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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was looking for an old thread to share with a friend that discussed evaluating retriever talent but I did not have success finding it. I remember that Dr. Aycock and Ted Shih and others with lots of experience with many dogs had given good thoughts. It must have been one of those "threads within a thread".

Since I couldn't find it, I ended up sending an article that Lardy wrote years ago. But it made me want to start a new thread on the topic. In the article written by Mike Lardy, he states evaluating Desire, Intelligence, Temperament, and Physical Ability are a good place to start. I think we can all agree on that.

In a separate article, he stated a case that "moderately sensitive retrievers with moderate desire were often the best candidates for advanced training." (before you shoot the messenger, he notes "you can successfully train dogs with a wide range of sensitivity, but inadequate desire is difficult to overcome")

So, of course, we are all thinking "MARKING" right? Mike states, "I don't think marking per se is a single trait or characteristic. Instead, I think good marking is the result of the right combination of desire, intelligence, temperament and physical ability. That's what makes marking such a good measure of retriever talent."

I thought that was a interesting way to look at "marking".

What are some things that you look for, or your pro is looking for, when evaluating if the dog could be a competitive all age dog?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Also in the Lardy article he has several different "Signs Of Promise" at certain levels of training when evaluating talent. Specifically in the Advanced Dog stage (18+ months)...he says:

"Five Signs of Promise"

1. Enthusiastically enters the water on blinds and memory marks
2. Roots out difficult to find memory birds, especially on tough short retired birds
3. Spots long gun easily. Watches most birds to the ground without head swinging
4. When you occasionally try something a little bit beyond your dogs level, he does it well or gives it a good stab
5. A wealthy field trialer offers you big bucks for your dog
 

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Also in the Lardy article he has several different "Signs Of Promise" at certain levels of training when evaluating talent. Specifically in the Advanced Dog stage (18+ months)...he says:

"Five Signs of Promise"

1. Enthusiastically enters the water on blinds and memory marks
2. Roots out difficult to find memory birds, especially on tough short retired birds
3. Spots long gun easily. Watches most birds to the ground without head swinging
4. When you occasionally try something a little bit beyond your dogs level, he does it well or gives it a good stab
5. A wealthy field trialer offers you big bucks for your dog
#5 is the easiest sign to see. 😎
 

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One of the first things I look for in a young dog is the ability to pick out the gun immediately without assistance.
 
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What are some things that you look for, or your pro is looking for, when evaluating if the dog could be a competitive all age dog?
Four legs and good ground to train on - of course, I'm the wannabe who just wannabe competing in AA.

As for picking out guns, no problemo, as I live in the flattest state on earth and the most wide open area of it (for, you know, kinda national security reasons 🤠) - which makes finding guns and seeing their way to 600-yard training blinds a piece of cake. But this might be of interest on the topic of developing young dogs for AA stakes - that is, if you've got a while to pull up a chair, or lean against a couple of stickmen with your headphones on -


MG
 

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When I think about evaluating talent I make an attempt to simplify how I assess potential. Some of the things I've noticed over the years, regardless of breed is that the very best tend to show an aptitude for the game at hand at a very young age. Not always but generally and that aptitude doesn't necessarily present as a trait that is always obvious.
With retrievers, to start, I look for the right amount of desire and focus. Desire is generally pretty obvious, the RIGHT amount perhaps not as much.
Focus sometimes is a little more difficult to evaluate when the dogs you are dealing have similar ability, in the sense that if they all show it then picking out an exceptional one is more difficult. However if you have observed a good number of dogs that do not show it, when you see one that does that dog sticks out like a sore thumb.
Recently I've had interaction with a young dog that as puppy showed really good memory. Now whether his is exceptional or all the other dogs I've had contact with were mediocre and he is just ok, remains to be seen. Regardless the behavior this young dog is displaying has my attention.

Reaction to pressure. Both in the complexity of the tasks demanded and pressure induced directly by the trainer (ie, collar pressure)

Trainability and intelligence. This seems a given but sometimes being "too smart" can detract from other traits that are desirable and make training progression more complicated than one prefers.

As to picking out guns, most of the dogs I've seen are capable of "seeing" the guns....it's whether they choose to acknowledge them that is the issue (which is what I suspect is meant when talking about picking out guns)
A young inexperienced dog that naturally acknowledges a long gun when there are short guns right in their face gets my attention.
 

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I think the ability to focus on the task at hand is huge. Even when they're cold, tired, or in the presence of a major distraction. When you have a youngster that shows this ability you have a good prospect. -Paul
 

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As to picking out guns, most of the dogs I've seen are capable of "seeing" the guns....it's whether they choose to acknowledge them that is the issue (which is what I suspect is meant when talking about picking out guns)
For it means that after a young dog knows that people in white exist to throw birds for it, that when it gets out of the truck, it is: a) looking for guns; b) promptly able to find them.

My best All Age dogs have all come out of the holding blind looking for guns. As I walked to the line, they found and identified them. When they sat on the line, I had the luxury of focusing them on the money bird.

All of those dogs as puppies had the knack of looking for guns and immediately finding them.

I believe that if a dog can find a gun, you can teach it to run to the AOF. So, for me, the first indication of marking ability is that ability to find guns.
 

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I believe that if a dog can find a gun, you can teach it to run to the AOF. So, for me, the first indication of marking ability is that ability to find guns.
While I cannot and do not disagree with this, for me in my experiences, the FIRST indication of marking ability is a dog that focuses on the bird/bumper itself and has a strong tendency to run straight to the fall and come up with that bird and like previously mentioned they show it very early in their development.

