In May we talked about preparing for our spring test. This included tips for NA dogs and handlers, as well as some tips on finishing the force fetch work for the Utility dogs.
Assuming that the test went well, we now need to thing about the next steps. If there were any holes or weak spots in the NA pup’s work, we need to go back and address those subjects. We do not want to move forward until we have stabilized the foundation upon which all future training will be based.
Once the holes are closed we need to choose a path. We should do one of two things. One option is to do our force fetch work now, which allows us to escape the worst of the hot summer weather. If this is the path you choose, please see the April Training Tip. The other option, which is my personal preference, is to advance out steadiness and then force fetch the dog after their first hunting season. I like to test my NA dog young and then focus on more exposure and a fun season of learning how to handle wild birds.
To begin our steadiness work we will have to start with the foundation of formal “WHOA” training. There are many methods to teach WHOA (whoa post, place boards, table, etc.). Find a method you are comfortable with and work through the system. I personally use the Rick and Ronnie Smith system of the whoa post. More information can be found in this article: Huntsmith: The Whoa Post Redux – Part 1.
For those who had a really good day with their UT dog and have earned a coveted Prize 1, it is now time to start thinking forward to the work required to prepare for the Invitational. The first piece of work that is required for the Invitational, that has not yet been in any NAVHDA testing, is “backing / honoring”.
There are 2 approaches to backing.
- First is simple obedience associated with a visual stimulus of seeing a dog on point
- Second is to trigger the response based upon the association of the visual clue of a dog on point and tying that to birds
I prefer the second approach. I feel that a dog backing because they understand it is about birds shows greater intensity than a dog that backs because of routine obedience repetitions. To build this intensity, I tie the visual cue of a dog on point with the simultaneous flight of a launched bird. This entire scenario is based upon the dog’s foundation of stop to flush and their desire to not allow birds to escape.
Once the backing dog is showing good intensity while they are backing, I like to keep it interesting for the dog. Do not be afraid to reward the backing dog with a retrieve. If we make backing rewarding for the dog, they will be eager to back rather than reluctant to do so.