I'm not interested in field trials, either (and have nothing against those who are), so stuff beyond "Transition" isn't all that helpful to me.
Maybe I should add that the latest fad breedings aren't a cure-all, either, and breeding for a more "complete" dog would be nice... One of the nicest dogs's I've know had a local non-famous, non-FT pedigree. His owner summed up fad breeding this way, "You wouldn't let someone do brain surgery on you just because his parents were neurosurgeons, would you?"
Milner and Stewart's stuff might work fine, too. I haven't tried their approach.
Ultimately, the trainer has to "read" the dog. Some folks is better at that than others...
Last edited by Keith Stroyan; 12-15-2012 at 10:21 AM. Reason: magic
"Prepare your dog in such a manner that the work he is normally called upon to do under-whelms him, not overwhelms him." ~ Evan Graham
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
― George Bernard Shaw
The Smartwork System for Retriever Training (link)
Duck was Mr. Wolters' final lab, and as far as I know, Charlie Jurney did almost all the training with "Duck".
It was watching Mr. Wolters handle Duck in a NAHRA test that I learned first hand, the caution one must use in saying the dog's callname. Duck had been trained to release for marks on his callname - "Duck". Mr. Wolters was handling Duck in a Senior NAHRA test and they were honoring. Duck had crept a bit, and Mr. Wolters tried to quietly control him. He was starting to say "Duck, here". He only got the first word out - and Duck broke.
I probably still have the issue of the NAHRA News article where Mr. Wolters wrote a column called "Wolters Speaks". In that, not long before his death, he wrote about the virtues of e-collar training, collar conditioning, and force fetch. Although 'til the day he died, he would openly tell folks that he did not "Force Fetch" his dogs. In reality though, his final dog Duck, absolutely was force fetched and collar conditioned by Charlie Jurney.
By the time Mr. Wolters' life was passing, I do believe he was beginning to understand that there may be other ways to train that could give a bit more effectiveness than the sketchy methods he outlined in his books.
I have fond memories of running a blind with one of my dogs when Mr. Wolters was judging. It happened to be at the Stewart WMA in NY near the Airforce base, not far from Newburgh, NY. It was during "Desert Storm" and there were C5A cargo planes lifting off with regularity. I remember seeing Mr. Wolters jot the phrase "plane noise" on his notebook as my dog had a whistle refusal on a blind as one of those liftoffs was taking place.
It was just an mid-level blind, what NAHRA calls an "Intermediate" and I recall Mr. Wolters said we could stand anywhere we liked to launch our dogs. I remember it was a really sloppy marshy shore and my dog was not that good on water entry and was a big, big water cheater. I went back to my truck, put on chest waders, and walked out about chest deep, putting my dog on a hunk of floating mat, and kicked him off from there. I remember Mr. Wolters smiling and saying it was wise to take advantage of the leeway the judges give.
I found Mr. Wolters from that perspective to be a reasonable guy, who was focused on the intent of the hunt test programs at that point in time. He realized that like Omar Driskill used to say, the hunt tests were for the "muddy guys in camo".
It was at that same test that he phoned home to talk to his wife Olive, and she reported that his puppy "Duck" had just swam for the first time. Jack Scanlon was Mr. Wolters' co-judge that day.
One thing that has always amazed me is the "staying power" of Mr. Wolters' books. Just this week I was doing some Xmas shopping at a Cabela's and looked through the dog supplies. Sure enough, Mr. Wolters' books were there on the book rack. The only modern info that I recall seeing there was Chris Akin's material. I do think it is impressive that Mr. Wolters books continue to be prominently displayed at major retailers' locations for the training supplies.
I am sure that some of the things I do today with puppies, are things I picked up from Mr. Wolters' stuff. After a while, we pickup bits and pieces from all around and it just kind of becomes engrained in what we do. I would not say that his books are junk. I would say, that for anyone that wants an intermediate or advanced retriever that will handle and not cheat the bank, his material is of limited value.
Guys like Mike Lardy have taken those techniques that used to be part of the "inside society" who exchanged Rex Carr notes and photocopied them, and helped evolve them into something a bit more "novice-friendly", Shuffle-proofing, and available to the average guy.
Like many in today's dog games, Mr. Wolters had an ego. Mr. Wolters was a competitive spirit. Mr. Wolters was human....just as we all are.
While I don't bother opening his books to train at all today, I do believe Mr. Wolters helped make a mark on our sport in many ways.
Enjoyed that, Mr. Atkinson - thanks for sharing.
I had one more Wolters memory that I'd like to write about. It just popped into my mind and I've got the time to type.
My lab when I was in my early 20's was named "Champ". The RTF banner in the top left shows his good side. A professional photographer took many shots of us to get one that looked that good!
In Mr. Wolters later years, he did some part time work at the Manhattan Orvis shop, and Randy Carlson (now an exec at Lion Country Supply) was the store manager back then. I had befriended Randy through NAHRA and I got an invite to participate in the retriever demos done by MR. Wolters at an Okemo Mountain Resort event. It was held in conjunction with the World Sporting Clays championship.
