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    1. #1
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      Murrisha's Avatar
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      New to this! (Opinions wanted)

      So for a while now I have wanted to take up upland/waterfowl hunting but nobody in my family hunts (I am a city girl) and until now I've never had the money, gear, dog, support, etc. to do this. It is worth mentioning we have several family friends who hunt and train gun dogs. When I decided to get a new dog, I concluded that a lab was the best decision for me. I wanted a dog that would hunt but would also be friendly, good with small children/animals, easy to train, and relatively good for a first timer (I've grown up with dogs, but this is the first dog I've personally owned/trained). I know it's better to train a dog from early puppyhood in order to increase the bond and mold him/her into the hunting dog YOU want, however I am still in school and do not have the time to raise a young puppy and older, started dogs are incredibly expensive (thousands of dollars; and none close to me). With this in mind I looked at a few rescue labs and ultimately adopted a 14-month-old from the local humane society. Hunting with the dog wasn't my number one priority (or I would have gone to a breeder), mainly I just wanted an active companion that would hike, run, swim, and accompany me on adventures.

      I adopted Teller a few weeks ago. My boyfriend and I went to the local humane society and fell in love with his sweet, smiling face, after reading his bio (which said he was wild, not very obedient, and didn't fetch) and learning he was returned twice before, we were a bit hesitant. However, we played with him out in the dog run and he immediately brought us a ball and played fetch until it was time for him to go back inside, much to the surprise of the volunteers. We decided to adopt him and learned that he was returned because both the owners didn't "know a puppy would be so destructive, time-consuming, and wild" and the previous one had left him outside/alone for 12 1/2 hours a day in the middle of the summer. Neither one had sought obedience training for him, much less any other training. I took him to the river for what was presumably his first swim (not knowing if he liked water) and he jumped right in and even fetched plastic bottles, etc. out of the water. I started reading up on training gun dogs since he had the natural love of water/retrieving and a soft mouth. He is leggy, lithe, and has a thin coat/tail--so he is definitely from field-bred lines but we have absolutely no idea of his background. The shelter had him listed as a lab mix because of his legginess and based on the pointing/coat/tail, we thought he may be a GSP/lab mix but he has a solid yellow coat, looks all lab, and fits the lab personality/temperament 100%.

      Well, it got even better once he moved in with me full-time (previously he had been staying at my boyfriend's house while we painted/re-floored our house). We have learned he points and not just as a rarity, he points at birds, squirrels, and chipmunks regularly on our walks and will hold the point so strongly that I can make adjustments to his form without him moving. He seems to have a very high prey drive for squirrels, birds, and chipmunks; he will freeze, point, and just watch them until I coax him away. I've introduced him to pheasant scent and dummies and he can't get enough of it. He's not disturbed by loud noises similar to gun fire, our neighbors have been shooting off fireworks a lot lately for some reason. Recently I've noticed if he hears a bird in a bush or low growing tree, he will first point it and then walk or leap into the bush to scare the bird out and just sit there staring at it and waiting. Finally, he appears to be good at scenting and finding things, alive or dead. He always has his nose to the ground and has found/sometimes pointed dead snakes, squirrels, and a raccoon--but he doesn't try to lick or eat them (probably because I'm there, lol). We have cats and he has sniffed them out to their hiding places, although he only tries to play with them (play bows, whining, jumping spastically). A few times he's been beaten up but doesn't strike back. Although I am a complete novice at this, it seems to me that he has a lot of potential as a hunting companion (once he masters obedience completely). Should I pursue this avenue? Because based on his energy level, I would like to get him involved in something constructive like dock diving, agility, hunt tests, etc. I am planning on getting him a PAL listing from the AKC but I just wanted some opinions before beginning training.
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    2. #2
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      He is good looking! As far as training for hunting goes there are lots of good programs. I like and use Evan Graham's smartworks and Mike Lardy's total retriever. Also look on the A.K.C website for hunt test clubs in your area. Having others to help you with the training is invaluable. Most clubs have training days or groups that get together and are happy to help new people. Also thanks for rescuing.

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    4. #3
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      Thanks for the suggestions! I've heard of these programs and looked into them. I am just curious if he has potential because I've read a lot of stories and posts from people who have both bought and rescued labs that dislike swimming, have zero prey drive, won't retrieve, or have no interest in hunting. I don't want to be one of those people who tries to train a dog to do something it doesn't want to do just because I want a dog that will hunt. Nor do I want to spend money on training, dummies, dead birds, etc. if the dog is unwilling. (Those things add up!) Although I will love T all the same, I think he is a natural. But, I don't have any experience with hunting, labs, gun dogs, etc. so I don't know if I am the best judge. I could be imagining things, my boyfriend thinks I am. It just seems to me that for a dog who hasn't been in hunting scenarios or been introduced to birds, he seems to be eager and have a good nose.

