May 7, 2013
Your four-legged pupil is ready for formal training to begin. This period takes us to the age of six months with the average retriever pup. It’s now time to change our training methods from one of fun to one of expectations. With this change in...
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March 8, 2013
How many times do we hear these famous words from a person new to the dog training arena. The crew from Soggy Acres Retrievers would love to provide a simple tip that could help! One of the most common reasons for training mishaps is scent control. We’re not talking about the scent control we use for game hunting. We’re talking about the scent control of our training items that we use with our trusty four-legged field champion.
Most people don’t realize just how much scent is on our hands alone. Everything we touch bears our signature scent for animals to smell. If you throw a ball into heavy cover, the dog doesn’t seek out the tennis ball’s scent to find the object: he uses the scent from the hand that launched it there (or the overly-familiar scent of his own slobber from past retrieves).
This does not pose a problem for someone that is working with a future yard ball champion, but will pose a long-term problem for the trainer with a new dog looking to achieve greater things in the field. As a training program progresses, the trainer needs to go from scent introduction to scent discrimination.
To do this, start using scentless gloves, either plastic or latex, when handling training tools. This will allow your future field champion the opportunity to learn that bird, deer, rabbit, and all other animal scents being trained for, don’t come with their owner’s hand scent as well. Your scent will not exist on the animal in the wild that you need him to retrieve, so he needs to begin the process of identifying and seeking out these new scents.
Of course there is also nothing like the real thing! If training for upland or waterfowl, use the actual quarry. If shed hunting, find an area rich with antlers. When using actual quarry is impractical, companies such as Conquest have created applicator sticks containing actual animal scents in compounds made to withstand your sweat and his slobber for extended training sessions. Just apply to your training object and go.
Pass on this knowledge to other perspective trainers! There’s nothing better than a well-trained dog to hunt behind in the field!
Read and join the discussion on Dog Training: It’s All About the Scent at OutdoorHub.com.
February 15, 2013
It was a nightmare scenario for a hunting dog owner. The local festival fireworks display sent cannon-like reports thundering through the small town, loud enough to shake houses and knock picture off walls. It was also loud enough to scare dogs, including a tolling retriever named Kenai near and dear to my family’s heart.
Since that night, any loud sound has the dog scared out of her mind. It didn’t take long to find out that this included gun shots. Until this point, the young dog was doing quite well with her retrieves and she loved hunting. Now the house of cards had crumbled. She didn’t like loud noises. Would she associate retrieving with hunting and loud noises? Would she ever go hunting again?
I had an idea where to go for help. Tom Dokken, maker of the Deadfowl training aid and noted retriever trainer and dog expert, is an old friend. His book, Tom Dokken’s Retriever Training, was the basis of how I had trained the dog from the start. If anyone would know what to do with a suddenly gun-shy dog, Tom would.
“Oh man, you’ve got a problem there,” Dokken said. “It’s going to take time and patience because you’ve got to rehab your retriever to not only not be scared of the loud sounds again, but to also associate them with something she enjoys. This is going to be a tough one.”
Our first step was working with the noise. At Dokken’s suggestion, when Kenai was eating, I started clapping behind her. This progressed to banging pots and pans together behind her. She never flinched.
“The key,” Dokken said, “is to get the dog to hear the sound and become happy. Feeding time is a good place to start. You want to build her up so that she doesn’t even notice the noises.”
It didn’t take as long as I thought it would. The only issue we encountered during this time was explaining to the kids what we were doing. Our daughter, who’s two, didn’t quite understand that it was OK for daddy to bang pots and pans together, but not her. It might have actually helped with the dog’s rehab, but I had a few extra headaches and the kid’s cat is now jittery.
With the dog on the road to recovery, we moved things outside. We got the dog doing some basic retrieves with a tennis ball–just throwing it and having fun. We then added in clapping while she ran to the ball. From there we would clap loudly and then throw the ball. Over the course of a few weeks, this went very well. We progressed to louder noises and added in using her training bumper and a few runs into a pond for water retrieves. Those didn’t go as well, but it’s a start.
