He used to have a habit of picking-up dummies at the end, like a cigar, when he was being trained but this stopped. Any advice?
JEREMY HUNT SAYS: While most labradors are natural retrievers, inexperienced young gun dogs can sometimes tackle the job more hesitantly when it comes to actually taking hold of shot game.
At least you have spotted your dog’s tendencies at an early age.
No doubt your efforts to encourage him to pick-up dummies in a balanced fashion were successful during his training.
In the shooting field the variety of game he will come across is a far cry from a cylindrically-shaped and ‘still’ dummy used in training.
A gun dog that has a tendency to pick-up dummies in an unconventional way will often be daunted by the irregularity in size and shape and the unpredictable nature of game.
A gun dog like this needs to learn how to pick-up an item in such a way that he can carry it in a balanced fashion that will not impede his movement.
I would make sure that a range of retrieving dummies – in terms of weight and shape and texture – are used, as well as the conventional 1lb and 3lb canvas types.
There’s now an excellent range of training dummies on the market – including the rubber bird dummies with swinging heads to encourage gun dogs to pick-up game correctly – that you should arm yourself with for the summer. And don’t forget to keep a few big cock pheasants in the freezer.
The ‘cigar-style’ retrieve can be an annoying habit, so every effort must be made to work with a type of dummy that is not easily picked in this way.
As this is now an adult gun dog I would steer clear of using small dummies for a while.
Try him with the 6lb hare dummy that will really require him to take hold of it properly in order to achieve a comfortable and efficient retrieve.
It may take time but the aim should be to bolster the gun dog’s confidence so that he can approach anything to be retrieved and take hold of it in a way that makes him feel balanced and secure in his job.