Mr. Wolters was quite the showman, wearing his sportcoat and knickers with a bowtie. He talked up quite the public yarn as we demonstrated some retriever basics. He also spent lots of time autographing copies of his book - those folks brought from home to have him sign - and those that folks bought there at the show.
"Show Spot the pictures, you read the words, then both believe" ...was a common autograph he'd inscribe in the books.
We had a simple water retrieve around an oval pond. Randy Carlson and Reva would run the marks beautifully. Vito and Carrie (Angelone) but before Carrie married Vito, were there with a litter of puppies and of course all of Vito's dogs ran great. It was at that very event that Vito told me of the Kappes-Curtis and/or Carr-curtis tapes that were circulating around and how one could use this "new program" to get dogs to handle great. I finally learned what he was referencing when I chose to open my mind a bit and truly study Lardy's materials.
Champ, my big, clunky yellow lab was of common backyard breeding. He had one FC a few brackets back. FC Deltone Buck, I believe was the distant field champion on his pedigree. Poor Champ was hacked and mishandled by myself through lots of trial and error. I will never, ever forget coming to the line with great big "Champ" to run a water mark. Just as I was signalling for the mark, Mr. Wolters said into the microphone "By land or by sea?!!!"
Champ ran the bank, he got the mark, he never got a foot wet. I remember vowing that day to learn to train better and to get a better-bred dog later in my life.
Somewhere in this thread I read someone writing something about today's labs being of less natural ability than labs years ago. I would agree that there are many more pet labs out of questionable stock with questionable natural ability. This is just due to the sheer popularity of the breed. I would not agree that today's FC/AFC breedings in North America are producing animals of lesser "natural ability".
What's wonderful about today's retriever games around the world is that we have some very diverse games and desired qualities. The Brit games require very level-headed, even-keeled, calm, and rock-steady dogs that perform well under the excitement of many gunshots and chaotic settings. The USA trials require dogs with much more drive, liniing ability and pinpoint marking capabillity among tricky setups with multiple factors.
Simple logic would follow that if you take the top performers in either type game, and breed them to other top performers, after several generations, you're probably likely to produce puppies who are more likely to possess those qualities. That's selective breeding.
Those of us who think blondes are the most beautiful would probably not be likely to pick a brunette if we were judging a beauty pageant. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I like to think of my drives through Amish country when I think of retriever breedings. I frequently see two distinctly different types of horses in the Amish lots. There are gigantic horses, I'm not sure what they are technically called, but I call them "Draft Horses". There are also other style horses. They are smaller, leaner, faster looking horses. They both serve 2 different purposes - one pulls heavy stuff and gets major pulling done. The other is nimble and quick and is the horsepower behind the Amish buggies. The Amish don't argue about which is a better horse. Neither is truly better. One is better at some, and the other is better at a different set of performance skills.
Same with labradors - Brit versus North American Field.
Years ago when I ran NAHRA exclusively, I was a victim of breathing too much NAHRA air. When you breathe your own air too much, you get a closed mind. I used to think it was best and desireable that dogs running NAHRA be out of MHR x MHR breedings and that FC or MH was a bad thing. That's stupid logic!
I used to find it hypocritical that Jack Jagoda, back when he was with Diana at Southland, listed all these Field Trial titles in his breedings and litters. It used to bum me out that he did not more deliberately advertise NAHRA titled dogs as the breeding stock and not showcase the field titles. Decades later, I think I get it.
If you're happy with your dog, that's what matters. If you're happy with your training and results, that's what matters. It is totally possible that your tastes and needs will evolve over time. They may even come full-circle.
Here is a photo of me about 25+ years ago getting a ribbon from Richard Wolters. The ribbon was to my Tar and it was the first "gold" band awarded in NAHRA.
Chris those were good posts about RW and his contributions. Back in 1985-86 he was a big deal in my neck of the woods. Like many people I have outgrown his work. I don't know why the photo didn't scan in color because they did actually have color back in those days.
Go Nutts with dog training
HRCH Patton's Parker Co. Shadow "Shadow"
HRCH Clineline Hijacker "Jack"
HRCH Marks a Lot Midnight Hudson, SH "Hudson"-retired
Thanks so much for posting that delicious snap of RW!
I don't have much to add to the discussion save that I too find his written works rather charming period pieces. You could still put together a decent retriever with his stuff, but time has moved on and better things are available. I put RW in the same bracket as his (approximate) UK equivalent Peter Moxon. I met PM several times and a nicer bloke never pulled on boots; he was a very fine writer, a great judge of a bottle of Burgundy, and an even greater judge of a well turned female ankle. Dog trainer? ... oh well.
I think my New Year resolution will be the furtherance and promotion of a more formal approach amongst you guys in the dress dept. Breeks, tweeds, sock flashes, the lot.
One for the lads .... and another for the lassies
Last edited by Colonel Blimp; 12-16-2012 at 09:05 AM.
Thank you, very kind, Mine's a pint.