“You have to build the dog’s confidence back up,” Dokken said. “Use a lot of positive reinforcement. You’re going to be part trainer, part therapist. If it doesn’t go as smooth as you’d like at first, always keep your enthusiasm up. The dog can sense that.”
In keeping things going in a positive direction, we also added in some upland hunting activities. The dog loves chasing rabbits and grouse in the thick woods. Like with the other activities, we started her with no noises and then added in some claps, bangs, thumps, and whatever else we could make noise with before we finally started shooting guns.
When we started shooting guns around her, we actually started by not shooting them anywhere near her. One thing we avoided was having her in her crate. Originally, she went into the crate and was comfortable and safe. This could have been a great place for her to be when we started shooting guns around her. However, she was in her crate during the fireworks. It took us a month to get her to go back into the crate as it was. This was definitely not the place to have her during our rehab sessions.
We still have a long way to go, but I think she’s headed in the right direction. Will she ever be a stable hunting retriever again? I think so. If there are setbacks along the way, Dokken said it is OK to go back some, but try to not let things fall apart all the way. The dog wants to work. It’s genetic. We just have to overcome that one thing blocking them mentally from doing what they love.
If you get into a similar situation, there is hope. Start with small steps and build your dog’s confidence back up slowly. Trying to go too fast can make matters worse, Dokken said. A slow, steady rehab program can cure a lot of issues, both big and small. I’m hoping to have my dog back out on a few hunts this coming fall. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Read and join the discussion on Retriever Rehab at OutdoorHub.com.
January 31, 2013
A question that comes up often is, “can you teach an old dog new tricks?” With that people want to know whether their dog that has never hunted can be taught to hit the field in search for the owner’s chosen quarry. The answer is simple–YES.
Just because your hound has not been in the field doesn’t mean you should preclude your four-legged buddy from accompanying you. With that said, a lot of work needs to be done first. Like any trained response you have to first do the training. Just because a dog comes from hunting lines doesnt mean it will hunt for you. Yes, the optimal word in that sentence is you! Well-bred hunting dogs are genetically disposed to have prey drive. Retrievers also have the insatiable drive to retrieve, pointers point etc. What the human end of the team needs to ensure is that our four-legged buddy doesn’t go out self-employed, or hunting for his/her own interests.
Obedience is the foundation of any good dog, and is a must for hunting dogs. A dog needs to understand that they need to listen and obey their partner in the field at all times. A good recall, sit command, and heel are needed prior to hitting the hunting landscape. Most think their hounds are great because they sit and come in their yard. The biggest thing needed from that point is to take your dog to areas that aren’t so familiar. Taking your future field partner to a park, into town and eventually into a hunting atmosphere are areas where the trainer can reinforce their commands and expectations for their future hunting pupil.
Once we have our commands down, an electric training collar is also a great aide in making sure our commands and demands are met. Taking a dog in a place with distractions is a major test of any training program. Using an e-collar to reinforce commands before hitting the field greatly assists the dog’s understanding for all situations. The easy way to think about it is that the e-collar is like a pager. When the four-legged hunting hound of fury gets so encompassed with the hunt that they forget things, we as the handler and team member can give them a gentle reminder.
The other and last part of the foundation of our training is our trained retrieve method. This entails having our dog fetch on command and understand when they are supposed to bring our prey, whether it’s a bird or big buck horn. It’s a slow process using differing methods that convince our hunting companion that they will gain great rewards by bringing back what we are hunting. It’s also a great step when looking at things through the view of conservation. If a dog brings back our downed game, it was not harvested in vain.
All of the above training principles are the same as with a young dog. The only difference is you may have years of bad habits that make your older dog a slightly bigger challenge. But in the end you will be glad you offered you four-legged buddy a chance to excel at what they were bred for!
This article is brought to you by Soggy Acres Retreivers.
Read and join the discussion on Old Dog, New Tricks? at OutdoorHub.com.
