I run my hunting dogs on a roadless 2,000 acre Washington County ranch just about every day.  I pay a modest fee for the privilege but it's worth it.  No cars to worry about and there's plenty of room between fences for my lab and setter to run to their heart's content.  And lakes to splash into and cool off.

Pro dog trainers often use this ranch too.  I watch them and their trailer-full of client dogs from a distance. An assistant  will fire a shotgun and throw a dead duck several hundred yards from the dog and handler.  When the dog takes off for the retrieve he better not wander one step off a straight line.  When he does I'm close enough to hear the yelp when the electric collar zaps him.  If he makes the same mistake again I cringe as he yelps all the way back to the handler who has his thumb jammed into the "stimulation" button.   Another guy masquerading as a professional dog trainer.  Even I know enough to put my dog up should I lose my cool.

The question that begs is: why?  Has the trainer convinced the dog's owner that his hound is good enough to win retriever trials?  Go all the way to the Grand National Championship Trial?  Become filthy rich on stud fees alone?  Or does the owner live vicariously through his dog?  Wanting him to be the champion the owner never was?  It's got to be those kind of mind sets going on.  Because the out-and-back line, straight as a ruler, is an artificial rule created by dog trialers.

I've hunted ducks for decades.  Had so-so retrievers and good retrievers.  The differentiator is finding the duck and bringing it back.  I could care less what route my dog takes.  If he has the athleticism, heart and nose to put meat on the table I'm happy.  And none of those traits is trainable.  Even with electricity.

If I expect my dog to toe a straight line on every retrieve he should expect me to never miss a shot.  Isn't that fair?  Two perfect robots.  A matched pair.  But we aren't and that's understood during the other 99% of the time we're not duck hunting.

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