Retriever Training — ’76 NFC-AFC San Joaquin Honcho

1976 NFC-AFC
San Joaquin Honcho
San Joaquin Honcho
D.O.B.: January 23, 1973
(FC-AFC Trumarc’s Raider x Doxie Gypsy Taurus)
Owner: Judy Weikel

Labrador Retriever ’76 NFC-AFC San Joaquin Honcho (Honcho) came into Judy’s hands when he was not quite two years of age.

Bred by Jim Van Der Sanden, Honcho’s father was FC-AFC Trumarc’s Raider, his mother a Carr-Lab Penrod daughter. He was raised by John Folsom, who, at the time, was working with Rex Carr. Judy had known and liked the dog for some time and purchased him on Carr’s recommendation. At the time, Honcho had virtually no competitive experience, but Rex thought that in Judy’s hands he may have tremendous potential. His belief was well founded.

Rex Carr’s Retriever Training Methods

For more on Rex Carr’s dog training methods, see him with his his student Dave Rorem’s DVD retriever training set here.

Good for hunting retrievers and competitive dog handling. Covers dog training mistakes handlers commonly make in the field. Produced by  who also produce videos such as

  • Jackie Mertens Sound Beginnings Puppy Training DVD
  • Mike Lardy’s Total Retriever Marking DVD
  • Training with Mike Lardy Volume I
    Are you looking to improve your handling skills?
  • Dave Rorem’s Art and Science of Handling Retrievers DVD
  • Mike Lardy’s Total Retriever Training 2nd Edition DVD
  • Mike Lardy’s Total Retriever Marking DVD

Both Judy and Rex recognized two things that convinced them that, as a team, they might be formidable. One, Honcho was a high-rolling dog, but with a degree of tractability and a love of work. Second, Judy loved to work; at one point training seven days a week, week-in and week-out. Together, Judy and Honcho were a well-oiled and effective team in the field.

Honcho has accumulated 142 All-Age points during his competitive career – 74 Open and 68 Amateur.

Travel Tips

After months of training and getting your dog ready, hunting season has finally arrived and it’s time to get on the road and out in the field. Before you set out, however, there’s a few things to keep in mind while traveling with your non-human hunting companion.

To crate or not to crate?

CRATE. Always. James Spencer of Gundog Magazine online wrote, “…when I see a dog loose in the back of a pickup, this is a disaster looking for a place to happen. Ditto for a dog loose inside a vehicle, where he can interfere with the driver and cause an accident, or become a flying object in case of an accident–or even dive out of an open window. No, when traveling, dogs should be crated, period.” Most hunter and trainers can agree that a dog not crated is simply dangerous.
Crates should be well-ventilated and large enough for your pup to stand up and turn around comfortably. A too large crate can be dangerous since it gives your dog more room to be thrown around in case of an accident or if you have to slam on the brakes. It’s also important to remember 1 crate, 1 dog. When traveling with your dog, your priorities should be safety and comfort. You’ve already put a lot into him, right? No use in getting lazy now. A crated dog will generally be happier, safer and easier to care for. Simply taking a few precautions can save your hunting buddy from being injured or worse while traveling.

Space: Making it and saving it.

Hunting dogs require space. A lot of it. When traveling to hunt there’s a lot of gear for both you and your dog. Start by making a bare bones list of things each of you will need. Mark Romanack shared his list of necessities in an article for Wildfowl Magazine online: “Each dog I travel with requires a basic list of gear. The essentials include a portable kennel, water and food dish, food container, water jug, neoprene vest, training collar/transmitter/battery charger, leash, dog treats, whistle, small plastic bags for picking up dog waste, first-aid kit and an old towel to dry the dog after water hunts.”
Although food and water may seem like an obvious addition to your list, when traveling there are a few key things to remember. Make sure you bring enough food for the entire trip. Changing your dog’s food can cause an upset stomach. Also, when dogs are hunting a lot throughout the day they will need extra food to sustain energy and replenish them after a hard day.

Pit stops and airing out your dog(s).

Just as you will need to stop to stretch your legs, rest, and eat, so will your dog(s). Airing out your dogs is imperative on long drives starting 1 hour after leaving, and then every 4 to 6 hours. When stopping at restaurants, gas stations and rest stops always park in a safe, well-lit spot. Don’t forget to make sure the doors are locked and your dogs will be well ventilated and protected from the weather while you’ll be inside. Remember heat is much more dangerous than colder temperatures.

Quick Travel Check List: 

  • Dog’s Hunting supplies and tool
  • Records  – In case of an emergency, you’ll need a record of your dog’s up-to-date shot records.
  • Collars
  • Carsickness preventative – some dogs can experience car sickness. In extreme cases a vet prescribed tranquilizer can be given to your dog on the day of travel. Cutting food intake on the day of travel can also help with car sickness.
  • Your homes vet’s name and number
  • Food and water for the whole trip

This list may not be every thing you need for travel, but it will serve as an excellent start when getting ready to travel with your dogs.

