Sending 8 month old Lab to Gun Dog School and

Discussion in 'Gundog Training, Fieldwork, & Field Trials' started by AW667, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    We have a beautiful, whip smart Black Lab that will head to a reputable gun dog finishing boarding “school” that is located at the breeder’s lands where we bought her. Both sire and dam are multiple field trial champions but we won’t be doing or going for that level, she is foremost our beloved dog who will accompany my husband during water fowl season to swim and fetch.

    Since I’m home and my husband works I’ve worked with basic commands and bumpers and she is an ace student and it’s clear she wants increasingly complex things to do. She potty trained in a day with zero accidents at 7.5 weeks when we picked her up and she gets long walks 3x daily and small prep training sessions daily, which she adores.

    My husband is confident and the dogs that are trained by this trainer Ive met are happy healthy pets/gun dogs, I’m just turning into a huge ninny about her transitioning to a kennel life for a 3 weeks at a time. I did set my foot down at what many do, 3-4 contiguous months to 3 weeks on and off . (We will get to visit and join in on weekends) . I have totally over anthropomorphized this as “will she think we’ve betrayed her?”

    The trainer says Labs adapt very quickly and in his experience all have been very happy and loved the training and getting to be with the other dogs. She is in a small group of same age (4 total) pups of 8 mos , one a male sibling from her litter and two “first cousins” and the field leader is her Sire.

    I guess I’m looking for any reassurance here. I can’t imagine a day without her yet we have an acre only to work on and she needs the training as he genes have expressed themselves already....she has plunged in after a duck once as we were walking at my brother’s ranch and there are several small ponds, for instance.

    Another bonus she’ll be training at different sites so as to not expect all sites look like one . But I know it’s very small bits the first weeks. So I’m thinking of the rest of the day. They get exercise and interaction time so everyone thinks I’m being silly at feeling guilt. The few times she’s boarded overnight she apparently had great experiences but never for more than one night. I know it sounds silly but will she feel abandoned or will she be so stimulated doing what she was bred to do?

    She is very clever and I have zero doubts she’ll love the training, but in Dallas the gun dog schools are out in the country and all boarding/full immersion only.

    I invent trails to follow with a treat at the end and games suggested by this site or recommended sites. She even invents things herself, grabbed our garden hose and took it to the watering pitcher, wondering why it would not fill, for instance, grabbed our swimming pool net and tried to scoop leaves like we do and will throw up a ball, grab a tennis Racquet by handle and truly tries to hit the ball. (Daughter is a National/ international tennis player, 14 yrs old so there are racquets everywhere).

    All indications point, and the trainer concurs that “it’s time”. Many here take dogs earlier at 6 months but this trainer likes a little older and all adult teeth in.

    So that was a long winded post to ask anyone who has sent their beloved dog to gun dog training , was the experience good?

    Thanks for indulging me. We take her in two days and I’m starting to freak out though I know it’s necessary.

    Thanks in advance and apologies for being a ninny. I have never had a gun dog and my husband did his due diligence finding this trainer/breeder and she’s an utterly amazing, sweet, happy go lucky exuberant Lab. I should have no worries but yet I do.
     
  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Hello and welcome. It's not a very common thing to do in the UK - in fact, most people would never consider sending their puppy away for training! I know it's quite common in the US, but to me it's just not something I would ever consider doing; firstly because I am a team with my dogs and the training is a huge part of our bonding. I wouldn't be happy my dogs being kennelled when they're not used to it - that's emotional destabilising and I do what I can to avoid that. And, finally, how would I know what methods the trainers are going to employ? Many of the residential gundog training facilities I have looked up in the past unashamedly teach force fetch, which lots of us consider barbaric. So I would absolutely be sharing your trepidation - especially if you're not planning on her being anything more than a pet and hunting companion, what is the necessity to have this residential training? You should be able to do it yourselves under tutelage?

