By Dave Duffey
Past, present and future retrievers have or will have learned
to track and recover crippled birds through practice of game
shot during the open seasons. That's on the job training.
The longer the seasons and the more birds shot the better dogs
of all breeds will become a recovering downed game. But some
artificial training goes a long way toward shortening the time
it takes for a retriever that puts in a lot of work to succeed.
It increases chances for successful retrieves compared to other
dogs that don't get too many opportunities to practice real thing.
A few years back I asked three of the best retriever trainers
I knew (Ed Carey from Illinois and South Carolina, Loral I Delaney,
from Minnesota and Orin Benson from Wisconsin) whether they did
any specific training to recover crippled birds. Such a procedure
may be passed up by trainer's who specialized in field trials
where both marked and blind birds are "anchored" in
one spot in order to afford a "level playing field"
for all contestants. Here's what they said
Carey: Absolutely, I do train for crippled recovery. Conservation
is a whole thing here. If a dog has no previous knowledge of
cripples and runners before he's taken afield, you just aren't
going to recover many birds until we learn how. It's a lot easier
to teach dogs to recover cripples in July and August training
season than on a hot October day in a cornfield when the bird
I do a lot of things. I mentioned Orin Benson before I think
he was the first to teach me how to handle a dog on runners and
what to do with them. He showed me the idea of first dunking
a duck in a pail of water then turning it loose in a field. That
makes for a lot of scent and a dog with previous marking and
fetching experienced will quickly smell and recognize the duck
scent. By walking along with the dog, sometimes on a check cord,
taking him over the scent line again and again, he'll learn to
follow the duck scent.
Also, when I put out pheasants, I generally hobble them for young
dogs with a piece of surveyor's tape about 8-9 inches long. I
make one loop over each leg, dizzy the bird, and set it out without
its head under the wing. The bird will become entangled a bit
and in the first bunches of grass it comes to, if it does run.
Since I don't knot the tape. If the bird flies the tape pulls
off and the bird isn't hobbled for life. The pheasant will leave
a track and if scenting is extremely bad, I use water on the
pheasant. One part and anise oil with six to eight parts vegetable
oil on the bird's feet seems to accentuate and carry the scent
If the dog doesn't catch the runner, but flushes it, it's terribly
important that you shoot so the dog has a retrieve. Over the
years when there's a shortage of birds, I've used bantams and
Baby Reds (domestic fowl) that I keep in my bird yard. I take
them a considerable distance