January 11, 2013
The first major hurdle in a young pup’s life begins with housebreaking. There’s nothing more stressful for the pup and the new owner than having to keep a constant eye on a bounding floppy-eared ball of energy to insure that carpets and floors are safe from foul secretions.
Crate training Floppy Ears gives a great boost to propelling him/her onto the path to potty freedom. Start Floppy out with its crate as a home base of operation. Floppy will soon learn that the crate is his or her safe zone, and will respect their new house by not soiling it. Keep Floppy in the crate for periods of time when he or she isn’t being closely watched. When it’s time for Floppy Ears to emerge, take him or her immediately outside to perform their duty. Praise Floppy Ears for a job well done when you get the desired result. Then take Floppy back inside with the family for a romp around the house.
After enjoying his freedom outside of the crate for an hour or so, have Floppy again retreat to the crate. Repeat this sequence for several weeks and you will be well on your way to having Floppy Ears house trained.
Another helpful tip would be to take Floppy to the same area in your yard for his or her duty. The scent of yesterday’s work shows Floppy that this is an acceptable location. With that in mind, remember to clean accident locations in your house. The scent of past misdeeds could cause a similar failure in your training process.
Using these techniques consistently should help ease the stress of housebreaking your new pup.
This article is brought to you by Loyall Pet Food.
Read and join the discussion on Housebreaking Tips for Your Puppy at OutdoorHub.com.
November 14, 2012
Congratulations, you have successfully chosen your puppy! Now the training phase begins. The question will undoubtedly arise as to whether treats should be utilized for motivation during training. There are varying opinions on this subject. Some trainers endorse using treats as a way to harness the insatiable appetite possessed by a pup or young dog in order to gain compliance. The opposition believes that using treats is amateurish and unnecessary.
In making your decision, consider how the treat will be used to motivate your pupil. Using treats can be a great tool for getting the attention and motivating a pup or young dog. There are different methods that can be used in concert with treats to teach these young pupils certain commands. Once the pup understands and performs the command, the motivating morsels can slowly be replaced with a soothing compliment. After a command is mastered, you can use the now-anticipated treat for a head start on future skills.
Food is a basic motivator for your dog, so you can use their primitive love of food to accomplish training goals with greater ease. In early training, food will be a stronger motivator than other types of positive reinforcement. Puppy-food kibble, commercial dog treats, or even small bits of “people food” such as chunks of hot dogs will bring out your dog’s hunger to please.
If you are still skeptical about incorporating food rewards into your training program, consider trying it for teaching at least one command. Hopefully after trying this method, you will be able to decide if it is a “treat to treat.”
This article is brought to you by Soggy Acres Retrievers.
Read and join the discussion on Dog Training: To Treat or Not to Treat at OutdoorHub.com.
June 12, 2012
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks -or- you can’t teach a toy dog hunting techniques. The first mistake you can make is to buy a dog that’s not a hunter. Ask someone who knows a breeder of good hunting dogs, a pup whose parents are both field hunters…not some amateur starting out in his basement. You’ll pay more up front most times, but you’ll save a lot more down the road (No, I don’t breed dogs!).
- It is over when the fat dog sings. Second, letting your dog get fat and not training them during the off season. I’ve seen many dogs following their owner, gasping for breath or put back in their kennel after an hour’s hunt because they are so fat and out of shape they can’t take hunting. Don’t get a dog if you can’t work it year-round; use your buddy’s – it’s better for you, the dog and hunting buddies.
- Relax, don’t do it. Third, don’t lose control of yourself. I’ve moved away to the other side of the field to get away from clowns screaming at their out-of-control dogs. I’ve even left hunts over this or at least told the owners to get ahold of their emotions, kennel their dog and do some training with them before taking them out again.
- Don’t forget your e-collar. Four, don’t go afield without an e-collar on your dog. There’s no excuse these days not to because you can’t train a dog enough, practically speaking for most folks, to make them work like they can with an e-collar. E-collars are also very affordable. E-collars were a big game changer for hunting dogs, like going from typewriters to computers. Get one. But be careful: you can screw up a dog’s behavior while hunting if you overdo it. Read the directions. I overdid it with my late, great springer, “Wolf,” one frustrating day when I borrowed a buddy’s e-collar and used it without breaking him in correctly. It took weeks before Wolf would confidently leave my side and hunt.
