Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - October 3, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
2 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD Thursday, October Training retrievers is a labor of love for Jim Taylor By GARRY ALLISON Herald Sports Writer Jim Taylor of Coaldale loves his dogs and well he should Titanic Velvet, Whitney of Titanic and Oscar of Titanic, all highly trained Labrador retrievers are BILL GROENEN photos Editor's note Trained retrievers are considered essential for conserving game. The dog generally reduces the number of wounded birds which hunters leave in the field too crippled to fly, but able to hide or to drag along out of a hunter's grasp. These birds usually die a slow, painful death and are not included in bag limits Leaving a wounded animal is not considered ethical, but many hunters do so out of necessity, thus reducing the bag limits of all who hunt. It is not un- usual for a retriever to find dead and wounded birds after the season's opening day. Jim Taylor is engaged in a sport field trial training which measures the degree to which a dog has progressed in finding downed birds and bringing them to their masters. The best of these dogs are later used for breeding, and the puppies they sire or whelp are generally of better quality than those of less distinguished parentage equally at home on a hunt or a field trial. The three animals couldn't be happier or more contented with their lot in life, displaying excitement and enthusiasm at the prospect of going on a shoot. Mr. Taylor first demonstrated his dogs' prowess in a simulated stubble field hunt His son Mark dropped three ducks at various dis- tances 100 yards from Mr Taylor and kept another to toss into the air, simulating a downed bird. When Mr. Taylor released Velvet from the pen in the rear of the truck the dog immediately came to heel at her master's feet. "This is what we call a non slip he said "He doesn't slip off to hide somewhere but is trained to sit and won't leave until he's commanded to do so Mr. Taylor then pointed Velvet in the direction of one of the downed birds and with a deliberate arm mo- tion and repeating the words dead bird sent the dog off after the quarry. In a flash Velvet was gone running in the straight line on which her master had sent her, and once in the vicinity of the bird, using, both vision and sense of smell, Velvet found the partially hidden bird. Gripping the bird in her mouth and taking care not to crush it, Velvet returned at top speed to her master, delivering the duck to hand. Mr. Taylor further demonstrated the dogs' train- ing with numerous other retrieves, showing the obedience the dogs have and demonstrating the control he has with arm signals and whistle commands. He sent a dog to retrieve a bird Mark threw, stopped him with a whistle blast, then returned him to the'original starting spot with an arm signal. Then he re sent the dog back after the bird. The dog picked up 'the duck, returned it to hand and sat waiting. All commands were performed without hesitation. When training dogs, the trainer uses what he calls a baseball system. He places ducks at an imaginary first, second and third base, Jim stands at home plate and the dog sits on the pitcher's mound. "This method establishes the hand signals in the dogs' minds as you must send him in all directions for the Jim stated The trainer wears white for easy identification by the dogs and the dog is always trained to deliver the bird to hand rather than drop him at his master's feet. "This way, if the bird is wounded he won't fly said Jim. When dead birds aren't available for training, Jim uses training dummies with aniseed oil applied to them to give them scent. A dog must have an inbred ability and desire to perform. A non-slip retriever is militarily trained to do only what he is told, where a hunting dog is free to roam at a restricted distance and use its own initiative about a situation. This skill is of course refined by the trainer, so the-dog is always within firing range when he puts a bird up. On moving to a simulated water hunt, Mr. Taylor showed how well rounded his dogs are as they perform- ed equally as well in the water as they did in the stubble. Firing a gun, and tossing a bird into the water with Velvet sitting at heel, showed the dog's eagerness to start. Velvet immediately began searching-tor a down- ed bird with her eyes as soon as the shot was fired. When the bird splashed down in the water the dog focused on it, barely able to contain herself from going after it. Then Mr. Taylor did an amazing thing. He told the dog there was no bird and turned and walked to the truck. Velvet, knowing there was a bird down, obediently turned and trotted behind her master towards the truck. The dog also demonstrated how he is trained to ig- nore decoys as he splashed through a number of them Jim had set out and retrieved a real duck beyond them. When Velvet was in the water she was as controllable as she was on land with whistle and hand signals. "Its much like steering a car going down the road." Jim said. Time and patience are the keys to training dogs. The trainer said a dog is like a child and must learn the basics before it can graduate to the university level. "A dog doesn't reason it only has a memory. And that's what the trainer must develop. You must exercise extreme caution in not punishing a dog because he will associate the punishment with the act immediately preceding it. "If. for example, you dog doesn't obey your hand signals but comes in eventually with the bird and you hit him. he will associate that beating with bringing Uie bird in. not with disobeying the hand signals You will have a devil of a time trying to get the dog to bring in a bird next time because he thinks he will get hit as soon as he delivers it to you." Jim's dogs display the love for the outdoors that can only come through highly refined training methods. They are a joy to watch in action Jim and his dog at work Jim Taylor (upper left) gives a long blast on his whistle, signalling his Labrador retriever to halt. (Above right) Velvet shows her water skills as she ignores the decoys and retrieves the real bird brought down by her master. Proud of a job well done, Velvet (lower left) sits erect with the duck held in her mouth, taking care not to bite down too hard and crush the bird. At the lower right Velvet's master tosses a bird high into the air in a simulated shooting incident used in the training of his three black Labradors.