    I understand that culturally we're coming from a very different place, but even understanding that, I still can't resolve in my head how anyone could send their puppy away to have someone else train them, sorry! :)
     
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  3. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

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    Welcome from Hattie 10 years and our rescue boy Charlie 7 years. I went to a trainer with Charlie when we adopted him, he really took to Charlie and offered us free training/boarding for one month as he wanted to do something for a rescue dog. In our total ignorance and sheer desperation we agreed. :(:( He said he wanted to help "train" Charlie, this "man" was a "reputable gun dog trainer" who has even appeared on TV, it's the worst thing I ever did and I beat myself up to this day. Charlie was a difficult rescue dog who had lots of training issues, he was 13 months old and I deeply regret every single second of it. What kind of trainer is he, is he a positive only trainer? I would find this out first before you send your beloved dog to stay for training. I don't want to make you feel bad but please do your homework. I know now 6 years on that training my dog myself is the best way and the most fun also it creates an unbreakable bond. You could attend gun dog training with her so that you learn too. xx
     
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  4. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    Thank you for your quick reply @snowbunny! There is zero force fetching, so the training is longer. Gentle reward methods only. Hence the very small group as well. And I was pretty appalled that this is the way here in the US, period but I’m apparently in the vast minority. It’s about a two hour drive and we will visit per my insistence thoughout. All of the US publications I’ve found stress this is the only way (which I can see is not) but there are literally no other gun dog training facilities that aren’t boarding style. I have tried to do as much as I can on my own but every trainer that’s met her has asked to work with her (all boarding!?!) but I’m only comfortable with this and just barely. :(
     
  5. edzbird

    edzbird Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I would not be happy sending my dog away for training. I would need to see every single interaction between a trainer and my dog to be absolutely certain it met my standards. No, I am the best person to train my dog. I don't mind a trainer training me, but not my dog.
     
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  6. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    Thank you, nice to meet you, btw fully vetted trainer who uses only reward methods. Positive and progressive for the US.

    We will be dropping in lots and have a good relationship with the trainer already, our dog’s dam is his personal pet and our pup (8 mos) will be in a small group with one of her litter siblings and two “cousins”. I have no problem with the trainer or his methods, the most progressive we could find, but worry about overnight for two weeks straight before her first visit home.

    She is very well adjusted and such a good dog. Other than the Lab propensity for being bitey as a young puppy zero problems. I’m just so apprehensive. I’ve also talked at length to other owners who used this trainer and I have met their dogs, all of them really fantastic that are healthy and happy. Owners very pleased too. I can find no negatives other than my own separation anxiety. We are so close with her, daughter and husband too, I worry about the emotional component ablir... hey, meet these dogs, this family and stay here for two weeks straight. Bye! Just seems too awful, but I know people who travel board for that length frequently and a kennel won’t be a total shock, she’s boarded before but not this long.

    The training, I should stress, is fine and what we want, she will be happy with that and I’ve started her out with the reward method with bumpers but as it is reward based it starts out only tiny 15 minute increment sessions. Trainer said it’s too taxing for even older pets to focus on too much so they take it slow, and it is also a family business, his sister is co-trainer and I’ve been told they lavish a lot of love which is important. Her Sire is the Field Leader that works along side the pups individually as well.

    Btw her name is Arya (its one of the oldest Sanskrit names on record) but most think we named after after a fictional character, :)
     
  7. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    edzbird, this is where we bought her and know the trainer well and have watched the methods. All fine. She’s just never been away 2 weeks straight. That’s my concern. I’ve met with owners and their dogs who were trained by this trainer and his sister (family run place) and I like the love and reward system. The other highly recommended places were 3-4 months! No way.

    Just wondering about the overnight separation. Haven’t met a dog he’s trained that isn’t well adjusted and he takes almost exclusively their dogs, groups of 4 (she was born there). She will be with a sibling and two first cousins.
     
  8. edzbird

    edzbird Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    If your're happy with the training, then boarding her would be similar to if you went away on holiday yourself, say, and had to put her in kennels while you were away - lots of people do this (but not me :rolleyes:).
     