- A live dog is more important than a dead deer. Lastly, watch them carefully afield. Dogs, tough as they are, are flesh and bone…they get hurt and can die. I lost a Brit, at age 7, in the prime of his hunting life when he was attacked by a coyote or badger in the woods. I tended all his wounds, but missed one hid deep in his thick chest fur. It got infected, got in his liver and killed him…all after spending hundreds at the vet. Watch your dog close in the heat, especially a new dog you haven’t hunted in hot weather. My springer, “Hunter,” came close to big problems a few years ago dove hunting in South Dakota. I let him run because we were heading to a shaded pond. He got wobbly on me just at the pond, where I bathed him in the cool water. He came out of it, but I kenneled him for the rest of the day. Close call. Scary. With a dog, the hunt comes second, the dog must come first. No hunt is worth a dead dog.
Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Top 5 Pheasant Dog Owner Mistakes and How to Prevent Them
June 11, 2012
For competition dogs, police dogs and hunting dogs a little something extra is needed to get them in the top physical condition their tasks demand. That little something extra is the LaGuard Fitness Vest. Developed after years of research by LaGuard (based in Detroit, Michigan), the Fitness Vest is a patented, weighted vest worn by dogs to increase their muscle mass and stamina during physical activity.
Heather Mehi is a dog trainer who has worked at various shelters and humane societies for more than 20 years. She currently works with dogs at the Dearborn Animal Shelter in a management position where she is responsible for all the animals welfare and health, but also making sure they get the best home possible. In her time, Mehi has taught dogs new skills, trained her own dogs to compete in dock diving and weight pulling and general training. Mehi has been using the LaGuard Fitness Vest for six years.
Outdoor Hub wanted to find out how the vest works and what the benefits were from Mehi’s experience. Find out the results in the interview below.
Outdoor Hub: What is your experience in working with dogs?
Heather Mehi: I have been working in shelter environments for at least 20 years. I have been the shelter manager at the Dearborn Animal Shelter for the last 16 years. I run a dog club outside of the shelter that teaches weight pulling, swimming, dock diving, agility, and lure coursing. We also kayak and canoe, hike and camp. My goal is to provide a place to keep dogs socialized, and more balance with physical and mental stimulation.
OH: Tell us about the dogs that use LaGuard Fitness Vest. Are they police dogs, hunting dogs, perhaps overweight or even show dogs?
HM: They are canine athletes and people pets. Some compete in competitions, and others do it just for exercise. Some are dogs that are overweight when they join the club, some do it to build endurance, and some do it for the mental work of the dog having a job.
HM: We use the vest while out doing a variety of sports with out dogs like hiking, running, biking and we will be using it lure coursing. It’s a great sport – the vest helps to build endurance.
OH: Have you found the LaGuard Fitness Vest to be effective?
HM: Yes, it actually helps the dogs focus more, and it helps you get a full workout in half the time. It has also helped with some of the dogs that have come to club that has some aggression issue or anxiety around other dogs. We put it on them and it provides a job and gives them something else to focus on besides all that is surrounding them. It gives them a sense of security also, so it works in a lot of awesome ways. I use it for my personal dogs when they are on the treadmill and we use it at the animal shelter I work at on our dogs when the volunteers come and walk the dogs so they get more out of the short times they get exercised.
OH: How do the dogs react and respond to LaGuard Fitness Vest? And be honest.
HM: I have only once had a dog who laid down and thought she could not walk. The rest of the dogs have never had any issues.
OH: Can you tell us a little bit about what goes on mentally while a dog is wearing the LaGuard Fitness Vest?
HM: Mentally, it gives the dog a sense of having a job. All dogs love having a job. Regardless of how people say their dog is lazy and just lays around…that is not a happy dog. Give it a job. It also helps build endurance as you slowly add weights this is good for any dog who needs to to be fit for competition or just a dog who has a lot of energy to expel.
