Sunday, September 29, 2013

Five Months to get in Shape part 1

Five Months to get in Shape part 1

It is definitely Spring in Central Illinois, rain showers every few days, the grass is green and birds are singing away. If you’re like CO you want to get into the field and do some fishing, turkey and mushroom hunting. While you’re doing this you may forget about that hunting pal of yours, you know that rug that eats and drinks and barks. That’s right your dog!!! There are only five months until the kick off of waterfowl season. In the minds of many, dove hunting kicks off the season. Five months will go by fast, especially when the summer heat arrives. Do you have your pre-season plan ready? Continue to read below to get a good understanding of how I train my dog Reagan for the upcoming hunting season

Reagan is what many in the hunting field will consider seasoned. Not because he has medals and honors from the AKC but because he is five and has been in the field for four seasons and has retrieved countless numbers of birds. He has seen a lot of different situations and has taught me as much as I’ve taught him. If you have a hunting dog it is important to know what stage they are at so that you can start thinking about your plan. I am by no means a professional trainer. I bought a DVD when I first bought Reagan and this DVD taught me the basics I needed to train my waterfowl dog. I’ve done countless hours of research on dog training and found that 5 Phases will get your dog ready for the hunting season. On to the planning!!!

First, things first, don’t expect your dog to be in the same condition as they were at the end of the hunting season, both physically and mentally. Remember the goal here is to get him ready to hunt. Your first few days should be focused on obedience. If your dog is seasoned or has at least a season behind them then this should go very quickly. In fact, this part is not fun for you or the dog. Heel, sit and come get old real quick. Make sure your dog has this down before you move on.

Phase one

Start your day off by throwing some 'fun bumpers'. Don't worry so much about having your dog, sit and stay at this point. Like you, the dog needs to stretch and have fun before the training, therefore you throw some 'fun bumpers' around to get him motivated. At the end of your training session, finish with a few 'fun bumpers', this keeps the good times in their head and keep them wanting more. Once your dog has had a few short retrieves take a good look at them. How bad are they out of shape? Are they panting really hard? Wheezing? If your dog is like this, take your time; make sure your dog is a little more in shape before moving on. Remember we have five months!

Phase Two

If your dog can handle Phase one, let’s move on. Remember there is no time limit to each of these phases. The second phase deals with piles. (If you have just one bumper you really want to think about purchasing more.) Take all your bumpers and place them in a pile about 75 yards away. This is a good opportunity to have the dog practice the heel command as you place the bumpers. Release your dog and let him retrieve your pile. What does this do? The average a person can throw a bumper is about 35 yards. The dog will easily be able to mark this but you are teaching a dog that 35 yards is the maximum that he will need to retrieve. So, when you are in the field hunting your dog will start looking for instruction from you around 35 yards. A pile teaches your dog nice long retrieves. Now using piles, work on the back command. Again put all your bumpers in one pile 75 yards away from your dog and have your dog sit and you walk another 25 yards away (you are a total of 100 yards from the bumper) and command your dog back. This will help your dog receive directions from you while in the field. I do this for about a month sometimes longer.

The first two phases is all about getting your dog into shape. Phase 3, 4, and 5 is where things get really interesting and complex. Stay tuned. Please remember that I spent an enormous amount of hours and missed several college classes training my dog. The five month training session is for the seasoned dog. If you just got a pup or are thinking about training your dog, I highly recommend two things. First, buy a DVD, there are some really good ones out there and can be purchased at any sporting goods store. Second, reach out to your local retrieving club. These groups are very welcoming, and will teach and help you with your dog handling skills. If you want your dog to be perfect the first day, then I recommend buying a dog from a breeder already trained. However, the relationship formed with your dog through the training process will transfer to the field and make for a great hunting companion.