There is an old adage about
teachers in the University of California system. “If you can’t do it, teach”. My dogs have the worst line manners of any
dogs out there in either Hunt Test or Field Trials. So since they are so bad I am in a unique
position to inform you of what not to do.
I recently asked a well-known Field Trial Professional, what I should do
to correct my dog’s line manners. He
said “The opposite of everything you are doing”.
Let’s start with what causes
unacceptable line manners. The short
answer is a lack of obedience training. The
response may be “I did obedience training!”
The real answer is you have not done enough or not consistence enough
Let’s go back to Blog 1 on
“SIT”. This is a command that must be
continually reinforced. We have all
heard “but he does everything perfectly in the backyard”. True but now put the dog in a test situation
with no collar, the anxiety that travels down the leash and throw in a live
flyer 25 yards away and SIT goes out the window.
How can we first spot a
deterioration of good line manners?
According to John Folsom, another long time professional, you can first
see it after you have taken the last bird from the dog at a test. The dog self-releases and starts to run
around and perhaps pee on the judge’s lunch.
This behavior also manifests itself with the dog dragging the handler to
the holding blind, vocalization in the holding blind, beating the handler to
the line, standing up when the birds go down, followed by creeping and
culminating in breaking.
My dog set a record by catching the
flyer before it hit the ground.
So how do we fix bad line
manners? The answer is, of course, never
let them start. Good line manners begin
at the crate. Never let the dog jump out
on his own and run around. You should
open the crate, say “Here” and as soon and his feet hit the ground, say
“Sit”. We are assuming that you have
worked with Sit as the first command he has ever heard. Next do everything in training that you would
do in a test with one exception. Forget
the end result which is the retrieve of the bird or bumper. Concentrate on HOW the dog reacts in the
holding blind, how the dog comes to the line and his behavior on the line. Utilize your training partners to let you
know if his butt is on the ground as the birds go down or any other
infraction. Forget the retrieve, work on
all aspects of his line manners.
Some people may find it cute when
the dog bounces up to the line or jumps on them in the holding blinds. These antics will all come back to bite you
The dog should be under total
control from the time he comes out of the crate until you put him back in. Obviously before you run him he should be
properly aired but even that should be under your giving him a command such as
“High on”, OK, or “Urinate”. When running your dog NEVER take your eyes off of
him. Most people don’t it but dogs have
eyes in the back of their head. As soon
as you look away, bad things happen.
A Hunt Test or Field Trail is
usually won or lost in the first 10 feet of the line. Make sure that bad line manners are not the
reason good work in the field is overlooked.
As one judge said to me when I
asked her why my dog did not do better.
“I folded your page over and stopped counting after the 12th