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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is Your Dog Ready to Retrieve?

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to spend two full days at the Retriever's Unlimited, HRC Fall Hunt Test.

at any hunt test... it's all about the dogs!

I love attending the Hunting Retriever Club hunt tests for several reasons. First - the tests simulate real live hunting situations that one encounters with a retriever. Be it land, water or upland, the tests  are designed to test the retriever and handler as a hunting team. Secondly, the dogs and handlers are not competing against each other in an environment that gives out firsts, seconds, thirds etc. The dogs and handlers are simply competing against the test in front of them  and demonstrating  the skills that all good  gun digs need to display when afield , as well as grading the individual handlers on their ability to work well with a dog. Participants  really on have two options at an an HRC test; pass or fail. If lucky they will acquire enough passes in particular class to title. Lastly, the spirit of camaraderie, one for all and all for one,  that permeates the test grounds.  Everyone there encourages each other, cares about each other and watches with bated breath as the dogs and handlers go through their paces. Any request for a hand, some help, or advice is always rewarded with an abundance of good will from other test participants.

Dongs and handlers play catch up while waiting on the test to begin

Attending this most recent hunt test, held at Peabody Fish and Wildlife Area in New Athens, IL  was renowned retriever trainer J. Paul Jackson owner of Lone Oak Retrievers and host  of Drake's Migration Nation . It's always a treat to see J. Paul at a hunt test. His good nature, and sense of humor go a long way to keep fellow test participants relaxed and on their game. He never turns away anyone with a request for a little advice or help with a training issue, and the dogs handled by J. Paul  are always a joy to watch work the land and water.

J. Paul's typical good nature and grin keeps everyone smiling at hunt tests

J. Paul always smiling at "the line"

While were enjoying the chilly foggy morning Saturday waiting for the hunt test to get under way, I had an opportunity to quiz J. Paul about some tips for making sure that our best friends are ready for the opening day that is just around the corner for many waterfowl hunters.

our four footed friend seems to be saying, "Can you believe these tall tales they are telling?"

J. Paul helped me to make my pre opening day check list.

Dog Equipment : Crates, vests, blinds, tables, vests,  all that dog equipment that goes along with every hunt  should be checked, cleaned and made sure that it is good working order. When you are ready to load and go in the wee hours of opening morning is no time to discover that the doge crate won't latch and the stand  table won't stay upright under your dog. If you use an e collar, make sure all the batteries a fresh and charged and that it is operating correctly as well.

Dog Health: A pre season opener  check up at the vet never hurts a thing, and it's important that all vaccinations are up to date, especially if you travel or hunt with other dogs. A dog first aid kit should be put together and stashed with everything else in your dog  bag, including numbers for vets, micro chip numbers, and if you are really organized, a copy of your dogs health records  can be very helpful if heaven forbid you find yourself 200 miles from home with an injured dog. Don't forget a few treats, food and water when you are double checking the dog bag.

Dog Training: J.Paul was quick to remind me that dogs must be acclimated to hunting conditions and settings. The long summer days spent throwing marks and swimming around the family pond are great, but do little to prepare a dog for being in a duck blind  with 4 shotguns going off, birds falling, and the general excitement that goes with opening day.

Have a look at this great video from J. Paul Jackson and Delta Waterfowl that deals with this very subject:

So, as you prepare for opening day, what are some of your favorite tips and tricks for making sure your dog is ready to retrieve?

 "Diesel" is ALWAYS ready to retrieve!

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