Honoring: Retrievers

Jim Fulks

This tip is from Jim Fulks of Coyote Creek Retrievers, 83574 Territorial Highway, Eugene, OR 97405; (541) 485-7887; coyotecrk2@aol.com. Jim has been training professionally for 20 years, specializing in training retrievers for hunting and hunt tests. He breeds Labradors.

"In a waterfowling situation with two dogs, both dogs should sit or lie where their owners position them, whether beside the blind or elsewhere, and not leave to retrieve until sent," Jim said. "The owners, not the dogs, should determine which dog retrieves and when. Otherwise, both dogs will try to retrieve the same bird, which can lead to dog fights and mangled birds."

Jim said the prerequisites for training a retriever to honor are: e-collar conditioning, basic obedience (reinforced with the e-collar), force-fetch training, and extensive experience in retrieving marked birds from land and water and steadiness. Actually, honoring is just an extension of steadiness.

"When a dog is steady, he's ready to start honoring," Jim said.

Jim starts by using a pinch-collar and lead to restrain the dog on honor. He also cues the dog that he is to honor by saying "No bird! Sit! Stay!" In a hunt-test situation, he kneels down beside his honoring dog, whereas he stands when his is the working dog. These subtleties help the dog understand when he's to retrieve and when he's to hang tight with the boss.

Honoring: Pointers

Don't miss part one of this story, available here.


When his dog no longer needs the pinch-collar and lead, Jim relies on the e-collar (at a high setting) to correct breaks.

"Creeping can be a real problem, with a high-rolling retriever," he said. "We correct it with leash corrections, the sit command and sometimes the e-collar. We sometimes put the dog on the 'place board' and correct him whenever he creeps off the board."

Jim stressed that, in both training and hunting, you should avoid working your dog with another dog that is unsteady, hyperactive or noisy.

Such a bracemate can undo all your hard work in a very short time. He also stressed that, while hunting, you yourself can un-train your dog if in your anxiety to collect every bird you shoot, you allow him to break repeatedly. If he figures out that he must be steady in training but can break when hunting, you'll have a real problem to deal with.

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