AKC Gazette
AKC Gazette

Working Our Labrador Retrievers
by Faith Hyndman

The Sporting Group is composed of workers, so why don't more of us work our show dogs? We spend many weekends during the year attending dog shows, but never seem to find enough time to field train our Labrador Retrievers. It's too hot, it's too cold, it's too windy, I don't like carrying a shotgun, I don't like handling dead birds, you want me to walk way out there? Once you start field training, no matter what level of expertise you strive for, it's such fun that you won't even notice the weather, and the walk will be therapeutic.

If you've never tried it, you're missing out on an exciting day that will find you thrilled at discovering your dog's natural abilities of scent, marking, and courage. His exposure to field training will give him confidence, stamina, and the physical development that may enhance his movement in the ring. It will not negatively alter his behavior as a show dog, other than when you stand for your win photo and the photographer throws a toy. Be prepared for your Labrador to take off after it and possibly retrieve to hand!

There are many levels of field training and many clubs to join to start you on your way. Try training for a Working Certificate award first. The test requires a single 50-yard retrieve on land in light cover, and two single retrieves of about the same distance in water. WC.s are noncompetitive, casual events that give newcomers a chance to experience some of the basic skills required at the hunting retriever tests and field trails they may eventually attend. Tests are designed to demonstrate a dog's basic retrieving instincts on land and water, with opportunities to retrieve freshly killed flyers. It can be a great day for puppy socializing, family picnics, and learning opportunities. One or two days a week of training for a few months should be enough to attain this level, and by then you'll know if you want to go further.

Your next step should be to join a retriever training group. There you'll find not only Labradors but Goldens, Chessies, Flatties, and possibly even a Poodle or Toller. Most importantly, you'll have the opportunity to meet experienced amateur trainers who will help you teach your dog while you learn the nuances of field training. Take advantage of your dog's natural retrieving abilities. Let him show you what a day outside with birds, blinds, and duck calls can do for you. Keep our show dogs' retrieving instincts in the forefront of your breeding program. You'll find it's a great adventure for both of you.

For a list of requirements for a Working Certificate test and future certification events, go to www.thelabradorclub.com. For a list of retriever clubs involved in hunting retriever tests and field trials, go to Working Retriever Central at working-retriever.com.

(Labrador Retriever Breed Column for AKC Gazette January 2005 Vol 122, No 4, pp 56)

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., is the single organization officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as the national parent club of the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., was incorporated in October 1931, in the state of New York, and is not affiliated with any other association titled or claiming to be the National Labrador Retriever Club.