Questions and Answers-5
By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs
Getting into Field Trials
Question: If a new guy were interested in getting involved in field trials, what would be the best organization to start with? What is the best way to get started? How competitive of a dog do you have to have to not look like a fool? What are some key points to look for in a dog to trial with?
Answer: There are a several of organizations that have field trials. Some are for the walking/shooting dog and others are run from horseback. The American Kennel Club offers both field trials and hunt tests. Walking and horseback field trials are available through American Field. Other organizations that are designed for the walking/shooting dog are National Shoot to Retrieve (NSTRA), National Bird Hunters Association (NBHA) and North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA). Most of these organizations have a web site that lists clubs and events.
The best way to get started is to go to some events put on by these organizations so you can see what is expected of handler and dog. Get to know some of the people who are involved with the event as they will be glad to explain to you what is happening, how and where to get more information and rulebooks. As you do this, you will likely get hooked on the sport that appeals to you the most.
Once you learn the rules and feel that you have trained your dog to accomplish them, go ahead and enter. You should not feel foolish when the dog does not do as well as you hoped. There are some stakes that are designed for beginners, both dog and handler and entering those will help you gain experience. Also, you will find that the people involved with the various organizations are very helpful to the beginner and will be glad to give you advice.
Yes, sometimes running a dog in a competition can be a humbling experience, but you should not feel foolish. Each trial gives you experience and makes you more aware of the areas of training that require more work.
In addition to the training, the dog must fit the type of trial you want to run. For example, a dog that naturally stays in close would not do well at a horseback trail where the dogs must run "BIG" for long periods of time.
When considering a dog for competition we look for the following attributes: desire ("birdyness"), intelligence (has memory and remembers his lessons easily), a willing temperament (yields to your directions and accepts his training), and endurance (he must have good running gear to complete the stake without becoming "toast" part of the way through).
Dog Won't Come
Question: I've got my pup obeying on a check cord, but on his own, no way. (a) Should I be afraid he'd run off in the field? He's 9 months and I have tried an electronic collar but he doesn't seem to associate it with his behavior. (b) Am I wrong to want to train him on my own? Are all first timers this paranoid? (c) He isn't pointing birds yet, should I expect to be able to take him along on some hunts this year? Will he calm down in time?
Answer: There isn't anything wrong with wanting to train your own dog. If you have the desire and some time, training your own dog will be a very rewarding experience. It is normal for a person to be concerned about their ability to train a dog if they lack experience. After all, you haven't proven to yourself through experience, that you will be successful. You might want to find someone to work with whose training techniques you like. Their guidance will give you confidence when you train.
Yes, you should be concerned that your young pointing dog will run off in the field when you remove the check cord. Also, your observation is correct about the e-collar. Right now your dog doesn't have a clue as to what to do when you push the button on the collar.
We suggest that you try the e-collar again but first learn to use it correctly. Learning to use an e-collar properly is really very easy when you use the "nick" method we describe in our e-collar introduction video (See PDJ video section). Also, go to our web site (www.dobbsdogs.com) for past PDJ articles especially Number 36. "Using the New E-Collars in Collar Conditioning Part 1".
When first using an e-collar, you must teach your dog how to respond to the stimulation by coming to you when called. This training should be done in a controlled situation where you can guide him into the right behavior if necessary. Do this "collar conditioning" before going to the field and letting him run.
As for hunting with him, there is only one word for hunting with a dog that won't point and won't come when called, "disaster". You may spend the whole day chasing after him as he chases birds out of gun range. Dogs do tend to calm down with maturity but in the meantime, obedience to a few commands will work wonders.
Dobbs Training Center