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  9. Karen

    Karen Moderator

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    Hi there and welcome! I would not want to send my dogs away for training, even if I really trusted the trainer, firstly because I LOVE gundog training with them, it's become my main hobby and one of my favourite things to do in the world! And secondly because I would begrudge someone else doing that learning and bonding with my dog...

    What does get offered here in Europe, as well as weekly or monthly training classes, are Gundog training holidays, where you and your dog both stay with the trainer and do training with other owners and dogs. I hope to do one of these 'training holidays' this summer...
     
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  10. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Yes! I've done one of these myself. Brilliant fun. Is yours going to be in the UK or Germany, Karen? I'd love to get onto one this year. It might have to wait until autumn, though.
     
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  11. Karen

    Karen Moderator

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    It might be Hungary, actually!
     
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  12. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

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    Would never send my dog away to be trained. We tend to train them ourselves here, but go to gundog classes with our dogs. Problem with sending them away is they come home fully trained, but unless you know the commands and keep it up, the dog will regress. Far better to train him/her yourself.
     
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  13. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi @AW667 :hi:

    Given that you're happy with the actual trainer and the training, I suppose this comes down to whether you're happy to send puppy away for a period of time and whether you think the separation will affect your relationship when puppy returns.

    One of our members @Boogie is a guide dog puppy walker and, from what I've read, it seems that these puppies go through a number of homes and trainers before they are paired with their owner. I don't believe I've ever heard of this affecting the relationship that the guide dog has with its owner.

    To be honest, I wouldn't send my girl away for training (although I'm sure someone else could train her better than me! :D) but her best skill is cuddling on the couch so we don't need extra help with that one.

    Good luck with your decision :)
     
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  14. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    Thank you very much . And many thanks to the responses, it’s been interesting to compare the almost diametrically opposite responses from US forums. I’ve learned a vast amount of information about our US system for gun dog training and I asked frank questions and got some good answers, not just by our own trainer. Thank you for yours as well.

    Yes, many people buy “finished” gundogs here and we have a few friends who have done so and all of their Labs are sweetheart pets and very good gun dogs.

    Our seasons in TX are varied and different (and the environments are quite different ) and it can be a 12-14 hour drive between say, pheasant in the panhandle and then Duck nearer the coast ) : for Dove Sept 1-Nov 5 and Dec 15-31, teal Sept 9-24, quail Oct 28- Feb 25, pheasant Dec 2-31. Duck Nov 4-29 then Dec 9-Jan 28.

    The boarding includes short trips to testing sites with the appropriate natural environments. We cannot provide that in a metro area of 6 million, we have to get out to where the facilities are, deep in the countryside. I now see why they board. I don’t know many who can drive 4-6 hours a day on a contiguous basis of weeks.

    While it would be lovely to have a monthlong training holiday in Europe with our pup, our gun dog training works differently here and the two weeks (see below, boarding time reduced with many visits ) will work for us . ironically our daughter goes to the French/Spanish border for red clay training (tennis) so I do get part of that euro-holiday. Husband stays home with our dog. ;)

    We had the choice either way: finished dog or puppy and at 7.5 weeks she was weaned and very independent, we fell in love with her and decided to bring her home and do her gun dog training later, with us doing the all of the prep work to cut down the boarding time. Also, consulted many studies that the training is effective either way.

    I also did not realize this was a UK forum at first when I signed up as the US forums were quite enthusiastic, I couldn’t have gotten more different responses.

    Most , if not all sources in the states recommend experienced professionals to train dogs; most purebred AKC Labrador Retrievers best suited for gun dog training are very expensive and are precious pets and family dogs first as well......many trainers I asked on one forum were appalled people were appalled........as they stressed the care and expertise they have and the reverence for these beautiful animals they know are our family members. So there’s another side.

    When our trainer explained it more fully I understood the reasoning more clearly. To be clear this isn’t obedience training, she has that down pat and we began her pre-training. This is gun dog training for a wide variety of foul with specific seasons in different physical environments.

