Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: East of the Mississippi
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I don't get to hunt as much as gdgli, so my comments are limited in both quantity and quality (esp. the latter). And, nearly all of my hunting is for waterfowl.
These are just random thoughts ....
My trial dogs hunt. It's as much a break from the routine for them as it is for me.
My standards are admittedly relaxed when hunting, but I don't throw them out the window either. If I blow a whistle, I expect my dog to sit (well, actually to turn around and tread water until I give a cast) ... PERIOD. If there's not a response to the whistle, consequences follow (in most instances, I am able to hunt with a collar on the dog).
Must the dog take the cast ... yes.
Must the dog be steady ... mostly.
HOWEVER, I do not hunt with a dog that is not at least through transition. It's not worth the hassle, or the risk of screwing up some milestone that I've reached with the dog, if it's not fairly solid.
In addition (this is not my original thought), I believe that dogs, at least most fairly well trained retrievers, are situational learners. That is, they understand the difference between hunting and trialing (but see CAVEAT, below).
CAVEAT: I co-owned one pretty good trial dog. Said trial dog was competitive in Opens and Ams. Said trial dog was running very well and my hopes were mounting for a strong fall trial season. Without prior warning, said co-owner took said trial dog dove hunting on Wednesday and Thursday. I picked up said dog Thursday night so I could run an Open the next morning. Said trial dog crept on the first bird down, and the second bird, and broke on the third bird ... it was a quad, so the dog never even knew that there was a flyer being shot! So, at least for my trial dogs, hunting during trial season is probably not gonna happen again.