Gun dogs? Rarely have just a gun dog washout.
There are so many variables with washouts , field trial washouts, hunt tests washouts etc. I know of one particular bitch that was washed out and sold as a qualifying dog. The dog with pro training, good amateurs went on to achieve 120 all-age points and qualified for more then a few Nationals. Some dogs mature later and donot show much desire as pups. I had one that at four months old had little desire to retrieve, by 8 or 9 months old was doing moderate retired gun triples, went on to FC/AFC National finalist. Had another that's sole desire up to about 18 months old was to run around my yard snap off my wife's yellow tulips, then throw them in the air and catch them coming down. At 18 months old she decided to become a Derby dog, her career for those 6 months was 30 derby points and a Amateur All-age second place as a 22 month old. Had another that didn't have one derby point but won a Amateur All-age at 20 months old my partner handled him. He wasn't a pin point marker but could dig those nitty gritty birds out. On the down side had a well bred dog that just couldn't do a clean triple, put through basics, first time out of the box started to no go , so now you have a not so good marker that has a problem with FF, gone! Had another well bred one that would always run at the gun, tried everything, would end up behind the gun, wasn't too fond of water, gone! Both these dogs were about a year old when washed out. Had another 4 or 5 months old pup would do one retrieve, then try to do a second would turn around and lick your face and pee, gone! two became pets, two became good gundogs. There were others good and bad but just using examples...Are you washing out a field trial dog, a hunt test dog or a gun dog would be my rhetorical question to the OP.
Signs to look for,
1. Bird-prey Drive (most dogs have a desire to chase and want birds, when they don't even express interest in a flapping ball of feathers, after a few exposures you've got issues. You can't really developed that instinct and most the time your better off, doing something else with the dog. If a dogs got bird drive most often it can make at least a passable gun-dog)
2. Intelligence-problem solving; if the dog has drive but not intelligence, your not gonna go very far pass retrieving singles, sometimes even that might be an effort; there are a few dogs out there that wake up in a new world every few minutes . They are very entertaining animals but not what you need to train-hunt.
3. Tractability; nice to have a dog that wants to work with you and not make everything a battle; whether a bunch of this is required, to make a gun-dog; is questionable; dogs will go get birds without it, but it's something I want in my dogs .
I've seen more dogs without bird instinct in other breeds; they're usually pretty smart-people pleasers, and while you can train them to do the task, it's much easier and rewarding to work with a dog that a least semi-wants the birds. Of Labs I've seen maybe ~ 1-3 that really weren't suited, (dogs with no instinct, not the brightest in the box, can could careless about working with you). I've seen several that made passable gun-dogs, but weren't suited for intermediate work. This is discounting the Hyper vocal labs that drive you insane in the blind (I've seen many of those, which I wouldn't hunt with, but can usually be trained to higher levels). Dogs without instinct, intelligence, and a bit of tractability might make good pets .
I think the most important aspect is for the trainer to be very honest, with an owner on what they actually have, and inform them of issues when they come up.
In my experience there are several evaluation time points for dogs. Initially most gun-dog trainers take a dog on for an evaluation period, before they decide to train a dog. Initial evaluation is usually a few weeks, heck a few minutes in some cases (but the trainer will usually give them at least a week ). After the evaluation period they call the owner up and are very honest, either the trainer won't take the dog on, or for the inbwter the owner decides whether to continue with training, to see if the dog can be brought around. A dog with no instinct usually doesn't make it through the initial evaluation period, most trainers will not take on a dog with absolutely no interest.
Once a trainer decides to take a dog on, The next evaluation period takes place after-during FF, some birdy dogs stall in the FF portion. With some dogs it's through sheer trainer stubbornness, that they get through this portion, and become gun-dogs. Again with a problem animal, who doesn't come around during-after the forcing process, the trainer will inform the owner and most likely not recommend further training.
The next evaluation; is if the dog is intelligent enough to learn handling, and count multiples; some dogs can't count 2, some can't count 3, some don't take to handling. You usually have an inkling what a dog can do, but some dogs will either come around or not during training. If after a time they don't progress in the skillset, the owner will be contacted and decisions will be made.