    5. #4
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      Get him out swimming in a safe place (knowing that his obed isn't all that good yet) and see how he does. If you have have a gun club near you, maybe drive by/ park at a distance initially to see if he has any adverse reaction to the shots. If that all works out, then by all means, find yourself a training group. I did my first JHs w/ dogs that were 4 and 7+ (who also had pretty nice points btw!) so time is on your side! Good luck. Anne
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    6. #5
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      Quote Originally Posted by windycanyon View Post
      Get him out swimming in a safe place (knowing that his obed isn't all that good yet) and see how he does. If you have have a gun club near you, maybe drive by/ park at a distance initially to see if he has any adverse reaction to the shots. If that all works out, then by all means, find yourself a training group. I did my first JHs w/ dogs that were 4 and 7+ (who also had pretty nice points btw!) so time is on your side! Good luck. Anne
      I've read about introducing them to videos with gunfire to get them used to the noise first. There aren't a lot of outdoor gun clubs nearby, but I was wondering if it would be alright if I stayed with him in the car/parking lot at a distance while my boyfriend goes out and shoots to get him used to the noise. Then gradually move him closer until he is alright with it. Although, like I mentioned before, he isn't really fazed by loud noises. This includes extremely loud modified cars and motorcycles speeding past us as we walk. I've taken him swimming in a secluded part of a local river. His recall has improved exponentially, though. He jumps right in and starts swimming. He also invented a game of catching floating leaves and other debris and fishing them out of the river. That's a relief, most of what I read people go for JH with their dogs before they are a year old. He has been giving better points with my encouragement. I am definitely going to get involved with a local retriever club to get their opinions on him as well.

    7. #6
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      I would wait to introduce him to gunfire. You are kind of asking for trouble doing it that way in my opinion. We like to get them crazy about retrieving first then introduce gunfire gradually by having someone shoot at a distance as we throw a marked retrieve. start with a cap gun, then a primer pistol finally a shot gun. You want the gun 100 yards away to start then gradually bring it in if he shows no reaction. If he does seam upset at all as you move closer just ignore it, don't shoot again on the next retrieve and the next day start farther away. You will find that after awhile he will associate the shot with the retrieve. You will probably also find that it isn't any big deal and he will ignore it from the start but better safe than sorry.

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    9. #7
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      Labradorks's Avatar
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      You can go to a picnic test or something like that and they'd be happy to help you try him out. It's usually about $10 and all you need is a dog, collar and a leash. Personally, especially as this is your first dog, I'd probably start with obedience. That is your foundation for EVERYTHING. Once he has a decent obedience foundation, you can try all kinds of stuff, including agility and hunting. He's still young, you have plenty of time.

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    11. #8
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      congrats on your new addition!

      I am not a hunter but I would say to slow down and work on bonding and training the basics before worrying too much about hunting. You'll need the basics first anyway and you have mannnny manny years to work on the hunting. Your are quite possibly still in the "honeymoon stage" - sometimes dogs behave particularly well in the first few weeks or months as they are still figuring things out. Then once they settle in they sometimes test the ropes or you see different parts of their personality. NOT to say the dog changes by any means just little quirks and aspects to their personality come out as they settle in.

      Definitely start with the gunfire far away and TONS of high valu treats to feed during the shots.

      I adopted Rocky when he was around the same age as your pup. We did take a hunt training class but it wasn't his thing haha. He loves chasing ducks but hated the entire class. But we managed to end it on a positive note. Then I had a weimaranaer puppy (6mts or so) as a foster and we did a fun "test" for instinct and she was AWESOME right off the bad, totally natural. You never know.

      Good luck

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    13. #9
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      You seem to have the right attitude and a dog that has some natural instinct. Several have given you good advice. The foundation is obedience so make sure that you build that first. As a new trainer I would look at purchasing the Smartworks programme and follow it in its sequential order. Don't jump around or try to skip steps. Each skill in the program builds on the previous, just like teaching kids in school. I see you are in Georgia I am sure that you will be able to find many retriever clubs around you. Training with a group is invaluable but just remember you are beginning and other dogs in the group will be very experienced. Watch and learn but don't try to do the same things. Break it down for your pup and simplify. He is a puppy no matter what his age. Good luck and have fun just remember training a retriever takes a lot of time and patience.

    14. #10
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      Just an add on. One of the best upland dogs I have seen is a lab. Like yours he likes to stalk up on the bird and hold firm. This came naturally to him but the owner has taught the whoa command and then when he is in position for the shot he tells the dog to "bust it" and the dog flushes. They are a great hunting team. Remember you are building a partnership with your pup.

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