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[This, from one of last year’s broadcasts, was driven home again to me in a recent conversation. Not too early to start re-learning these things.]

In someone else’s house, even Buddy’s on his best behavior. But when you hunt with someone else’s dog, everybody’s a critic … or worse. Be a good guest in the field, too.

Let the dog’s owner tell you what to do, whether it’s feeding, doctoring or field etiquette. Ask about shooting wild flushes, or birds over a broken point.

Keep criticism to yourself. If your dog were better, you’d be hunting with him. Same for commands and discipline, which usually fall on deaf furry ears coming from a stranger.

Help a dog retrieve to his owner by turning away if he comes toward you. It eliminates confusion.

You can always offer praise. A scratch behind the ear or a stroke on the back are always welcome after the job is done. Until then, keep your mouth shut and your hands in your pocket.

And finally, don’t forget the other obligation of a good guest. A bottle of something old from Scotland for your human host ensures a return invitation.

– Scott

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So sue me.

We are a year behind in the training schedule (ironically, because I’ve hunted with too many other people’s dogs in too many other states). But Buddy’s nemesis, the retrieve, is starting to shape up. Dare I jinx it by sharing my progress?

Suffice it to say the one universal, all-things-for-all-purposes motivator for Buddy is food. And I’d neglected to use it in training to retrieve. But recent posts have discussed our retrieving training without addressing why I do it the way I do, so here goes …

Sure, the force-breaking thing is all the rage, but not for me – what would it do to the roll-on-the-floor stretching routine, for example? So it’s all carrot and no stick on the backyard training table at my house. (Save your ire for another blog – force fetching is NOT an option.)

So far, so good. And here’s how we do it:

– Every good move (or non-move, when on “whoa,” for example) is rewarded. Note that I give treats and praise for Buddy’s NOT doing something wrong as often as for doing something right!

– Even baby steps in the right direction merit a treat

– Once a part of the retrieve is mastered, fewer treats are offset by more praise

Eventually, my pockets won’t smell like chicken or salmon and Buddy will continue to bring back birds. Until then, I don’t mind the occasional whiff of seafood when I reach for my truck keys.

– Scott 

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