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Buying a Trained Dog


California Ducks Unlimited Magazine - February 1989

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 skills.


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.


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