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dog? Can you even call that dog back to you? Can you put that dog where you need to in the field? Some dogs come to class that have never even smelled a bird, but because they chase robins in the back yard, their handlers believe they will make hunting dogs. I teach them that expectations are good, and perhaps attainable, but that it's not easy without commitment.

"What a great journey one can have in the development of a canine sporting companion!"

I've learned to run different kinds of drills in educating handlers. Retrieving drills are the most fun. It brings out skills in handlers and dogs - and even a competitive edge. When a dog can run past several others waiting their turn, make the retrieve, and deliver it "to hand" to their handler, I know that this pooch has developed the confidence and skills it needs to be turned loose in the field.

Teaching new guns to shoot in my field is yet another challenge. Where and when to shoot over a spaniel - or any dog - takes on a life of it's own. It's absolutely amazing to me that the average week-end hunter is turned loose each fall into the field with guns and dogs - and still survives to return to training classes the following year. I am developing a "shooting school" for my most seasoned handlers. We will cover ideas behind why, when, and where to take birds before we go into the field. We will talk about safety and proving when a gun is loaded and unloaded.

Recently, I attended a licensed hunt test for pointing breeds. I was appalled at the lack of gun safety. Handlers in the senior and master level tests literally had to hit the ground - for fear of being shot at very close range. For the life of me, I cannot understand how an event like this could allow this type of gunning. But like I said, that's another story.

Aside from that issue, all of the dogs entered from our training class qualified: three Brittanys and two German Shorthair Pointers. These folks were ecstatic! They now have a passion to push past their initial learning curve.

What a great journey one can have in the development of a canine sporting companion! The passion that one has for the growth in "dog and man" is what makes group training worth it every week.

Respectfully yours - and above all, have fun... "Two guns, three birds, lets roll!"

Hal Standish

Hal Standish becamed involved with spaniels about thirty years ago. Hal owns and operates the Justamuc GunDog Training Center at Three Rivers, Michigan. Hal professionally trains gundogs and offers group training classes. He also manages a hunting preserve where he guides hunts and European shoots. Hal and his wife, Nancy, were founding members of the Great Lakes English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association.

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