OBEDIENCE IN RETRIEVING
by Dodo Kelly
Over the years it has been said obedience has no place at Non Slip Retrieving Trials. Perhaps it is true of the confined restricted obedience work seen at obedience trials but on viewing the All Age Section at Retrieving Trials, no one could doubt obedience is the foundation of the partnership between the handler and the dog. Obedience clubs recommend that you allow your dog to 'run free' by removing the correction chain but all gun dogs should be taught to stay in working mode even without the chain. At the starting peg at Retrieving Trials you are asked to remove the lead but as this means the lead, correction chain and any leather collars your dog must be trained to work without them. It is dangerous to run a dog in the bush or to swim while wearing anything that could be snagged.
Your dog must be quiet in 'the hide'. Teach him at an early age to be tethered up out of sight and build up the period of time you leave him. You may watch other competitors complete their runs but your dog must be completely out of sight. To see a marked bird from 'the hide' rather than the firing peg will totally confuse your dog and you could be accused of trying to cheat!
Plan your heeling pattern from the starting peg to the firing pegs. Allow your dog to walk on the flat straight area while you walk through the tussocks and over the rocks because your dog won't walk through; he will walk around and you will lose points for him wandering all over the place. On steep slopes or through fences etc, leave the dog on a sit stay. Navigate the awkward area and then call him to heel.
A dog taught to walk neatly beside the left leg will have the benefit of being in the correct position to be nicely set up at the firing pegs. Any dog lunging ahead will be well past the firing pegs before the handler even gets there. During training try to overcome this by walking up on lead or doing a quick right about turn and walking away. The dog is left out there all by himself with nothing happening. A dog walking wide could end up outside the firing peg, so try stepping to the right and calling him to heel during training.
If a dog is not in the correct position at the pegs, bring him to heel without touching the dog and remember, the judge will not wait forever. It is not mandatory for the dog to be in the sit position but it is recommended. In the drop position the dog won't see much and it is easier for the dog to break from the standing position. Should he break before your command of 'fetch', stop him by whistle or a very loud voice and then send him only when you are sure you have gained control. Points are lost for a dog breaking, but less are deducted if you can stop him. Sit the dog's whole body in the direction of the mark; not just his nose. Use the word 'wait' or 'stay' and teach him that 'watch' means look out ahead in the direction the gun is pointing. When the dog returns with the bird encourage him to sit (or stand) close in front of you. Never lean out over him or he will stay further away. Any bird dropped should be picked up by him. Do a right about turn while the dog is still in front of you and the call him to follow you at heel. Again he sits (or stands) at your left side when you halt at the starting peg to hand over the gun and birds. You are still in competition until you have placed the lead on the dog. A loop type slip lead is the easiest to use in Retrieving Trials.
Any obedience is taught to the dog at close range and when you attempt to put some distance between you and the dog, maintain control of every command , even if it means running across a field to do a correction. Retrieving Trials have been won or lost on one point and that one point could have been gained or lost in obedience. Remember, in all stages of retrieving trialling from Beginners to All Age - maintain control!