If you are traveling by air, the article “Air Travel With Your Retriever” on is a good resource of getting your dog and the airline to get you and your hunting dogs to and from your destination safely and securely.

For more tips and tricks for traveling this hunting season, here’s a list of articles:


First Aid In The Field: What every canine first aid kit should have

Whether it’s happens while you are training, hunting, exercising or playing, your dog will, at some point or another, get hurt. According to online, “There are a number of ailments you can handle in the field.  You can treat a dog for dehydration, porcupine quills, barbed wire cuts, and scrapes from thorns or briars.  In the case of more serious injuries, including muscle tears, broken bones, or hemorrhaging, stabilize your dog until professional help can take over.
A skin cut is one of the most common injuries for gun dogs in a training session or on a hunting trip. Though any laceration that slices open a dog’s epidermis is serious, not all such wounds might require an immediate trip to a veterinarian.”

With some preparation, however, you and your pup can be prepared for these cuts, scrapes, quills, and more and get back in the field where you both belong. Whether you choose to make your own first aid kit or purchase a pre-made one there are some things that simply cannot be left out.

Here’s a list of some must have equipment in any hunter’s canine first aid kit:

  • Bandages
  • Gauze – gauze is great for soaking up blood
  • Medical tape – both adhesive and “vet wrap”
  • Scissors
  • Forceps – helpful for removing larger embedded objects, such as quills
  • Tweezers – essential for picking trash and debris out of open wounds
  • Saline Solution – great eye-wash
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – for disinfecting
  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Alcohol Pads – for cleaning wounds
  • Iodine
  • Syringe – for cleaning out wounds and hydration

For more information on first aid trips and kits, here are a few URLS to get you on your way:



Basic Obedience

Basic obedience training is one of the most important lessons you can teach any dog, but it is especially important when training your gun dog. You will continue to build on and use this training for the duration of your dogs hunting career.

Start Early
As with socialization, starting basic training early is crucial to producing an effective gun dog. The lessons your dog learns during this time will continue and evolve during his tenure as your hunting partner and his life as your companion. Renowned Trainer Butch Goodwin explains in his article “Obedience Training Part 1” the importance of beginning obedience training early, “Early training and exposure for a young retriever pup is critical! Absolutely critical! And, regardless of how well-bred the pup is, inadequate early training can override all of his outstanding genetic traits.”

Why It’s Important
Basic obedience training is not only helpful to you in the field, it will also benefit you at home. Dave Carty in an article for Gun Dog Magazine gave this no-nonsense, common sense explanation of the importance of training obedience, “Consider them manners for bird dogs. Dogs that won’t come when called, who won’t sit when told to sit and who jump all over your shell-shocked visitors are no fun to be around. You wouldn’t let your kid tear up the neighborhood playground and behave like a brat, would you? Why would you let your bratty dog get away with the same behavior?”

You’ll use the basic commands “come,” “sit,” “heel,” and “down” both in the house and out of the house. These commands are going to be a huge part of a dog’s field training and his experiences with you while hunting. An ill trained dog will only impede your experience as a hunter. Goodwin put it succinctly, “If you don’t have your dog under control at your side, you will never have him under control at a distance.”

Along with field training, a good understanding of basic obedience will be imperative if and when you move on to e-collar training. In Part II of Butch Goodwin’s article “Obedience Training” he explains, “The electronic collar is not a replacement for basic training, it is not a quick fix nor a magic wand. The dog MUST have a solid foundation of basic obedience as I have outlined here BEFORE introducing the collar.

The Basics
Depending on what trainer you talk to these basic commands may vary, however, these four basic obedience commands will get you and your pup on the road to a well-behaved hunting partner. Your dogs understanding of these commands will save you time and can potentially keep your dog out of a dangerous situation.

  • Come – The command “come” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The “come” command is simply telling your dog it’s time to return to you. The “come” command will be essential when your dog is going after birds in the field.
  • Sit – The “sit” command will come in handy no matter where you are, at home, in the field, at the park. Your dog’s understanding of the “sit” command will give you instant control of your dog. Carty elaborated on the many uses of the sit command: “The ‘sit’ command is extremely useful: when you’re trying to get your dog to settle down to put a collar on him, or when you’re trying to get him to hold still to pluck cactus spines out of his pads.”
  • Heel – Although some hunters have shyed away from the “heel” command it’s still an effective training tool. Heeling says to your dog, “Stand at my side now.” Through the proper training your dog will immediately know which side he should be standing one when he hears the “heel” command. This simple command can keep your dogs out of harms way when they are multiple guns firing while out in the field with other hunters and their dogs.
  • Down – The “down” command is telling your dog to lay down submissively with all fours on the ground and his head flat to the floor between his front paws. Seasoned gun dog trainer Butch Goodwin claims, “To the hunting dog, this command is nearly as important as the “sit” command.” Goodwin also says that because the down position is a submissive position for dogs you are gaining domination without force and in such a way that the dogs doesn’t feel dominated.