Last edited by Hunt'EmUp; 12-20-2013 at 04:39 PM.
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Great post !
If you were honest, given your comments in another thread about what you expect from your dogs, you would tell a prospective client about that right up front and that you were probably not a good choice for them as a trainer. You should probably also tell them that you think that if they don't know enough to know their dog is worth a flip or not then they are really not worthy of your time. You should probably also tell folks in that situation that you don't have time for them and that you are certainly not interested in helping them get any better as trainer/handlers regardless of their desire to learn, inexperience, etc. Come to think of it, if somebody knew enough about what they were doing to deserve you as their trainer, why would they even need you?
Was I honest or a turd? I am glad my FT pro decided to take me on even though I was working on my first dog and didn't know the first thing about training a dog. As a result, he has a client for life.
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Congratulations on your training. I watch videos too, and I would suggest that having a brain larger than a dog's is not necessarily saying much. But I digress.
I would love to have the knowledge, experience, and time to train my very first retriever. However, I tried to be unselfish and realistic about my abilities and give the dog the best chance to be successful. I put my pride aside and realized that at this juncture his best shot was with a pro for FF and CC. Is that maybe like asking questions from somebody who has won, in my pro's case more than one Open?
I took him the rest of the way through basics and transition from FTP on. So I guess I did take a little pride and try to learn how to train my own dog instead of just writing a check.
I sent my dog back to the pro this past summer to go up north and train for a couple months. It's difficult to train where I am between June and October because it is so hot. And he probably got more setups in those 2 months than I could do in 6. Plus I got some very valuable feedback on how to handle this dog. Even though you seem to think this is representative of the trainer winning, I still have to step to the line and handle the dog regardless of who trained him.
Even if I had trained 1,000 dogs like him and had all that knowledge and experience to bring to dog training (see my handle to the left, which is painfully truthful), I don't have the time or property (particularly technical water) to do in a month what he can get done in a week. I think the economics textbooks refer to this as specialization of labor.
At this point, we should probably agree to disagree or have any further discussion via PM.
Last edited by RookieTrainer; 12-21-2013 at 11:04 PM.
HR Belle's Rolling Big Rig "Jimmy"
One thing to remember is that not everyone has the same definition of gun dog and we each have our own expectations. One thing I learned during my stint as a pro trainer is that not everyone wants what I want in a dog. There were many dogs that I would have washed out had they been my personal dogs, but I got them to a level that the owners were absolutely thrilled with their performance and as happy as they could be. One example was a pure show-type lab that owned by a pretty wealthy client. This dog had low prey drive, low pack drive, not much intelligence and a real stubborn streak. After the first month, I invited him up to observe his dog and to have a discussion about him. After demonstrating the good and bad about his dog, and then demonstrating several other dogs at about the same age and training level, I discussed options for him. Well, this gentleman wanted THIS dog trained to whatever level I could get him. This was his dog and this was the dog he was sticking with. He asked me to keep the dog in training and see what we could accomplish.
His goal was to have a dog that would walk along at heel while walking up Valley Quail and then retrieve the birds once they were down. It took us a little while and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get the dog fully force fetched, but in the end, we had a dog that would do what he wanted. I still get e-mails from his wife from time to time raving about what a wonderful dog he is. He does exactly what this man wanted. He walks along at heel without any fuss and when he's sent for the birds, he goes and gets them. Others who have hunted with him have told me what a great job this dog does in digging out the tough birds. So a dog that I would have washed out after the first month went on to be exactly what the owner wanted. This is just one example among many similar situations. Another thing to remember is that many people don't really know what these dogs are capable of. Many times we would have folks come out to see the place and watch us train prior to bringing a dog in for training. Sometimes these were people who had hunted with dogs for many years and thought they new what a good gun dog looked like. It was sometimes amusing to see their reactions when they saw a truckload of MH dogs run a setup. The experience immediately changed their perception and expectations. So the owner/trainer's expectations determine how many get washed out. If you want a dog to pick up ducks out of the decoys, your washout rate will be pretty darned low with a well-bred lab. If you want to win a National, your washout rate may be just a bit higher.
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