    Ah! Update of sorts as I have been talking to the trainer and as were other places he’s a bit taken aback at the judgment of how dogs are gun trained here. So I’ll chalk it up as the kind moderator did, to cultural differences. He was puzzled, to be honest, as he runs probably the most progressive place I found.

    He has been very accommodating and responsive to my concerns, very transparent, we can see her whenever we want and have her weekends after a training session and she will work with us and the trainer(s) in tandem on those weekends so we can learn the methods used and she’ll only be away for a short time overnights with many visits. It’s only be a two hour drive there and two hours back so not too bad.

    Two weeks only (with the many visits) and only 3 other dogs on the course, (a litter mate whose owner chose to train with us and 2 “first cousins”) I can easily live with it this way and again, I’ve met the Head Trainer’s finished dogs that are so happy and absolutely amazing. From pets that are spoiled and only fetch a few game and water fowl in a season, to serious field trial champions, I met a total of 9-10 dogs and all owners (and dogs) were happy (and healthy). We will do weekend booster sessions together with the trainer post boarding.

    Maybe I wasn’t explicit enough about the kennel. It’s not some cold, penal colony kennel, it’s nicer than than most doggie hotels or doggy day care places. Central heat and air, the dogs have personal minders so they remain house broken but Head Trainer works with each from gunshot sensitivity (she’s done that already) and the various birds she’ll be retrieving and they have an air conditioner trailer for transporting them to sites off the main property.

    She’ll be in nice quarters with personal attention from the family (the trainer is Head Trainer but his sister, mother and father all certified as well as two day assistants). There is also a veterinarian on staff.

    Its quite luxurious in a way, i just simply wanted to know if anyone had adverse experiences at all with long boarding periods post boarding, but now, we’ve been reduced to two weeks as our pre-work with her has put her well ahead . (Was going to be three weeks ) . I was thinking of Separation Anxiety but I was reminded why the Labrador Retriever remains our country’s most popular dog. Happy and acutely aware and amazingly adaptive. As I’ve always had Labs I know that to be very true.

    Besides posting in various forums , I even consulted with a few veterinarians and other trainers on our list . I suppose it truly is a cultural thing perhaps as literally 100% of vets and techs/boarders and “dog people” I consulted here all day in the US seemed also puzzled as I shared responses taken aback as well . I do get the overall sense these academies and facilities really take pride in what they do. Any supposition that it was cruel was taken personally, I’ve had quite an interesting reading day. I hope no offense will be taken by anyone on either side of the pond. Different methods but I’ve no doubt the love and care in addition to training given to these dogs is genuine or these places would simply not be in business. One negative word/experience would drive a bad trainer out of business fast.

    I didn’t want to get into tiny details: nationally regarded trainer that is also her breeder but very small, select operation, very progressive. We did a ton of research initially finding our dog /trainer and completely lucked into getting one of his dogs due to another connection and feel more comfortable with this as other highly recommended places do 3-4 MONTHS boarding(?!) that is common and not all do a reward based training system I found . (Which to me is inconceivable.)

    We have done the pre training exercises for a long time with bumpers with click method/rewards. She already heels up, will stay until the command to go, loves water and has all of the obedience basics so she’s got a good base to operate on and so smart it’s unsettling sometimes.

    Two weeks with visits ? That’s better. With dogs she knows and multiple visits, I am feeling more comfortable especially when the trainer has offered such a course variation if she gets homesick or we need to see her more often. I’ve seen them in action there and no dog seemed unhappy, (quite the opposite!) but Labs are amazingly adaptable . Maybe I simply overreacted.

    I really appreciate the feedback. I should’ve been more succinct yet more informative in my first post, but happy that my concerns are recognized by the trainer. He said he would never even attempt to train an unhappy or homesick dog. He’s been doing this 17 years with no dog sent home early but to reiterate, he trains almost all of “his” dogs who came from there in the first place.

    Her Sire and Dam are both wonderful, sweet, and smart.....he trained them both and one is his personal dog and Sire is Team Field Leader when the older pups like ours get to the stage of seeing in action what to do. Her parents have far more advanced training for field trials, but we don’t need or really want that.

