The “V” in NAVHDA stands for versatile, which in many cases is synonymous with retrieving. As the saying goes “conserve game, hunt with a trained dog.” That dog must bring back anything you shoot, wherever it lands, every time. (In Europe, and even some NAVHDA tests if you choose, furred game can be part of the retrieving challenge.)
We’ve got a long way to go, Manny and me. The NAVHDA Utility test is complex, and in large part composed of skills that are, frankly, hard to train for. They are difficult because they require water. And most of us don’t have access to the right kind of water, if any. So this critical component gets short shrift.
So, to the water we went. Luckily, trainer and NAVHDA judge Bob Farris was willing to offer some tips. I spent part of my summer vacation – actually, one morning last week – working with Bob. To say it was eye opening would be an understatement.
As most pointing-breed owners ultimately figure out, their dog will pick up and bring back some things some times, but “natural retriever” is not a term that has much heft for us. Force fetch training is critical if we’re to live up to the “conserve game” credo.
And retrieving in all its forms is a gigantic part of the test. But Manny is not quite at the top of his game due to my lack of diligence. His force-training was good, to a point. But on birds, he’d often slack off prior to delivering to hand: stop, drop, or do a little dance prior to delivery. And I’d been remiss in requiring prompt completion of the transaction.
So, back to the training table and yard work. Starting with the “here” command, expecting full compliance no matter the distraction. Using the back-off, run-away method when necessary, augmented with e-collar tones and if necessary, stimulation. Then adding the fetch command and expecting full compliance with that last, crucial ten feet of delivery to hand. Then including water in the equation.
But no birds yet. Bumpers, sure. But I’m not ready to risk a slip of the finger on the red button while birds are in play.
Thanks Bob. I’ll let you know how it goes.