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Should I rest my struggling lab?

My young lab is picking-up for the first time this season.

Thanks to an understanding keeper I can give him enough work without him losing his head but I’ve got a problem when sending him on blind retrieves.

Should I persevere or put him away until next season and go back to dummies?

I wouldn’t advise putting him away for the rest of the season.

Use this time to get him accustomed to the experience of shoot days and use your own judgment about how much work you give him.

Better that he sits, watches and learns to be steady rather than spend his days at home.

Don’t spoil him by letting him pick too many birds, even if they are easily marked retrieves.

If you want to send him for a bird that’s down and that he hasn’t seen, make sure it’s a dead bird.

It is ideal if you get a good mark on a bird and it’s in a quiet spot away from the rest of the activity at the end of a drive.

Try and do this where you know no other birds have fallen.

Of course, even in a quiet spot you must be sure he’s listening to you and is responsive to the whistle and taking directions.

The scent of game and shot, the level of activity and the unpredictability of a shoot day can never be replicated in a training session.

Help your gun dog concentrate on the job in hand by removing as many temptations as possible, such as other gun dogs working around you, and the scent of other birds.

Create a situation that helps him stay focused and avoid things that could scupper progress.

Always give the gun dog the fairest chance of succeeding by listening and responding to you.

Although you believe there are no other birds down in the area there will be other scents causing a tantalising attraction.

Send him away on a clear direction.

As soon as he starts to waver from where you know the bird has fallen you must stop him.

Allow him to settle for a few seconds, gain his attention and then give a clear hand signal.

If he deviates stop him again. Remember the bird is dead and going nowhere, so take time before you give another hand signal.

What you may perceive to be a gun dog ignoring your commands can be a gun dog that knows more than you do and is using his instinct.

For more gun dog training advice click here