    Thanks again to all. It’s been very interesting. I know this is long and slightly meandering, apologies for repetitiveness but I’ve been immersed in this all day, staring at a screen. Losing track of to whom I was replying. I think I’ve done about as much due diligence as possible and she will have her introduction this weekend. He evaluates where she is and we go from there.

    I’m very happy with the results of finding out much more of our US system too. Thank you for taking the time to share, it’s much appreciated and it has been an elucidating experience. Cheers.
     
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  15. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator Forum Supporter

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    I'm confused now. How long is your dog going to be with the pro trainer? Is it two weeks?
     
  16. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    Yes. Two Weeks boarding, actually 13 days initially.

    We will then bring her home on the 24th and reinforce methods he will teach us on our visits and continue those when she is at home. We shall then attend weekends to work with her in tandem w/ the trainer for reinforcement and for us to learn his methods which will continue to be as we have used, reward based. Many former clients do refreshment courses as seasons approach and since many months will pass until fall/winter hunting starts, we will do many more refresher weekends with her and trainer a few times.

    We dropped her off today and it was FANTASTIC. Her brother and cousins who arrived yesterday all welcomed her with lots of sniffing and free play. She has an admittedly huge crate and he had us bring it and her favorite bedding and he put it inside as she and the other female puppy will spend the nights in one part in the main house. The males, have a modern kennel, so nice. It has a huge play space, lots of water and the property is large, a few hundred acres. Contains various ponds, training stops and was nicely appointed.

    Initially he let her roam, meet the others and just smell around as much as she wanted to suss things out. We were there for hours. She was ecstatic. Puppy heaven. He is a soft spoken but kindly and firm too, and I was amazed by his deft touch and the way she instantaneously listened to him. He is definitely a dog whisperer type. Amazing how he could get 4 happy but yappy pups to really calm down. Efficient and calm.

    The dog that will lead them when they get to the field is her Sire (trainer’s personal dog) and he just arrived from a large field trial as we prepared to leave. He brought home another Championship ribbon from the trial. He’s a magnificent dog. We don’t really plan to do the AKC circuit of events but these dogs are absolutely amazing. I see why some places don’t allow them to compete, watching video the AKC dogs are absolutely mind blowing.

    I cannot tell all how gratifying it was to see how lovely the set up was and see her have so much fun. She had an assessment that showed she’s ahead of where he expected so we are all pleased. She is now fed for the night, adjusting well and asleep in her crate after an exciting day. He said she’s so bright, well adjusted and seems happy in the house for the evening.

    All the pups got along well and it was amazing to watch her litter brother and her sniff and sniff and sniff and get along immediately, he is her twin exactly. It was uncanny.

    Anyway, thanks again all, we couldn’t be more pleased. Exceeded expectations in all ways. Now I see why this guy is so incredibly popular in the Labrador/gundog community and hard to get on a course with (we had an “in” as she is one of “his” dogs so to speak).

    Training starts tomorrow. So we will see her a few afternoons to check in and see her this week, learn a few things ourselves . She’ll only have two nights without a visit as that’s the longest she’s boarded. He said that will reassure her that it’s like the other times she’s boarded at our vet’s doggie day care but much more fun!

    I cannot express our happiness with the situation adequately. Thrilled.
     
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  17. Karen

    Karen Moderator

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    Each to their own!
     
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  18. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I just don't understand what could possibly be achieved in two weeks?!
     
  19. AW667

    AW667 Registered Users

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    It will be months of training. She’s just boarding for two weeks now, will board off and on occasionally and do weekends. She’s already beyond half way there, passed some initial testing with flying colors, she’s not an untrained novice pup, we worked with her a lot on basics, this is more advanced gun dog training .

    Video from her morning session was great. She is clearly happy and in her element. Trainer is amazing. I see why his dogs do so well.
     
  20. Karen

    Karen Moderator

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    So more boarding is then required? I guess it really does depend on how much work you are prepared to put in yourself. I just cannot imaging allowing anyone else to undertake my dog's training. But as I said, each to his own...
     

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