It is interesting what you wrote however as the young male I mentioned above with the strong memory ran a triple at 5 months old the very first time he had seen multiple guns. Was it a long complex triple...no of course not. It was short and very simple but the dog recognized what the situation was, seeing the guns.
I do not regard this dog as a talented marker out of the gate so to speak and yet.....
 

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I think that the best dog are great problem solvers. They have a sense of what they are supposed to do and when they get in trouble, they work their way out of it. Obviously, you can't know that a 5 month puppy will grow up into a big dog that knows how to work out a nasty quad with two long flyers and two nasty short birds. But, I think you can get a sense of how quickly a dog learns and how easily that puppy adapts to become a member of your household.
 

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...I think you can get a sense of how quickly a dog learns and how easily that puppy adapts to become a member of your household.
Ted, I figure you wrote this for a majority of rtf members who train their own dogs from the outset. Won't go into semantics, but what about a puppy that's headed to a pro at 6 months, maybe sooner, and was never going to get the chance to become a member of a household - unless that's a watershed label for inhabiting a kennel?

MG
 

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Ted, I figure you wrote this for a majority of rtf members who train their own dogs from the outset. Won't go into semantics, but what about a puppy that's headed to a pro at 6 months, maybe sooner, and was never going to get the chance to become a member of a household - unless that's a watershed label for inhabiting a kennel?

MG
Great question!
I have a dog right now that has only spent his 1st 6 months home and a few weeks here and there and has been with a trainer pretty much his whole life he will be 2 in March.
HERE IS ANOTHER QUESTION? do you think it makes a difference if the dog comes home for periods of time or just trains his whole life and runs trials
 

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I think that the best dog are great problem solvers. They have a sense of what they are supposed to do and when they get in trouble, they work their way out of it. Obviously, you can't know that a 5 month puppy will grow up into a big dog that knows how to work out a nasty quad with two long flyers and two nasty short birds. But, I think you can get a sense of how quickly a dog learns and how easily that puppy adapts to become a member of your household.
Problem solving is super important to me. I think it goes hand in hand with high intelligence. (Honestly intelligence itself can be broken down into different attributes, but that is a whole other discussion).

I have limited experience and can't say if it changes anything, but free shaping for behaviors with youngsters has shown me just how important problem solving is - and how it can be taught to puppies as young as 5-6 weeks of age. For certain doing so at least gives you an idea at how quickly a puppy can learn (or can't LOL).

There is nothing as rewarding as seeing a dog easily learn and then make the right choice after being shown their first choice was incorrect. Either in a marking situation, or yardwork/drill situation.
 

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HERE IS ANOTHER QUESTION? do you think it makes a difference if the dog comes home for periods of time or just trains his whole life and runs trials
I have known some wonderful dogs whose lives have been lived in a kennel and/or on a dog truck never having the opportunity to get to enjoy the pleasures of being a dog as someone’s companion free to explore, sniff, and lounge in fresh green grass on a warm spring day. I have come to feel sorry for those dogs who sole reason for existence is to salve some person’s ego. Imagine spending your whole life at the office.
 

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Ted, I figure you wrote this for a majority of rtf members who train their own dogs from the outset. Won't go into semantics, but what about a puppy that's headed to a pro at 6 months, maybe sooner, and was never going to get the chance to become a member of a household - unless that's a watershed label for inhabiting a kennel?

MG
Speaking strictly for myself, my puppies usually go to a pro at 6 months. By then, though, they have integrated into my home pack, learning to live with the house dogs and humans. They form social relationships with those dogs and the people here that last their lifetime. Those relationships are still visible when I take an 8-year old, home for a winter break, pheasant hunting with a 12 year old that he knew as a 3 month old. Or at motel with one of the other dogs when I show up a trial with my pro. Those dogs might live in a kennel for some months at a time, but they also come home periodically. Thank heavens I retired so the dogs aren't gone for 9 months at a time anymore, but even then the dogs could waltz right back into my home, pick up the relationships they'd established as babies (albeit changing some with age) and resume their roles has household members. Little things like who gets the couch and who lays on which side of the bed are often pretty fixed by the time they leave for the pro. My point is that even for a dog with a pro for most of the time, these dogs should be able to move into and out a household regularly with much social grace and comfort. Social stability is a hallmark of a well balanced retriever in my view.

Observationally, the dogs that are on my pros truck with little owner contact still form healthy social relationships with other clients and other dogs, adapting to that life yet having built a social network that is visible in the airing yard, walking to the blind through the training gallery, or on a stake out. Maybe kennel life isn't ideal but that adaptability is pretty apparent in a successful FT dog in my experience.
 

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I have known some wonderful dogs whose lives have been lived in a kennel and/or on a dog truck never having the opportunity to get to enjoy the pleasures of being a dog as someone’s companion free to explore, sniff, and lounge in fresh green grass on a warm spring day. I have come to feel sorry for those dogs who sole reason for existence is to salve some person’s ego. Imagine spending your whole life at the office.
The assumption here is the dog would know the difference and that it doesn't enjoy being at the office it's whole life. A little anthropomorphic on your part.
The very best are bred and live for being at the office.
That said, I think it is unfortunate as full time kennel/truck dogs will never be quite as well rounded in my opinion, as they could be had they had the connection that comes with closer contact of being a companion as well as a working dog with purpose.
 
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