My black Lab Clancy is nearly 4, and we came (relatively) late to the world of dog sports. He was from a litter of pups that were dumped with their mom at the shelter at age 2 weeks, so I have absolutely no idea where he came from. We went to lots of "pet" type obedience classes when he was little, and we started tinkering with Rally when he was about a year old. Then I found out that he was really good , we transitioned to obedience, and we are getting ready for our first Utility trial in October. Yikes.
Just out of curiosity, I took him to a hunt trainer yesterday for an evaluation. While I always thought he was a fabulous retriever, I had pretty low expectations, since I hear that many "retrieving fools" don't necessarily perform well in the field.
The trainer and I were both stunned, though. We showed him some dead pigeons/pheasants/ducks (first ever), he sniffed and was not sure about them until I started playing fetch with them. Then it was like a switch was thrown in his head, he was reliably retrieving them within a minute. He did some long bumper retrieves in water, he was not even slightly fazed by gunshot, and he did three super consecutive land marks and retrieves with dead birds, at *maybe* 60 yards. (sorry if I am using terms incorrectly). It was so amazing to see my mild boy thundering out to get his bird, and charging back to me with just as much enthusiasm, with a big ol' duck stuffed into his mouth !
I was pretty amused by the trainer, she gave a few nonverbal indications at the start of our evaluation that she thought I was a city slicker with an unknown OLD dog, but at the end she was talking about SH and MH if I have time and money to devote to it (which I unfortunately probably don't :'(. I need to buy a lottery ticket.).
I guess I just wanted to share my story, and ask about sites/books for really basic information about hunt tests and foundation skills. I came away from the evaluation with some homework (get a whistle, work on a whistle recall etc), but there won't be any weekend group sessions until the fall. Youtube links would also be really handy if you know of any ... I love Youtube, I learn so much watching experts in obedience that I'm sure it will be the same for this.
In field work, the dog has to "learn by doing" to deal with factors in the field. They don't naturally hold angles across water, fight a sidehill, etc. A training group is very valuable.
If you are serious about training for hunt tests, you will want to get copies of Mike Lardy's Total Retriever Training and Total Retriever Marking DVD sets. You can get them from http://www.totalretriever.com/ They are pretty much the bible. Evan Graham's ever multiplying Smartwork series of books/dvd's is pretty good, and you can buy it only in the increments that you need.
Danny Farmer/Judy Aycock's "Basics" is a lot of bang for the buck, too. I suggest you start there for whistle work, etc.
Good luck! Sounds like you have a nice dog.
HRCH Ellie Mae MH CGC
Justlabradors.com -- the best site for your Labrador needs.
Go to a hunt test and watch talk to people there and find a group that you can join. Everyone needs a group to train for hunt tests. If you are willing to throw birds and plant blinds for others they will do it for you and also help you train. Once you get into a group you learn how to train some stuff on your own. Training groups come on all sizes from 2 to 20 + people and there is always a group training somewhere. Alos belonging to your local Retriever club or lab club (or even other retriever breed clubs can often get you good training partners.
Go to AKC.org and find out where the closest hunt test is and what lab/retriever clubs are in your area. then go to UKC (United Kennel Club) and do the same thing. If you want to train your dog and can find the time you can get alot of good free training done.
Kelly and Amber and Ready