As I made my way to the URC woodland training day the ominous grey clouds covered the sky and released a sudden heavy April shower. It was going to be an interesting day! As I entered the Avon Tyrrell Estate the sun filtered through the clouds, signalling the end of the rain...for a while! Following a warm welcome and a quick cuppa we filtered into our groups for the day. I was pleased to see a mixture of black, yellow, golden and flat coat retrievers in our group. Our trainer started the session with an introduction to the dummy launcher using a tennis ball attachment. I learnt that by using this tool it covers the tennis ball in shot scent when fired and it is excellent for firing a ball along the ground, specially into cover to help a dog take a line. This was the first experience for Ivy and myself using a tennis ball attachment. The noise level was fairly high but Ivy seemed ok with the 'cracking' sound. Thankfully Ivy loves tennis balls so her first experience of the launcher was a positive one as she was very keen to mark and retrieve the balls. It was also a good steadying exercise for the group. As the morning progressed our trainer took us through various exercises which were extremely useful and effective. From a novice perspective there were many things I liked about this training session today. I enjoyed the trainer's style of teaching. He used calm, positive methods to acquire success for both dog and handler. It seems gun dog trainers style can vary from one trainer to another. Is there a wrong and a right way to teach? What are the factors that make a successful gun dog trainer? I don't have the answers but I'm sure each trainer's style is based on a solid foundation of knowledge and experience. I'm not attempting to label a trainer as many may alter their style depending on the situation, handler and dog. Perhaps the art of training is knowing which style to use and when? An intuitive trainer can skilfully change from one training style to another. The training style and intensity that works best may depend on the individual dog's character/temperament, age and stage. Something different happened today which I've not experienced before in a group situation. The trainer offered a demonstration of how something happens or how something is done using his own dog! He explained clearly what he was going to demonstrate, he would then carry out the exercise and encourage you to watch his dog. Following the exercise he would feedback to the group and reflect on the dog's actions and behaviour. This style of training was extremely useful for me as a novice. I could obtain clarity and understanding of each exercise through seeing his dog complete the task. Additionally the trainer was helping us develop our confidence, building on the essential tools needed for us to succeed as a team. He also used a young keen dog in the morning and a slightly older more experienced dog in the afternoon. Both were different in character and experience. It was a pleasure to see the strong bond between trainer and dog.
I came away with so much from the woodland training day. The diverse range of retrievers was a benefit for me to see. I enjoyed watching the elegant and fast flat coat who was keen and biddable. The two golden retriever's gentle temperament shone through and were impeccable with their performance. A pretty young agile yellow retriever caught my eye. She was so keen to go out! I met several new handlers who were happy to offer words of encouragement and support and all the handlers in my group were enthusiastic and friendly. Avon Tyrrell offered a fabulous woodland setting which created the ideal environment for our training day. Far from the madding crowd and able to switch off from the daily hustle and bustle of life...perfect!