Training Group Etiquette - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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When working in the field, that is, throwing birds or shooting fliers, act in a consistent manner for all dogs. Stay alert, keep your timing the same, and be ready to help if the handler calls for it. Above all, learn to throw the dummies or birds in the same, correct place every time. Poor, erratic throws will not be tolerated for long by any knowledgeable training group. Get good at it by practicing in your back yard.

When throwing, hazing a dog off the shore, or any other activity where you assist another handler, follow instructions as precisely as possible. Don't improvise! The handler knows what he or she wants for the dog, and must be able to depend on you.

Try to be generous and equitable in sharing and providing equipment. Such things as two-way radios, blank pistols, white jackets, birds, etc. are expensive and the burden for supplying these things should not fall heavily on any individual. Birds are a particular problem. They are costly and hard to find. Do your best to locate and supply at least your share of the birds. Keep an old refrigerator in the garage running to keep used birds fresh as long as possible. If you should be so fortunate as to live where you can maintain a holding pen for live birds and can provide that service for your little club, you will soon be seen as indispensible.

When using equipment supplied by others, treat it with great care. Keep radios dry and firearms clean. Do not set blank pistols down in the sand or dirt, or put them in bags with dummies. Your group should have a protocol for whether radios stay at the station or move with the person, when you rotate in and out of the field. At the end of the session, turn radios off and make sure all equipment gets back to its owner. Picking everything up and putting it away is part of the group's responsibility and your staying until the job is finished will be appreciated.

Make sure that your dog does not interfere with others. Quickly remove your dog from the working line on lead when finished and put him or her in a crate or on a
tie-out stake until your turn comes up again. Dogs on the loose, bumping other dogs, instigating fights, and interfering with the working dog, are not acceptable. If your dog is a nuisance barker, get a bark collar or park far enough from the training test so as not to create a problem. Unless formally honoring, do not keep your dog out as a test of its obedience--this is distracting to other handlers.

Things may happen within a training group and among members' dogs, which are best kept within the group. Some dogs, most in fact, will go through extended periods of poor work--looking bad, confused, and seemingly making little progress. It is unwise to say much to outsiders about the negative side of anyone's dog's progress. The training either will work or it won't work, and the results will be there for all to see if the dog is entered in competition. Intelligent discussion within the group concerning what to do with a dog that is in a severe slump can be beneficial. Frequently, some member will have had a dog with a similar problem that he or she has been able to see through with success. Just keep it within the group.

When training with an established group of participants, limited in number for obvious reasons, it is very bad form to show up with a guest and his or her dog (or dogs) without first inquiring of the other members if it is O.K. Training groups frequently and readily become too large, requiring members to contribute excessive time for the training benefits they obtain. It is unfair to the other members to invite someone without permission. Some groups, perhaps wisely, have by-laws that state: "We will operate with no more than four members, and no more than two dogs per member"--or some variation thereof. Guests' vehicles can also be a problem, not only adding to wear and tear on the grounds, but also perhaps inflating your presence in the eyes of the landowner. Having to alter plans and grounds at the last minute to accommodate uninvited guests is a severe disruption to a training day.

If the training group of which you are a member gradually becomes oversized and cumbersome, despite your efforts to prevent this, you have a couple of alternatives. One is to suggest splitting the group into smaller units organized on the basis of working dogs of similar age and training experience together. The other is to politely bow out, thanking everyone for their help, wishing them the very best with their dogs, and seeking other training partners.

Gun handling safety is of utmost importance. We have seen bird throwers seriously injured with shotgun blanks. We all suffer hearing loss from blank pistols, especially if we use no hearing protection and, of course, the shotgun with live loads on the bird shooting station must be handled with the greatest care. All members of a training group who handle firearms should be licensed hunters who have passed a firearms safety course. They should always be aware of the locations of all of their partners, and willing to let a bird go if there is any doubt of the safety of shooting it. If you are training with experienced gun handlers, as you most likely will be, nothing will get you excluded from the group more quickly than careless gun handling. The successful, and safe, conduct of a retriever training group hinges on a mutual respect for the rights and training opportunities of all. Enjoy the progress and success of your friends' dogs as well as your own and your work with retrievers will improve.
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