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Christmas Gifts for the retriever lover

Pro-staff Contributor:  Zach Raulie

Important not to forget your hardest worker in the field on Christmas morning!

Important not to forget your hardest worker in the field on Christmas morning!

It’s creeping up on us faster it seems every year; Christmas that is.  My wife and family members are always asking what I’d wish for this Christmas.  Another new puppy isn’t likely this year but outfitting our newest pup is.  We’re not easy people to shop for, us hunters.  I bet most hunters’ families agree that “he has it all, so what do I get him”.  Here are some great pre-holiday thoughts on my top picks that will be for both me and my retriever Finn, for Christmas 2013.

Stocking Stuffers

Avery EZB Mallard

Avery EZB Mallard

A retriever owner can never have too many training bumpers and this really goes without saying as each season we lose some, pups chews some up or a couple extra just to make sure you have what you need next training season.

Whether by Mud River or Avery Outdoors these bags are fantastic for weekend hunting trips and overnight stays at the in-laws while you’re out of town keeping the dog food dry and transportable in an easy to tote bag.

You can never have enough.  Get a fluorescent color for upland game, one for waterfowling and another for the local playground.  Inexpensive and always useful in the day-to-day retriever world.

Nice list

My mother mentions that Christmas is a time when you gift something to someone that they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves.  Maybe the hunter in your life would like an item that they’ve done without for some time, but it sure would be nice to have.  Here are those items.

Maybe that new puppy you bought last Christmas is now ready for advanced training or maybe it has taken on a few bad habits that need some attention.  Whether for an upland bird dog or a new waterfowler SportDog has the right electronic collar for the job.  The Sportdog Wetland hunter is by far my pick of the litter.

Avery Jr. Ruff Stand

Retriever feeling extra comfortable Avery Jr. Ruff Stand and vest

A retriever never knew luxury could be so good until the Ruff Stand was developed.  This is a gift that every waterfowler has dreamt of and it sure makes waterfowling with your best friend a whole lot better experience whether in the marshes or the timber.  On many days this has provided a dry stable location for all my retrievers.

Products made by Avery Outdoors or Drake have years of experience in fine tuning the correct fit for man’s best friend.  A Dog Vest makes a great item for the retriever to insulate them on cold mornings in the blind and protect them from potential harm beneath the water’s surface.

Check out these and the entire selection of proven Guide Recommended Gear at www.krugerfarms.com

Tips for your Retrievers First Hunt

Pro-staff Contributor:  Zach Raulie

I picked up my pup Finn up north of Atlanta, Georgia as a 7 week old black lab pup on soggy and cold January en route to a Kansas duck hunt.  What have I done since to prepare him for hunting this season, is he ready?

A young Finn

A young Finn

Fast forward 10 months, the migration has started and fall is well upon us.  Many states upland and waterfowl seasons have already begun.  Hopefully you have spent time this summer with your new retriever pup working on the basics, socializing in many environments and transitioning from yard work to field work.

Zach putting in the preparation with Finn

Zach putting in the preparation with Finn

Proper Preparation: My buddies that know me well know I am a big believer in the 5P’s.

PROPER PLANNING PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE

Silly as it may seem, this college acronym is one of the few that stuck with me.  I like a retriever who’s prepared.  I hope to have Finn going into his first duck hunt thinking “been there, done that”.  Like an athlete who understands their role and at game time puts forth a solid effort and gets the job done.  I don’t expect that player to do this without countless hours conditioning, practice and watching film.

Don’t let “game day” be the day your pup experiences everything for the first time.  So here are 4 Keys to making your retrievers first hunt a success:

  1. Introduce your retriever to birds early.
    1. Start with a duck wing & live pigeons in your back yard.  Graduate up to using live mallards or pheasants in field-work to simulate a real hunting situation, so when that first greenhead hits the water he isn’t just nosing it and licking it.
  2. Train how you hunt.
    1. If you hunt out of a boat or ground blind make sure your pup is familiar with these and the dog stand/blind they may hunt from.
    2. Introduce your dog to all types of decoys that they’ll be running or swimming through.
    3. If you use duck/goose calls, use them in and around your pup while training
  3. Gun shots
    1. Familiarize your retriever with the tools you’ll be using; you don’t want to create a gun shy dog on its first hunt.
  4. Set realistic expectations of your hunt
    1. Don’t expect a young retriever to do a seasoned retriever’s work.
    2. If you haven’t mastered a blind retrieve in training don’t try it in the field.
Important to work with real birds before the first hunt!

