Great film clip. Dave Elliot was very central to early US Retriever Field Trials. Here is some information on him:
Dave Elliot was one of the first Scottish gamekeepers to come over and help get the Labrador established in America. In 1934 Dave was hired by Jay Carlisle to run one of the early important American Labrador kennels, Wingan. Dave Elliot was a gifted trainer and went on in later years to become a significant spokesman for the sport of field trialing. He was a contributor to Field and Stream, Country Life and The Field Trial News. In 1952 he wrote the book, Training Gundogs to Retrieve.
Dave Elliot was one of the first trainers to train hand signals and was a cheerleader for retriever field trials, but he was not happy with the direction they had taken. In 1949 he wrote:
"As the retriever trial season rolls around I cannot help but wonder what new and complicated tests will be given to try out the mechanical ability of our dogs. I use the word mechanical because that is exactly what we are developing. Our field trials call for precision in every performance, and they do not care from which end of the leash it comes. In fact, many tests are given today that call for a great deal more from the handler than the dog; it is like keeping a dog and doing the barking yourself. Such tests have forced the trainer to train his dogs to act only under his complete command; the dog is not allowed to quarter his ground as is the correct way for a retriever to work. He is not permitted to show his natural ability in hunting out a fall. Yet what would give greater pleasure to a retriever man than to watch that keen natural ability that puts the hallmark of excellence on all his dog’s work? It is to be regretted that this type of work is left out of our trials. A great deal of what belongs to the dog has been placed in the handler’s hands; a more artificial performance could not be demonstrated.
Handlers and owners brag about how their dog will go in a straight line for one hundred and fifty yards unless stopped by the whistle. This is seldom called for in hunting. Niney-five per cent of your work with a retriever is accomplished within gun range, and the less whistling and handling done during a shoot will put more birds in your bag. I am sure there is nothing that will bring down more wrath on a handler’s head from his fellow gunners than one who insists on blowing whistle and waving arms to pick up a stray duck while the flight is on.
The more we train our dogs to depend on that whistle and direction, the more helpless they are going to become, and it is going to show up in our breeding. We cannot expect the offspring of mechanical parents to show much natural ability. To keep our dogs from looking like complete mechanical nitwits, we will have to breed to the old river rat, whose natural ability has been given full scope; and only then will we get back to the old type of retriever who has a head and knows how to use it.
The old adage of “when in doubt, trust your dog” seems to have died a silent death with the introduction of scientific training. To be able to give a dog direction out to a fall is a great asset, but I do think that we should make it the exception instead of the rule. We should encourage and protect natural ability. We will most surely lose it if we continue to monopolize those hunting instincts that make the retriever one of conservation’s greatest friends."