Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beware When Purchasing A Started Hunting Retriever

With pheasant season opening in a few days, the idea of obtaining a started hunting retriever might be very appealing to some hunters. Often buyers of started dogs want to bypass the puppy stage and buy a dog that is already trained.

Sometimes the family has no time for a puppy and for all the hours that go into training a competent canine hunting partner. Or they just don't have the knowledge about training. Perhaps they are very knowledgeable and experienced with hunting retrievers, but they have suffered an injury or illness that prevents them from doing the work needed. And sometimes a family dog passes on unexpectedly, leaving the family without a dog for hunting season.

For those who wish to purchase a started hunting retriever, but have no experience training and handling dogs, beware! A good looking website and a fancy kennel name does not mean buying a dog from that kennel is your best choice.

Recently we heard from a newly retired couple who had purchased a "Started Pointing Labrador Retriever" from a kennel out in the country. They had no experience handling hunting retrievers and did not know what questions to ask about the dog's training level. They were charged $2,400.00 for a nine-month old black Labrador Retriever. The price sounded fair for a dog of this age, until we found out how little "training" the dog actually had.

The couple was invited out to one of our group's training sessions on a weekend. When they saw the level of training in our nine-month old Labrador Retrievers they began to dread taking their dog off their truck. When they did let their dog out of his kennel, the dog took off into the field toward a gun station where we had been shooting ducks. No amount of calling him would get him to return and he had to be caught. It turns out that the dog did not have even basic obedience. He had no recall. He was not force-fetched. (No trained retrieve.) He was not collar conditioned. The only thing he did have was a tremendous and maniacal desire for birds.

Because they hadn't known the right questions to ask, and because they were told that the dog was ready to hunt, they were disappointed to find out that they probably would not be able to hunt the dog this season.

A dog that jumps out of the handler's vehicle and runs off playing keep-away--or worse--runs out to another hunter and their dog across the field, is not only a danger to himself, but a big annoyance to other hunting parties and an embarrassment to his handler.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing a "started" nine-month old retriever, as long as you know what questions to ask about the dog's level of training, are willing to team up with an experienced trainer or training group and spend the time furthering the dog's development as well as your skills in handling a high-powered dog.

For an inexperienced handler, even buying a very seasoned or "finished" dog will not necessarily make for great teamwork. The handler must learn how to lead the dog and call the shots in the field. No matter how well trained the dog is, he will always look to the handler for direction. If the handler does not understand how to direct the dog, the partnership will falter.

Before buying a dog with any level of training, ask yourself if you have the time and interest required to become a competent handler. Understand that it will take time for you and your new dog to become a great team.

If buying a started dog ask questions like, "Is this dog force-fetched?" "What kind of yard work has the dog been doing?" "Is he collar conditioned to a remote training (electronic) collar?" "Does the dog take directional casts and sit on a whistle out in the field?" "How does the dog like water?" "Is the dog doing multiple marks or single marks off multiple guns?" "Will the dog honor another dog while the other dog is working a bird?"

A started hunting retriever should at least have basic obedience, be force-fetched and worked through the T-Pattern on both land and water. If the dog has been put through at least this much training it is fair for the seller to ask a price significantly higher than the price of a puppy. If not, the buyer is just being sold a big, out-of-control, overgrown puppy.

For a video of early training of hunting retriever puppies click here: Started Pups

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