Important to work with real birds before the first hunt!

One of the best ways to prepare your retriever for hunting situations is by joining a local retriever club.  Participate in their monthly or weekly training days and their semi-annual hunt tests.  A great way to learn training tips, experience real hunting situations and see what finished retrievers can do.

Training days will simulate almost all situations presented to a retriever while hunting; allowing you to train, practice and teach your pup invaluable lessons.  All the sights, sounds and smells associated with a real hunt are present at these events, including your own excitement.

Finn equally comfortable in both the field and water

Finn equally comfortable in both the field and water

Hunts tests are sanctioned by UKC or AKC organizations and designed to challenge your retriever against a minimum standard for grading.  These are also fun competitive events, and much can be learned by simply attending and observing; or for those with a competitive heart they tend to be very addictive and truly rewarding as you watch your retriever handle tough conditions and excel during challenging hunts.

I mention all of this as a way to prepare our retrievers for “game day”, the big hunt or season opener.  When you show up with pup on their first hunt, hopefully the sounds, smells and excitement are nothing new to them.  One of the best suggestions I was ever given about a retriever’s first hunt is for the handler of the dog to put his or her gun away that day or at least to the side at first.  Focus on your retriever.  Make sure they are steady to gun, obedient and controlled.  Taking this time to focus on the dog will be more rewarding here on out as they are less likely to form bad habits.

DSC_0026

Finn is ready for his first hunt, but prior to that he will be participating in his first UKC hunt test in November.  I think we are more than prepared but I’m sure he will exploit an area or two that we will need to work on before opening day here in Florida.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida.   He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests.  You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year.  You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook

Three Commands Necessary to Raise a Good Puppy Citizen

Pro-staff contributor: Zach Raulie

It was nice receiving a compliment from a fellow hunter this past season regarding the steadiness of Zoi, my veteran retriever, during our hunt. Birds were plentiful and the shooting was non-stop. The compliment validated the many hours I’ve spent working with my veteran lab and reminded me of the necessary work I would put in with our new puppy, Finn. Proper socialization of a puppy is a key factor: how you spend the first few weeks and months setting expectations will go a long way in building a foundation around your pup’s training.

Our Training Method

At our home, we do a few things starting on day one and have found that these simple commands build a respect and bond that will last the pup’s life. This is not formal training and no reprimandsfinn dish are needed. We don’t use a lot of food treats, but if necessary we may use them sparingly at times. Teaching through repetition with lots of love and praise is best in my opinion.

Basic Commands

Do you know anyone that appreciates a jumping, barking, biting dog? I definitely don’t. No matter how cute your puppy is, these three actions are unacceptable and can lead to major issues in the field if not handled consistently at an early age. You can deter these actions immediately by teaching, Pup, your new family member the word “NO”. “No” is very simple to teach and you will use it often with a young exploring and energetic pup. No simply means that what it is doing is not acceptable, so please stop. Teaching this one word can keep a puppy safe from injury and possibly save his life when a dangerous situation arises unexpectedly.

You can also find many training opportunities to teach your puppy “SIT” and “OK” in every day routines. Before your pup is let out or is put back into its kennel, ask Pup to sit. Rather than letting Pup impatiently run to his food or water dish, ask Pup to sit first. Before letting Pup charge through a doorway to the outside or inside simply ask for Pup to sit. Then simply release Pup with the word “ok”. Early on Pup may not understand what’s being asked of it and may require a little assistance. But soon Pup will realize that with the right action a reward will be given—be it food, water or praise!

Turning any situation into a positive training opportunity for a new puppy is easy and there will be many early on. Start right away, on day one, because you can never get back those early days when Pup is eager to listen, quick to learn, and free of any bad habits.

Just a Start

Teaching these simple “Good Citizen” commands is just the beginning. Eventually these good behaviors will be conditioned in formal training and then in the field as a finished retriever who is steady to shot as he waits for the command to retrieve. This is a Good Citizen retriever. Safe, steady and obedient! As young Finn progresses I will be writing more blogs about our training program and techniques used so be sure to check back in.

Zach Raulie is an avid hunter and amateur retriever trainer living outside of Jacksonville, Florida.   He is a multi-year qualifier for the World’s Duck Calling Contest and is highly competitive in AKC and UKC sanctioned hunt tests.  You’ll see Zach representing krugerfarms.com and Lodge Creek Calls in all of his endeavors each year.  You can contact Zach at zraulie@gmail.com and find him on Facebook (facebook.com/zraulie).

Zach and Finn