OH: Who would you recommend LaGuard Fitness Vest to?
HM: All pet owners who want a well balanced and happy dog.
Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Q&A with Dog Trainer Heather Mehi on the LaGuard Fitness Vest
February 3, 2012
By Larry Saavedra
An overlooked aspect of a hunt test competition, besides training vigorously before the event, is clothing. Believe it or not, it does matter what you wear.
If you come to the starting line (where you release a dog) wearing a color or style of clothing that the line judges deem as inappropriate for competition, the judges will stop the competition and ask you to change your clothes to something more in-line with the hunting environment, typically of neutral colors and so forth. This overlooked detail is black and white in AKC, and UKC/HRC rulebooks.
If you’re a people watcher, the fun thing about judging a hunt test is that you see a lot of different personalities and styles of dog handlers. Some come to the line dressed for success with pressed camouflaged duds from head to toe, while others sport street sneakers and tees. Heck, I’ve even seen people wearing flip-flops, although it happens only rarely.
As a judge you learn to expect the unexpected. Everyone respects your tastes in duds, so long as your clothing doesn’t provide you with an unfair advantage in competition; technically you must be dressed in a manner favorable to hunting.
For those new to the retrieving game, learning what to wear comes with experience, and a careful study of the sanctioning body’s rulebook. My advice to the novice is to bring one change of dark shirts and socks for starters. You will get wet and muddy, especially during the water series. Also, say no to those designer jeans! They might look cool at the mall, but the moment a dog shakes after a dip in the pond, you’ll be soaked to the bone. A better choice would be Carhartt’s flannel-lined jeans, which incidentally go on sale in the off-season from Cabela’s.
If you really hate getting wet, and most of us do, look for waterproof chaps that typically fit over the leg the dog heels to, although some competitors use them on both legs.
Hats are a personal issue, not everyone wears one, but don’t wear a white one, because you’ll likely be asked to remove it before you get started! Long sleeve shirts are better than short-sleeved, and long pants are usually a good idea too, especially in snake country. Beyond it all, plan to be outfitted like you were going hunting, and exceptional footwear are a must have item.
Boots offer the best protection and while there are hundreds of models to choose from, I’ve learned that buying a cheap pair is a total waste of money. Aside from the lack of comfort, cheaper boots can’t standup to the types of loose impediments that are often found in the field.
I recently bought what I thought was a decent pair of boots at my local sporting goods store, only to find out that a small metal shard had pierced the sole and nearly dug into my foot. These boots were only two months old, and in one outing they were destroyed.
Some handlers swear by ranch-style boots or even a soft-leather hiking shoe, but I favor a solid trail boot that’s preferably lined with waterproof Gore-Tex. The pair I’ve been wearing for nearly a year now is the Ranger GTX from Lowa (see image at start of article) with its above-the-ankle protection. These boots are handcrafted in Germany and they are made to fight off the elements, whether it be summer or winter. I can’t find another boot that even comes close to its superior quality.
The Ranger GTX is considered a mid-duty boot and they weigh about one pound each, and right out of the box they need to be broken in for a few weeks before they become comfortable enough to walk in. They aren’t the lightest boots out there, but they are definitely the most durable you will find.
The uppers are made of Nubuck leather and outsole is a Vibram Tactis DST, which gives you the stiffness you need and the sure-footedness you require in precarious situations. Because they are perforated around the top, any hot air trapped inside is released through these openings. So far, I’ve had zero issues with water.
The Ranger GTX has a lot of little features that make them the ideal field boot, like the tongue stud that prevents the padded tongue (with gussets on both sides) from moving off-center, offering a more equalized pressure once the laces are tied. There is a half-rand on the boot, which provides further support, especially in rocky terrain. The details make these boots in a class of their own. Lowa makes similar boots for women.
Although the Ranger GTX is a mighty fine boot, it’s not necessarily going to win your dog a title. You’ll have to do that with exceptional training methods. But at least the next time you run hunt test, you won’t have to worry about trudging through the water and mud. And they sure beat the heck out of flip-flops.