Teaching canine patience in the field starts in the summer
The hardest tasks for our bird dogs to learn are those that counter their nature. For example, teaching a retriever to fetch a bumper is usually pretty easy. In fact, you really don’t have to teach them anything at all if they come from remotely decent bloodlines. Now, ask that same dog to sit still and wait while you throw a bumper. You’ll quickly realize that steadiness doesn’t come naturally.
But it is essential. The No. 1 problem with hunting dogs is that they are often not steady enough. In the duck blind or boat, few things are more annoying than a dog that can’t sit still or that jumps into the water every time the mood strikes him. The same goes for the upland dog that wants to break every time a bird flushes or when a whim strikes him to kick in the go-juice and burn up ground.
Afield, steadiness is an issue, but it’s also a big deal at home. If you can tell your dog to sit and wait while the UPS driver drops off a package, you’ve got a dog on the right path, for sure.
While teaching steadiness isn’t easy, it is totally doable and worth it. You’ve got plenty of opportunities each day that won’t require any extra time. From feeding time, to walking through doors, to the lake-side session where you toss a few dummies, you can make your dog wait. For young pups, this might only mean a few seconds of patience, but for older dogs, it’s a good idea to make them wait for a minute or longer.
This might seem impossible if you’ve got a hard-charger, but it’s not. It takes daily repetition and rules that don’t change whether you’re in the house or training in the neighborhood park. The best part: If you work on steadiness a little bit every day, you should end up with a dog that has solid manners in the duck blind, the CRP fields, or simply in your living room when guests visit.