The Art of Retrieving: The Key To Training Is To Pay Attention To The Dog’s Reactions | Exit


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Hunter sat on a small wooden deck in Capt. Terry Gallagher’s home in Wharton on the Colorado River, eagerly awaiting his command.

The 3-year-old black Labrador Retriever is one of nearly 100 dogs Gallagher has trained to hunt waterfowl since it was founded about four years ago.

“He’s a phenomenal retriever,” said Gallagher. “He’ll go out there, brave the storm or the current, and get the bird.”

When the 28-year-old isn’t running duck hunts, fishing trips, or working in the air conditioning industry, he teaches dogs like Hunter the art of fetching through his guiding and training business – Stringer Stretcher Outfitters.

Gallagher grew up hunting deer and started duck hunting when he was 13 or 14 years old.

“It was a new level of excitement and experience that I’ve never had,” he said. “I was hooked in about a year and we were really tired of bringing our own birds, especially when we started getting better.”

His training business started with his first dog, Brisket – a black Labrador retriever who is the only breed he has ever personally owned.

“I got it for free from a guy who said he wouldn’t hunt,” said Gallagher. “He was hyperactive, definitely a savage … chewed up $ 3,000 worth of pool equipment, but I ended up setting a milestone with this dog.”

After a few years, Gallagher gave Brisket to a friend who had more room for his hyperactivity and took in another black Labrador he named Ketch.

At that time he was living in the sugar country. Gallagher said he would take Ketch to what is now known as Sugar Land Memorial Park and Brazos River Corridor, where he would cast dummies for him to retrieve.

Dummy throwers combine the sound of a shot with the flight of a bird to simulate bird hunting and are a primary tool used in training bird dogs.

“I googled and read books,” said Gallagher. “I had no connection with someone who really knew what they were doing, but I was persistent and wasn’t afraid to try something.”

At his Wharton home, Gallagher still has bits of the handwritten schedule he made for Ketch.

“I had field training and then obedience training and I alternated them so that her mind was always focused on something new,” he said. “If you are bored with field training, the next day would be just easy obedience. ”

If a technique worked or not, he would write it down in a training diary and think carefully about why the strategy worked or not, he said.

“I would try to put myself in the dog’s shoes and think: Okay, I was just born, I operate out of instinct. It’s basically just yes or no, so I decided to keep it simple, ”he said. “Encourage the good behavior and try to push back the negative behavior without making it personal.”

Ketch was his first “phenomenal success” in training a dog for bird hunting. Since then, the process has gotten easier with each dog, he said.

“Any dog ​​you have gets easier because you learn to communicate with a dog,” he said. “It’s not just about the dog obeying you.”

In 2016, Gallagher obtained his captaincy license and began running fishing and duck hunting trips. About a year later he started his training company.

“At the time, I was working hard in the air conditioning industry to get this damn expensive habit. I thought if I want to become a full-time guide, I have to have an income all year round, “he said, and I’m surrounded by them.”

Gallagher built four 90 square meter kennels on his 2½ acre property in Wharton. In March it expanded to eight kennels.

“They were full within the first two months and I saw how much potential there was for that,” he said.

Gallagher is aimed at people who want to train their family dog ​​for hunting during the season, but who do not necessarily want to have their dog trained for field testing competitions, which requires more intensive training.

Cameron Garcia was one of those customers. He brought his black Labrador Retriever to Gallagher last year after having a bad experience doing an exercise program at another kennel that felt like his dog wasn’t getting enough personal attention.

After about four and a half months, Garcia picked up Gauge. Gallagher showed him how to handle his dog and went through all the commands he knew, he said.

“Personally, I didn’t trust my dog ​​in the field after the first program,” he said. “When I picked him up from Terry, I went hunting with him that weekend and saw a huge difference. I really needed both a family dog ​​and a slash hound and he gave Gauge the personal experience it needed. “

Gallagher keeps duck wings during the season to use as a training tool to help dogs get used to the smell of pacifiers. Plastic and burlap bumpers, live and dead birds raised on farms, and bird wings are used to conduct land and water salvages.

Live and dead birds enable dogs to become familiar with the taste, smell, and texture of wild birds.

Gallagher also uses firearms during training cycles to familiarize dogs with the sound of gunshots, a critical skill that is usually introduced within two to four weeks of their arrival.

The average training cycle is between three and six months, though it varies depending on the dog and the owner’s goals, Gallagher said. When a customer brings him his dog at 7 or 8 weeks old, he tries to start him on a schedule that builds consistency from the start.

“If the customer knows even a little bit about the hunt and has a bit of authority with a dog, in the sense that he teaches him to sit and stay and encourage him when he gets a toy and brings it back … then I’d actually prefer to have a dog around 6 or 7 months old, “he said.

It was around this age that the dogs’ personalities began to show themselves and they began to move away from just operating instinctively, Gallagher said.

“This is where I’m really going to start teaching them how to fetch because they are able to make decisions,” he said.

The first few weeks are usually spent making sure a dog is getting used to their new surroundings and starting obedience training before moving on to more advanced obedience and retrieval training, he said.

The key to training is paying close attention to a dog’s reactions, Gallagher said.

“If the dog is only interested in that, then I keep going, but when he starts acting shy I stop and just let him explore and learn an area at his own pace,” he kept saying forcing information and the Dog starts to reject everything because he is overwhelmed.

“They can’t talk so you just have to stop and every dog ​​is different.”

The five most popular breeds among dog-owning members of Ducks Unlimited, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to protecting wetlands and waterfowl.

Before buying, the nonprofit recommends that you do your research to ensure you select a breed that best suits your lifestyle in terms of size, coat, hair loss, and energy levels.

Labrador Retrievers have webbed toes, otter tails, and double-layer, water-repellent coats that protect them from the cold and make them well suited for swimming. Black Labs are the most popular choice, followed by yellow.

Golden retrievers have sharp noses and are excellent swimmers. They also have a double water-repellent coat and a sleek but powerful body that can easily move through marshland.

With their weatherproof double coat, webbed toes, and sturdy build, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are also great swimmers with a natural ability to hunt waterfowl.

German Shorthaired Pointing Dog

Known as GPS, German Shorthaired Pointers shine when retrieving in warmer weather. They have exceptional noses, stamina, and a remarkable prey drive.

Boykin Spaniels have wavy coats and a lot of energy. On the smaller side, they are versatile and compact swimmers and smart retrievers.

Kali Venable is an investigative and environmental reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6558 or at [email protected]

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