For many people, raising and training a pup is not practical. If you
lack the time, patience and expertise required to properly start
a retriever, you may find yourself in the market for a fully trained
dog. It is commonly thought that dogs acquired later in life will
never form the loyal human bonds Walt Disney made famous. Contrary
to this belief, most good retrievers love birds and could care less
who shoots them!
Locating a retriever training kennel or professional trainer in your area is
the first step. Many trainers advertise in the yellow pages or classified
section of hunting magazines and newspapers. Often a friend or hunting
club manager can make a recommendation. It is best to visit a kennel
and personally select a dog, but not absolutely necessary. Many
dogs are bought and sold over long distances and shipped to their
new owners. If this is your only alternative, some kennels will
send you a video tape of a prospective dog in action. They should
also supply a comprehensive explanation of the commands and training
techniques used to work the dog.
Don't expect supermarket type selection when shopping for a trained
dog. It is most important to select a dog capable of doing the type
of hunting you desire, to fulfill your expectations in the field.
Coat color, size, sex, age and breed should be secondary considerations.
Temperament is very important. All the retriever breeds should be
friendly and adaptable to most environments, whether it be the inside
of a home, kennel run, boat or duck blind. Most trained dogs you
find available will be Black Labradors. Why this is so, can be developed
into quite a dinner table argument by the fanciers of the various
breeds and colors. Regardless of breed or color, break the selection
of trained dogs down into two categories, that of handling dogs
and non-handling dogs. Non-handling dogs may or may not be steady
to shot and are capable of doing a single or double retrieve that
falls within their sight, on land or water. They are best suited
to hunt from a blind where the falls will be visible to the dog,
such as a tank in a rice field.
Handling dogs can be directed to birds they haven't seen fall by
the use of hand signals and whistle, as well as retrieve those in
sight. They should be fully steady to shot. If you shoot a blind
where the cover is very high or where visibility for the dog is
limited or non- existent, a handling dog is a must. Both types of
dogs should work equally well on land or water, over decoys, and
can be taught to quarter for upland birds. A professional trainer
should be able to advise you what type of dog would best suit your
needs. Most handling dogs will be over two years old and cost more
than $3,000 due to the extensive training involved. They also may
require further training in the off season to brush up their handling
Make an appointment to visit a kennel with prospective dogs for
sale. This will ensure the trainer has adequate time to demonstrate
a dog and answer questions. Ask to see the dog work on birds, live
or dead, preferably ducks. The dog should be demonstrated on water
and land where there is some cover. Have the trainer shoot a shot
gun in close to the dog at least once and work over some decoys.
If buying a retriever for upland hunting, have the trainer plant
some birds and demonstrate the quartering and flushing abilities
of the dog. The trainer should be happy to answer questions and
may even let the prospective buyer work the dog. Have the trainer
explain the obedience training of the dog and methods of correction
that are used. If a particular dog is unsuitable, the trainer may
be able to locate another dog. An adult retriever should be x-rayed
to ensure good hip conformation. If the hips haven't been x-rayed,
offer to have it done at your expense. When a selection is made,
plan a day to pick up the dog when there is time to be fully instructed
on the commands and handling techniques used in its training.
With a handling dog, more than one session may be necessary to
train the owner. Tuition should be included in the price of the
dog! If you hunt in a particularly unusual situation, such as a
raised platform blind where a retriever must perform something out
of the ordinary, like climb a ladder or work from a boat, ask the
trainer to bring the dog out to your duck club and accustom it to
working from your blind. This may save much frustration for you
and the dog.
Kennel owners and professional trainers that love their work and
are proud of their dogs, should provide advice about your hunting
needs and whether a particular dog will be suitable.