One of the many Alaska outdoor adventures during summer in the Matanuska Valley is retriever training. Last weekend I took my Labrador to the first picnic fun hunt test of the summer. These type of retriever field trials are meant to test a retriever’s ability to hunt effectively for their handler. Although some participants are interested in accruing points needed to get ribbons and move up to a more demanding category of tests, many of us simply want to improve our dog’s ability to be a good hunting dog, as well as a good companion in the field.

Waiting our Turn

Of course, us handlers can the most from these events if we keep our eyes and ears open, and ask lots of questions. The good advice has to be gleaned from all the ‘free’ advice readily given out without a request, but there is plenty of that among the very experienced dog handlers on the field. And, fellow training partners can also be discovered here. At last week’s event, I noticed how a dog’s behavior coincided with its handler’s approach to dog training. The calm, patient handlers typically had obedient – or at least managealbe – dogs. Handlers who yelled repeatedly with unchecked emotions mostly had wild dogs who ignored their handlers. My wife says, “Yeah, kid and dogs react alike to both types of parents.” In many ways, dogs and kids do react in the same way to each of these ‘parenting’ methods. However, these observations are easier to see at dog events since these animals react in more predictable ways to training methods. I always come away from these events with a better understanding of dogs and how I can be a better handler for my dog. I’ll enjoy my dog at home and in the field more because of this.

Retrieving the Duck – His Joy in Life