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Training a young Labrador to start picking-up

Should a reader train his dog alone or with his older dog?

Labrador picking-up training

Is it better to train a youngster alone?

Q: I have a young Labrador bitch I want to start picking-up with this season. Should I take her along with my older and experienced bitch, or would it be better to take her on her own so 
I can devote more time to her?

A: Hopefully, your young bitch has become used to being around your older dog while she’s working, so will be steady and not get wound up when there’s action around her.

The first trip to the shooting field always introduces a totally different atmosphere to the proceedings. The excitement and temptations that you had assumed had been overcome in training suddenly start to undermine some of the basics.

As one of the picking-up team you have to keep focused on your job, so even though you are trying to introduce a youngster to her role, it can be difficult to perform your usual duties. Most youngsters go up several gears on their first few days of ‘real’ work and the last thing you want to happen is for problems to occur that you can’t quickly control.

Labrador picking-up

The first few retrieves are critical

Labrador picking-up training

The first few retrieves — and there should only be a few — are critical. They should be easy, marked birds, very dead, and preferably hen pheasants. I think partridges can easily get crunched through inadvertent enthusiasm, which is something you certainly don’t want.

My advice is to forego some picking-up pay and take your youngster out a couple of times on her own, using it as a training session. Then give her a couple of half-days with the older dog when you feel she knows more of what 
to expect is going to happen and 
is more composed.

She will learn from the older dog but don’t be in too much of a rush 
to give her a free rein. It’s often better to quit while you are ahead with 
a youngster, so don’t be reluctant 
to put her back on the lead after 
a couple of good retrieves. Simply 
let her settle and think about what she’s done, rather than allowing 
her too many birds.