Fish and Fetch
where they will be retrieving during hunting season. I do this with both my pointers and retrievers. They enjoy the work. I enjoy watching them, and I like the results. Come hunting season, we lose few cripples because our dogs know to root them out from hiding places.
Once a retriever understands hand signals and blind retrieves, creek fishing provides an excellent opportunity to polish these skills. Sometimes, when I let one of our retrievers walk ahead of me along a creek, I'll flip a dummy into some creek-side cover when he's not looking. I remember the dummy's location, then walk on. Fifty yards or so down the creek, I whistle the dog in, bring him to heel and give him the "back" command straight down the creek. When he is adjacent to the dummy, I give him the "sit" whistle, then give him a hand signal to the dummy. It works well.
On a creek outing with a retriever, I make sure I offer hand-signal work and opportunities for the dog to mark dummies down (see dummies fall and remember their location) so the dog gets good practice at both skills.
At our home we kennel five hunting dogs. Two belong to my 21-year-old son, Mike. When Mike joins me on creek fishing/dog training trips, we bring two dogs. It makes the training even better. We'll have two dogs on "sit" while we fish. When it's time to give the dogs some action, we alternate which dog gets to retrieve. One dog hits the water while the other sits and watches. This further steadies a dog to sitting when it really doesn't want to.
Unlike yard training, where a long session might be 30 minutes, these fishing/training sessions may last three hours or more, which equals the length of many hunts. Again, it doesn't get boring for dogs or trainers because of the action and change of scenery. It's great practice on basic obedience and general gun dog work. It also keeps dogs in top physical shape.
As much as I enjoy taking my dogs on these outings, I realize that some people do not share the same feelings toward dogs. If my son and I see a fisherman ahead, we bring dogs to heel. If we can, we leave the water, and with dogs at heel, we walk around the spot to avoid disturbing our fellow