You Never Stop Learning

“You never stop learning”. That’s a statement that has always stuck with me in all facets of the things I do and even in working dogs it plays as well. My current pup, Staten’s Six Bird Scout “Scout” is still very much in the puppy stage of life. He is only 15 months old and has come along in his training as fast or faster than any pup I’ve worked with. My original goal for him when I got him obviously wanted a hunting retriever to enjoy on our duck hunts. But also I had intentions of running him in UKC hunt test to eventually get his HRCH title. We began our adventure last fall towards that goal with started level test and this spring we stepped up to seasoned level test. Seasoned level test consist of a double on land and water as well a blind retrieve a diversion and a walk up or flushing style bird.

Scout had done great in his first seasoned test and we didn’t have a single hang up while running it, I felt like he was really moving along really quickly in the test process. Well last weekend we went to run a full weekend of test and knowing that if we could just get two passes we would reach the HR or seasoned level title which would be a big accomplishment for a pup so young. Well Saturday morning we ran great, handled the water setup like a pro but that afternoon was another story. When it was our turn for the land set and we waited in line for our number to be called he got more and more excited and I knew that this was going to get interesting. Scout is a very high drive, high desire, anxious young fella and he was really showing those signs when we reached the first gun station he was border line out of control and not his normal controlled self. Well, when the walk up bird came out he did the unmentionable sin for a retriever to do. He broke on the shot! This gave us an immediate failure of the test. Needless to say I was very disappointed and knew that he was better than that and we had worked to do.

So, how do we fix this or teach against it? Scout had never tried to break before in training or even on a hunt this far. But as all dog folks say there are two kinds of dogs. Ones that break and the ones that haven’t broke yet. Thankfully I was blessed to meet a great pro trainer while at the test and he offered to help me with this issue. We left the grounds of the test and set up a few fake walk ups and marks to teach Scout he has to remember to be steady. We would use a thrower and walk with Scout at heel and throw the bird very close to him and if he moved without permission he would receive a quick swat of the heel stick to remind him to sit. I as a trainer had become lax in this and had not held Scout to the high standard he should reach and it allowed him to think he could get away with a break. With the help of a fellow trainer Scout and I both were able learn a new tactic to teach him steadiness and managed to have a clean run the next day and got ourselves a pass test. So you never stop learning and you never are too good to take lessons from others no matter what stage you may be of your life or training. Now we continue to train and work and hopefully we have met this issue head on and t next month we can go run a clean test and get that HR title. But without doubt we will have something else to work on when we do. That’s why it’s called training.

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