit and then tried to re-position her again. She moved her hind end away from me (so she was facing me from the side) and then would lie down again. I bent down, took her face in both hands and forced her to make eye contact (not sure if I'm executing this correctly, but from what was described to me, it's the best I can come up with). Picked her back up and put her back in a sit at heel position and she was fine. Finished the “watch” exercise then took her lead off.

      Pulled out her canvas bumper. Told her to stay, tossed the bumper. Said "mark" and then released her with "Hailey fetch." Used my arm motion with come/sit to bring her back. She was again about 75%. She dropped the bumper at my feet when coming into this position. 2x's she ran past me when returning on her retrieve. I did not turn to look at or follow her, just said "Fetch it here" and she would re-emerge from the cornfield and return to me with the bumper. If she did not return to heel position I simply said "Hailey heel" and she moved herself into the correct placement. I tossed the bumper about a dozen times. Then took the choke chain off and pulled out her squeaky kong-ball to just play some. After a while I put the choke chain back on and we walked nicely back to the office.

    5. #5
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      IRISHWISTLER's Avatar
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      A.curtin2011,
      Just a suggestion, but see if ye can find an HRC club in your immediate area. I think ye and Hailey would have a blast and learn a whole lot in the process. You both have the desire, now follow through on it and get working on that JH.

      Cheers,
      Irishwhistler

    6. #6
      House Broken
      EvanG's Avatar
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      Have you seen what a well trained retriever can do? If not, it will be an eye opener for you. Set some performance goals. Learn what real training is. Either train with a pro who has extensive experience in field training, and/or get your hands on some current modern coursework for it and study it well. Training a working retriever is some of the most fun and rewarding time you will ever spend.



      If you have any questions at all please ask.

      EvanG

    7. #7
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      a.curtin2011's Avatar
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      Thanks IrishWhistler. Is there any reason you would recommend a UKC club vs and AKC one? The local guy who competes in hunt tests specifically mentioned doing UKC tests. She is registered with AKC, so I had just assumed that is what we'd do, but I guess it doesn't matter.

      EvanG, I have watched some videos, but there is *SO* much I know I don't even have a clue about. Mostly working on obedience and shaping some behaviors right now. Or at least that's how I've outlined it in my mind. I'd like to take her duck hunting next year (I think this year would be too soon) and I do get a little overwhelmed at the thought of everything we need to learn by then, but she's smart and high-drive so I'm sure it will go quickly. I just need to figure out the steps to break it down into and I do have some guidance for that from both someone who hunts and someone who runs tests. I have no doubt there will be a lot of questions though, lol.

    8. #8
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      7/19/14
      This is week 4 of 6 for our "2nd level Obedience class" - what I think of as our "soft-obedience." Anyways, we wake up and I took her out to play some frisbee, which is just her "for fun" toy. Later after breakfast I took her out and put her choke collar on. I re-read the directions on Ward Falkner's attention getting and we worked on the "watch" exercise. It went much quicker this time (getting and keeping her attention). Practiced walking in heel position up and down the lane. Then took her lead off and practiced our sit/stay at heel position, I'd toss her duck-scented bumper and then release her to fetch. We did this only about a half dozen times, then played w/ her squeaky ball and it was time to head to class. I did all this in hopes of "tuning her up" before class.

      Got to class, put her martingale collar on (choke chains not allowed) and took her out to practice walking in the yard (no other dogs around at this point). She was pretty uncooperative. Did the "watch" exercise again. Then someone came up and asked to pet her. I told them I would like her to be sitting first. She kept jumping up when they approached. I kept putting her back in to a sit. Unfortunately this person wasn't patient and gave up and walked away. I will need to find some "strangers" to practice our greeting skills with.
      Put her "leash wrap" on her and we had a pretty decent class, until we learned what the instructor called "emergency stop." The short version is - instructor worked w/ people one on one and the rest of us took our dogs into a partitioned off area. Unfortunately the exercise included the use of a squeaky ball...Hailey went ape. I became really frustrated at this point bc my dog was acting up (she sounded like someone was killing her) and neither the instructor nor her helper addressed the situation or provided me with any tools on how to deal with this. I ended up holding her face btwn my hands and forcing her to face me. This helped to some degree.

      Afterwards we went to Petsmart, I left her in her martingale and "leash wrap" (I didn't think using the choke chain in public was a good idea since we've mostly used it in no-distraction environments. I didn't want arrested for dog abuse or something, lol). Made her sit while I looked at things. She really did rather well. Picked an aisle with one other person in it and did out "watch" exercise.
      Left and drove to my Grandparent's house. Switched her to the choke chain in the car, took her out made her sit while I opened the garage, then sit at the door, she rushed thru and tried to run to Gma, I popped her and she sat down and controlled herself while I greeted Gma. Then I took the collar off for the rest of our visit, bc she's very good about not jumping on the Grandparents.

      That ended up being the extent of any real training we did for the day, well, for the weekend pretty much. We met up with family and picked sweet corn, Hailey got to run around off lead, but stayed nearby. Then we went home and picked green beans, again she stayed nearby, and played some frisbee. Sunday was sacrificed to getting some things done around the house, so Hailey just had a frisbee day. I did go out to the dog training club Sunday evening to watch a beginner-novice class and a CGC class, and talked to Bill during this time. Need to find a pheasant wing and a duck call to add to my collection of training stuff.

    9. #9
      Real Retriever
      Coalman's Avatar
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      Well done a.curtin ! You will thank yourself years done the road by taking the time to document your successes and challenges.

      One thing I highly suggest it to back up your blog. Save them to word docs on your hard drive. And pictures really add to the theme.

      Our Belle is now in the care of Irishwhislter. She is into her second month of training with Team TRAD, Mike and his black lab TRAD. Evan's advice is wise. His methods are time tested. His Youtube library is worth surfing.

      I'd wish you good luck but it is more than that, Good skills to you and Hailey. And thanks for reading.

    10. #10
      House Broken
      EvanG's Avatar
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      I commend you for going to the trouble to attend classes. However, if you goals are for a quality hunting retriever those classes will only scratch the surface of the kind of training your pup will need to meet real standards in the field. The very same skills seen here will be what your hunting retriever will need in order to be up to the task.



      Get your hands on a modern, sequential course for real gundog training. You're wise to hold off until next season for his first hunt. Take this next year and really give him a solid course of training. You'll always be glad you did!

      EvanG

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