“Jessie” is about to learn the next command which is “Here”. After all it is difficult to train a dog if they are 200 yards away from you. This command can be a life saver. A vicious dog may be loose or cars may be coming towards you at high speeds. As in all commands it is not a request it is a command meaning come to me right now not when he gets done basking in that wonderful aroma he found. With young pups, I will use treats. This tells the dog when you say “Here” good things will happen. Treats will only take you so far. If your dog takes off when you are about to go pheasant hunting and then spends 20 minutes flushing every bird in 1 mile and you scream “Here” and he finally comes. Please don’t give him a treat.
Start with the dog close to you using a leash. Let him go to the end of the leash and say “Here” while giving a slight tug. As you progress, put a long line on him and repeat the process. Remember the amount of control you have over the dog is inversely proportional to the distance he is from you. Later the e-collar can be added as additional incentive to improve his hearing.
One idiosyncrasy I have noticed about some Golden Retrievers in Hunt Tests. Let’s say the dog has gone too deep on a mark or a blind. Most of the time when the Come In whistle is given, the Golden will immediately drop its head and begin to start hunting while wandering in. I am not sure if it is because Goldin’s have such a wonderful sense of smell they rely it too much but it may increase your score if the dog actually would make more of a concerted effort to respond to the whistle command.
This brings us to the final command on the lowest rung of the Training Pyramid. The “Here” – “Heel” command. Now he is are able to do this because the other commands have been mastered. Have your dog “Heel”. Now put your left foot on a small stone and keep it there. Don’t move it. You want the dog to move around you. Give the command “Here” and turn 90 degrees to the right. In time your dog will make that turn without standing up. Make sure his alignment is perfect. His head should be next to your leg and his spine straight. Do not allow his rear end to be wrapped around you. Say “Here” again and turn 90 degrees to the right. Don’t seek perfection immediately, which will come. Give the command “Here” again while turning 90 degrees to the right. Work on his alignment. Give your final command “Here” and you should be facing your initial position. On a different day let’s go in the other direction. Give the command “Heel”, your left foot should be on that small pebble, and turn 90 degrees to the left. Again make sure his head, neck and spine are all lined up perfectly. Keep giving the command “Heel” while making 90 degree turns to the left until you reach your starting position.
Once your dog has the turn down to perfection, only making small moves to accomplish it and keeping his butt on the ground, we advance to “Here” – “Heel”. The purpose of this drill is to line your dog up for marks and blinds. As the dog comes in with the first bird make sure you are facing the correct line to the next bird. Quietly say “Here” or “Heel” while the dog has the bird in its mouth. Don’t scream “Here” or “Heel” while wildly slapping your leg or snapping your fingers, it looks bad. Be subtle.
Once your dog is locked in on the blind or next mark be ready for the perfect moment. Be patient. The sign may be the way he cocks his head or holds his ears. He may lean forward a bit. SEND him. Don’t miss that perfect moment. I missed the moment once at Smith River and will always regret it.
As you advance in the drill, become more demanding. Put out a marked blind. Use a white post or a white bag on the post. Have it far enough out the dog has to look to find it. Now help him by saying the “Here” or “Heel”. In time your dog will start working with you so by giving those 2 commands it is like lining up a missile. Now get rid of the post. You make subtle commands and your dog will move his head just a fraction at a time until you have a shooting solution. Then fire your weapon. The greatest complement you will ever receive is at the end of a Master Hunt Test or Field Trial is when the judge looks at you after you lined every blind and says “Yeah but can he handle”?