For more info on Basic Obedience Training check out these other articles:

Starting Early: The What, When, Why and How of Puppy Socialization

“Socializing your young dog with other dogs early on just makes good sense. Playing with family members and other dogs you own is a start, but the more exposure you can provide, the better. Trips to the park or a basic obedience class all play into forming a solid, well-adjusted dog.” Bob West, Gun Dog Magazine

Socialization is the process of introducing your puppy to people, other animals, places and situations he will experience in his life. You are essentially training your dog how to cope with real life encounters. As we talked about in “Picking A New Puppy” (link) your puppy’s socialization should have begun with the breeder. Once you get your pup, however, it is your responsibility to continue this essential part of your dog’s training.

Why socializing is important.
Socialization is crucial to your dog’s development. A dog without proper socialization can yield lifelong behavioral problems. Trainer Butch Goodwin of Northern Flight Retrievers discusses in his article on Pre-Stressing your dog the potential dangers of not socializing your dog, “Dogs lacking sufficient socialization often show undesirable psychological traits such as aggression, fearfulness, and anti-social behavior in general.” Early socialization and exposure prepares your dog for future training and will lead to your ultimate goal of cultivating an effective and well rounded hunting dog.

When to Start
It is crucial to begin socializing your pup between 6 to 8 weeks, once he has weaned from the mother. Bob West of Gun Dog Magazine explained in his article “Off To A Good Start” why it’s important to begin training this early, “The pup’s nervous system reaches the structural and functional capacities of an adult by this time, so he’s ready to learn and intensive socialization should begin.”

Butch Goodwin also touches on why an early start on socialization is imperative, “…socialization has a limited timeframe early in life when the pup is susceptible to imprinting. And these time periods for early neurological and social stimulation only come once; after the time period passes, the results will likely be permanent.” Although beginning socialization early is important, what’s more important is how you train your pup.

How to Socialize
As with any training patience and consistency are imperative. Start your socialization training with small groups of people who all understand your end goal. West explained in “Off To A Good Start”, “Puppies who are gently handled by different people usually develop friendly and trusting attitudes toward people in general.”

Gradually increase your pup’s exposure by introducing him to larger groups, neighborhood walks, new places such as parks or hunting grounds and eventually to other dogs (other than your own).

Kids are also a great way to socialize puppies.  It’s no secret most kids love puppies and using your own children, nieces and nephews, or the children of friends can be great exposure for your new puppy. The most important thing to remember when introducing children to your dog is to start with some ground rules. This will ensure that both your dog and the children have a positive experience. The Utah Hunting Dog Training Blog uses this stead fast rule when introducing his pupies to children and vice versa: “The main rule is that the kids don’t pick up the puppy. This can often end in disaster if a frightened child drops a puppy on a hard surface. Instead, I have them sit on the ground and then they are welcome to hold and pet the puppies.” Creating a safe, secure environment for your puppy while socializing is so important when training.

For more info on Socializing check out the full versions of the sources in this artlce.

Picking a New Retriever Puppy

Picking your new pup is a serious job that requires serious planning. There is more to choosing your new hunting partner than simply picking a breed and going to pick him or her up. In order to find the perfect fit for what you are looking for in your gun dog requires research and patience.

Picking a Breeder
Most gun dog owners, trainers and breeders can agree the first step in choosing your new puppy is to start looking at the stock he came from. When choosing your breeder you need to look for breeders of capable, proven hunting dogs. If you haven’t seen your pups parents in field trials or hunt tests, reach out to the breeder and ask for a video or even if you can go hunting with them. Get to know the breeders and their dogs, get references, and visit the breeder instead of only using phone call and emails. Choosing a breeder is more than just who has the cutest pups.
Mark Romanack of Wild Fowl Magazine online wrote,  “All puppies are adorable, and it is easy to get caught up in the emotions associated with visiting and handling young dogs. It is critical to stay focused on the task of selecting a pup and working toward the goal of choosing the best of the best.
Good breeding produces dogs with capable hunting instincts, and also ensures that vital physical and emotional characteristics such as eyesight, enthusiasm, drive and the desire to please are present. I can’t emphasize enough that researching the best breeding is the fast track to making sure puppies have all the tools they need to become capable hunters and long-term hunting companions.”
via Tips for Picking Your Next Retriever

