Intermediate Gundog Training

HVGDC Intermediate Retriever Level

Goal: To develop a hunting retriever that is a pleasure to hunt with; that responds quickly to general voice and whistle training commands; that is steady to shot and moves to retrieve only when released to do so; that can complete several marked retrieves to hand on land or in water; that has learned the basic fundamentals of blind retrieves on land and water to include taking a line, responding to a whistle, and taking a cast from the handler; that will honor another working dog; and that understands the concept of quartering and hunting to the front of the hunter in the uplands and has been introduced to steadiness to the flush and shot. A dog that has developed these skills will contribute significantly to the enjoyment of the hunt and the recovery of wild birds shot by the hunter, and could be run in retriever hunting tests if the handler is so inclined.

Requirements/Commitments: Participants/owners must be current members of the Helena Valley Gun Dog Club ($35 individual membership). Membership applications are available on the HVGDC website. Given that club training sessions for the intermediate level will likely occur 1 -2 times per week, the owner must be willing to practice training concepts on their own or with other individuals to see progress in their dogs over the course of the spring/summer training program. Dogs that are brought to the training session should be competent in basic obedience and in simple retrieving drills. During training sessions, dogs will be kept on leash except while being run in a specific drill.

Training Program: The HVGDC trains at a number of locations in the Helena valley. Training will generally occur on Wednesday evenings and on Saturday mornings at a designated time and place to be posted on the club’s website. Experienced handlers will conduct the training sessions. Training instruction and assistance will be provided as concepts are introduced. Training sessions, weather and daylight permitting, will extend from approximately early April through July. Wednesday evening sessions will begin towards the end of April as days get longer. Training will primarily be done with training bumpers (dummies) and dogs will be introduced to birds through the use of pigeons and dead ducks (game-farm raised birds).

Training Elements: Elements will include basic obedience, work on bringing the dog to the “blind” off leash and under control, setting the dog up correctly for either marked retrieves or blind retrieves in a designated location, reinforcing a calm and focused behavior when the dog is at the line, reinforcing steadiness to shot and the use of a release command to initiate the retrieve, increasing the distance of all retrieves, and learning to negotiate heavier cover and longer swims in making those retrieves. Dogs will be introduced to the concept (on leash) of honoring or watching another dog work. Blind retrieves will be introduced through a series of steps that include learning to take a line without seeing a bird fall, learning to take both side and back casts after being stopped with a whistle, and doing so on land and in water. The upland component will include teaching the dog to hunt to either side of the handler, learning to sit when the bird is flushed, and remaining steady to the shot. Progress by individual dogs will determine what concepts and how much a dog can be introduced to. The primary goal of each step is to have the dog succeed and the handler learn what is required of himself/herself to support the dog in various situations. All these components have direct application to both waterfowl and upland bird hunting. Again, these are foundational elements and it is the choice of the owner/handler to decide what level of training meets their expectations and their level of commitment to achieving that goal. In general, to achieve this level of proficiency will likely require several years and participants should expect dogs to make progress and have difficulties with any of these steps.

More details to come!