I started duck hunting back in the early 80’s with some friends when I lived in Minnesota. My friend’s family had a cabin on a small lake in Minnesota that we would go and hang out at during the year. In the fall we would go to the cabin and try some duck hunting. We had no one to show us the ropes so we would just take his lab, throw out some decoys, build a little blind and wait for the birds. It was always a great time. We even shot a few birds and the dog would retriever what we saw. His dog was not a well train dog but did do what we needed.
Fast forward many years and our family moved to North Carolina. I hadn’t duck hunted in many years for various reasons, then I met a good friend. He had a chocolate lab that he was training and I would help when I could. One weekend he called and said he was going to go to a UKC hunt test to run his dog in a started test and asked me if I wanted to ride along. I jumped at the chance to go see what it was all about. His dog did a fantastic job and when he was done we went watch the seasoned and finished flights. It just amazed me what these older dogs could do and I decided then that I wanted to get my own dog and just see if I could train him to compete in these tests.
About 4 years ago I picked up my chocolate lab puppy and started training. With a lot of help from a very good friend of mine, a lot of reading and a lot of watching training programs we are progressing well. We may not be where a lot of dogs his age are, but we are having a great time learning together. A couple things I have learned is that every dog is different and will progress at different rates and you can’t skip or skim over parts of your training. You have to make sure your dog knows exactly what you are trying to teach him because if he is confused it may look like he is not trying and you will then get very frustrated with him.
When my dog and I have hit stumbling blocks while training I have found that most of the time it was the way I was trying to communicate with him. It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening or trying, he just didn’t understand what I was wanting him to do. Even though I have made mistakes in my training we have had an awesome time. He has become my best buddy and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
One thing my friend has stressed from day one is that you need to have a plan for your training. All of your training goes in steps and if you skim over some steps it may not show up right then, but it will show up future training.
I have had such a great time training my chocolate dog that I have recently decided to get another pup and only time will tell where it takes us.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Jack Gimpel is a member of the SportDOG Field Staff Team. He was introduced to the world of retrievers when he started helping a local pro a few years ago throwing birds. Jack spent that time learning all he could and has been hooked ever since. He currently has a chocolate lab and is making his way through the HRC hunt tests.