Posted 09 September 2010 - 03:35 PM
It all depends on your definition of finished. Most professional trainers are taking around 4 months to turn out a gun dog. This dog is by no means able to compete in a field trial competition or even be considered to attain Master Hunter status in a hunt test, but they will be able to go hunting, retrieve to hand and should, it depends on the dog, be able to understand basic hand casts (left, right, and back). This would qualify most dogs to be able to achieve a Junior Hunter status in a hunt test. If a trainer takes a dog at 6-8 months and needs 4 months on average to train a gun dog then around 10-14 months they are done. I don't think this dog is ready to hunt since she cannot retrieve to hand, but since she will stay steady and has a willingness to retrieve I think she is ready to be force fetched; this will ensure that she will retrieve to hand every time. Retrieving to hand and sitting steady and quiet is the most basic that is needed for a gun dog; I know a lot of hunters that their dogs only meet this requirement and they have hunted with those dogs for years. It all depends on what level you are wanting your dog to perform at; without seeing the dog I couldn't be sure, but hearing what the dog will do I think that she could possibly meet the basic needs (sit steady and quiet, and retrieve to hand) by waterfowl season. He has taken her on a dove hunt so he knows whether or not she will be steady at the shot. She will go after the bird, but won't bring it back; so I think that steadiness and retrieve to hand can be accomplished with a reasonable percentage of success with over a month to go until season opener. She may have to miss the opener and go a little later in the season, but I wouldn't hesitate to take her out with only the basic skills required; I would of course keep my expectations low. Will she be a great hunter at this point? Probably not, but with time in the field she will get better at those basic skills. She will most definitely need to be helped with blind retrieves by throwing something near the bird to give her direction or by actually going out towards the bird and commanding her to fetch. To me this is not a finished dog and we don't expect this dog to be one yet, but I don't see any reason to not get her exposed, if she meets the basic requirements, to hunting scenarios so she can start to see what her job is. For a gun dog, like humans, there is training and experience and the dog needs both to be successful. There are dogs that are professionally trained and do great on their first hunt and then there are dogs that are professionally trained and do less than stellar on their first hunt; this may be due to their pedigree rather than actual training. I have a friend that has a dog that was like that. He got her from a pro towards the end of last years season and hunted her for the remainder of the season. Even though she had been through the full gun dog training course, on her very first retrieve she brought back a decoy to my friend. She was sent again and brought back the bird, but she did fail and does make mistakes because she is still figuring out how her training now applies to the job at hand because hunting has a lot of different variables that the dog may not have seen or been trained for. Yote man's dog will be the same way, as most dogs are. I am not advocating stopping training during the season, in fact they should continue to work and progress especially on areas that he sees she is lacking in. If he does take her hunting then he should only expect as much from her as he has trained her for, which would be only the most basic of hunting skills. Having her out in the field sitting steady for long periods of time and making easy retrieves and being helped with harder retrieves is also training her for the job without having a formal training session. The dog I have now is like this as well. I adopted the dog at 16 mos of age at the end of February with zero training. I worked on basic obedience for a month with this dog and then got a professional trainer to help me train the dog to be a gun dog. We continued with obedience while we were also doing the gun dog training. It took me around 2.5-3 months to get the dog steady, sit on a platform, force fetched, whistle commands and to take 6 handed casting (this is left and right over, left and right back, and left and right angle back). We have worked a little on 8 handed casting which is left and right angle in towards me, but I have backed off of that since I don't expect to use it much. I took my dog for his first hunt this year on a dove hunt. He was steady at the shot, and fairly quiet. He did have trouble finding the birds in the heavy cover and he had some poor mouth habits, which he doesn't have in training, with the birds due to his excitement. We have gone back to working on hold techniques to try and fix his mouthing problems and more work finding bumpers and birds in heavy cover, but his mistakes has not deterred me from continuing to take him hunting. My dog is not making multiple marks as well; the only way a dog will learn to do this is to shoot multiple birds over the dog and send them for the birds. My dog will make multiple marks with bumpers during training, but I don't have good access to areas to shoot birds for my dog so he will have to learn to make multiple marks with birds in a hunting situation by being put in that situation. The birds he isn't able to mark I will direct him there with our handling, but learning to watch the sky for birds and follow the muzzle is something that will only come with time in the field. A combination of training and actual hunting will at some point converge and he will be a great asset in the field; until then I have to be patient and help him along. I see bringing a young dog with basic gun dog training and no experience hunting to be just like bringing a junior hunter along with only hunter safety and a license for their first hunt. I don't expect the kid to call well, or at all, be able to make good shots and they may possibly have to be reminded of safety, and correct actions in the field. The dog, just like the kid, is going to be your partner in the field and you need to be patient with them and try to help them along the best you can. You see areas that they need improvement on and you work on that and you also continue to further their training towards the ultimate goal at the end. We don't wait until a kid can call perfectly, make great shots, and know all about our quarries habits and habitat before we take them out into the field; and I don't think that we should require the same with our dogs. As long as a kid, and a dog, can meet their basic requirements of the hunt we should take them. Sure they will make mistakes, but they are still learning from them as they go and we continue training them. Now I can see waiting until the dog has had a high level of training if you are looking to run a field trial since it is a competition between dogs, but a hunt test can be run with only basic training to achieve Junior Hunter status and you can continue to train and run tests to achieve Senior Hunter and Master Hunter status since they are a test of whether or not the dog can meet the standards that are set for each level.There are those individuals out there, like yote man's friends, that don't want a dog in the field until it is fully trained and tested with birds and I can understand this. I on the other hand see my dog as a companion in all aspects of my life and not just a tool to aid me in my hunting pursuits. I want to have my dog with me all the time and I am willing to let them hunt with lesser amount of skills to help them learn and build a partnership over time. If my hunt is slightly compromised by the dog being able to only do the most basic of skills then so be it since we are having a good time together, learning, and forming a bond. Now since I am not a professional trainer I may be wrong; these are only my opinions about dog training and hunting with dogs. I also agree that there are a lot of videos on you tube that can be used to learn a lot without buying books and yote man should definitely look there.