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Smart Retrieving Basics - Part 1

If the puppy is more than 3 months old, don't shoot and use the "little birds" such as starlings, wrens, etc., for your retrieving. They are the one gulp size and if there is blood and guts it can cause a "munching" problem.  A dog can develop an eating problem from shot-up birds or wet pigeons. If that happens, only use birds that are not shot--do not use wet or frozen pigeons.  If you use the frozen pigeons, let them thaw all the way first.  Gas the pigeons (in a bag over the exhaust of the car) so that there is no featherless skin, blood, guts, etc.  You can apply a shot and throw them with less chance of the dog eating them.  Never use a badly shot duck until the eating or mouthing problem is solved.  Later, train using a duck with an open wound, as you will get the odd one in a trial, test or when hunting but use this after the force fetching is done and there is no eating problem.

Don't use birds all the time.  If the dog picks them up with no problem, has learned to smell for them and brings them to you with a soft mouth then you've achieved what's important.  Train with canvas and vinyl bumpers, and birds only occasionally.  A young dog can loose interest in bumper work quickly if they know birds are nearby.  There might be times or places where you can't use birds or they aren't accessible. 

Contributed by Jane Pappler
Redlion Chesapeakes and Labradors