Q - I have spent some time
training my labrador and there have been no problems up until now.
She lifts pheasants happily but when I sent her for a woodcock, she
only sniffed it and would have nothing more to do with it. I want to
use her for picking-up at big shoots but if she won't pick a
woodcock, it looks like I've got a problem.
A - Lots of dogs baulk at
retrieving certain species, woodcock included, the first time they
come into contact with them. We assume that this is to do with the
smell of the problem retrieve but, since none of us can look on the
world like a dog, we'll never really know. At any rate, our old
friends patience, perseverance and praise have always worked for me
whenever a dog refused to lift a new species. Try the following -
hang a newly shot hen pheasant and a woodcock together in contact
for 24 hours. Give the lab a retrieve of the pheasant then, as soon
as she has delivered it, throw the woodcock and send her. I would be
very surprised if she refused to lift it. The likelihood is that
once she has seen a few 'cock, the problem will disappear of its own
Q - I have more or less
booked a pup from a spaniel bitch of good working breeding that
belongs to my friend. I now learn from a different source that the
bitch damaged some birds on a shoot last season and brought them
back with flesh tears. I understand that hard mouth is hereditary
and I am very worried that the pup might turn out likewise but I
can't very well back out of the deal now.
A - Although hard mouth is
said to "run in the family", I take the view that far more cases are
induced by faulty training and handling and, that if a dog is from
proven working stock, genetic hard mouth is unlikely to be
encountered. A carefully structured training course, the avoidance
of "hard" treatment, especially associated with retrieving game, and
plenty of patience will all play their part in avoiding the problem.
Superficial skin damage is not evidence of hard mouth; the hard
mouthed dog tends to crush the rib cage.
Q - I am having one or two
problems in getting my young (10 months) springer to mark the fall
of a training dummy. He is reluctant to take his eyes off me and, as
a result, does not watch the dummy's flight when I throw it. Have
you any suggestions?
A - Some young dogs have this
quirk and, although it tends to disappear as time passes and they
get experience of the real thing, it can be frustrating for the
trainer. Assuming that he is absolutely steady, put the dog on the
drop, walk off a little way, attract his attention and throw the
dummy, trying to let him "get the picture" of the dummy's flight as
you do so by pointing in the direction of the fall as you release
the dummy. Return to the dog before you send him to retrieve.
Alternatively, it is helpful to enlist an assistant to do the
throwing for you and get the assistant to make a noise (a shout
perhaps) as he throws the dummy.
Q - Most people seem to
spell "labrador" when it is the name of dog breed, with a lower case
"L" but I have sometimes seen capitals used. Which is correct?
A - If you want to be strictly
correct "Labrador" is a region of Canada and "labrador" is a breed
of dog. But there is no need to be over-pedantic about this; the
context will usually tell you whether the reference is geographic or
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a series originally produced by the late Tennant Brownlee in