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Smart Retrieving Basics - Part 2
Never shoot a gun for young dogs without a retrieve associated with it, as this is exactly what can cause a dog to be gun-shy. Yes, this is a man-made problem, not hereditary. Once they are retrieving nicely, then add a shot with a small caliber gun like a .22 and throw the bird. The gunner should be out a fair ways from you doing the shooting and throwing, not overtop of the dog. Work your way up to using a 12 gauge and to being closer to the dog with the shot and throw, doing this over a period of time. No rushing. Shooting further from the dog to start is very wise to prevent a gun-shy dog.
Stick to 3-4 retrieves at a time for young dogs, never throwing in the same place twice (you don't want them going back to an old fall) and learn to quit right away if he/she tires or slows up in speed or desire. Always end on a positive note, even if you have to throw a 10-foot bumper to get the happy ending. Throwing too many retrieves at a time makes a dog loose his interest, thus the dog laying down, dropping the bumper/bird, not coming back, etc. If you are working on the dog going across a little ditch, as in land-water-land, and they do it correctly, then stop or move on to something else. Don't repeat in the same place even if it is a failure. If they don't do it, repeat the same scenario but move on down the ditch a little ways.
Contributed by Jane Pappler