Male or Female?
Once you’ve chosen your breeder, it’s time to pick your pup. The sex of your new dog is mostly about personal preference. True, males and females can have some consistent personality differences, but just as a male dog can be aggressive, so can a female.
Brian Lynn of Outdoor Life online had this to say about the pros and cons of both male and female dogs: “While we can only speak in generalities, males often tend to challenge you mentally. Not like trying to trick you, but stand up to you and make you prove the exercise to them; females will sometimes pout if you push too much (not to say there aren’t alpha females), but can also be more affectionate, too.
Males like to pee on everything and have more of a tendency to fight with other dogs, but both are issues that can be resolved with training. Females have their heat cycle to contend with and Murphy’s Law will almost always have that come about during a special hunt or a big competition. While a cycle will keep you from competing, it won’t keep you from hunting her; but hormones could affect her mood, responsiveness and performance. Let’s not forget, however, that a good female is hard to come by, and can also produce puppies, and will therefore almost always cost more than a male.”
via Do You Prefer Male or Female Puppies?

Getting your new puppy home: Flying vs. Driving
Now after all the research, decisions and waiting your breeder finally calls to say your puppy has been born and in just a couple of months it will be time for you to pick him or her up. While this may seem like a cut and dry issue, there are a few things to think about and decide on before it’s time for your puppy to come home.
Noted dog breeder and trainer (?) Butch Goodwin says although it may seem like an easy decision to drive to pick up your new puppy there are two factors to consider when deciding HOW your dog will make it to you.

  1. Stress
    Flying for just a few hours will cause a lot less stress for your dogs than a several hour road trip in car. You can also fly with your dog in a soft crate so even if your flight gets delayed your pup stays with you.
  1. Vaccinations and exposure
    Goodwin wrote, “…a seven- or eight-week-old puppy has generally had only one vaccination. It is possible that he no longer has the full level of immunity that he got from his mother and likely that he hasn’t had his full series of shots yet. So, when you drive for more than a few hours, where do you stop and let him out to relieve himself? Is there anyplace to stop along the route home where you can be absolutely positive that another dog hasn’t spread parvovirus or some other killer disease in that area? Certainly you can’t let your pup out at a gas station or truck stop — that’s where everybody stops to let their dogs out. Fast food places are just as bad. The ‘dog area’ at highway rest areas is probably the worst. And, if you have to stop overnight, the grass areas or ‘dog only’ areas surrounding the motel parking lot are likely extremely contaminated and often covered with – all manner of trash.”
    via New Pup?: If you plan to drive to get him – Think again. 
Look for socialized pups with hunting potential
So you’ve finally made it home with your new gun dog puppy. Now begins the tedious process of socializing and training your dog to be the hunting companion you need.
A well socialized puppy simply means your pup has been handled by people frequently and is comfortable around other people and dogs. Your puppy’s socialization should have begun with the breeder. In the article “Picking a Puppy”  for Gundog Magazine Jerry Thoms wrote, “Spooky puppies afraid of people are difficult to evaluate and hard to sell. So most responsible gun dog breeders make a specific point of spending time with any litter,” Roettger finds. “The idea is to develop pups that are friendly, happy and at ease around anyone who wants to hold them, play with them or just watch them.”
Also during this time is when you’ll start to set the foundation of your gun dog’s training and get a real feel for the potential of your new puppy. Thoms said, “Testing seven-week puppies for hunting potential may seem like a real stretch. But in our experience, there are some fairly consistent behaviors that can be identified to predict a young dog’s hunting future.”

via Picking a Puppy

For more info on picking your new puppy here are a few extra online articles:

Pigeons, Pheasants, or What have you- You NEED Birds!

If you are planning on training your own dogs to hunt birds, then you need birds. Let’s face it, dogs that have no real experience and practice hunting live birds cannot be expected to do the job properly. In fact, no exposure to live birds may create total mayhem if you throw them into an unknown bird situation!

Dog training clubs and shooting preserves (where you are allowed to keep your own stock of birds or purchase them) are great places to take your pups to train. If you are a handy man (or hey- even a handy woman) you can build your own housing for birds. Not too handy with some wood and a hammer? You can always shell out money and invest in a professionally built loft or kennel for birds.

W.L. Jaggers Quality Pigeon Lofts & Recall Pens may be the best option for you! This man’s work comes highly recommended. These lofts and pens are available to be shipped to a variety of areas and you get a great return on your investment. W.L.’s bird housing is well worth the price tag.

The Best Information to Put on Your Retriever’s ID Tag

So, you want to spend the money to have a nice engraved plate put on your dog’s (or even your cat’s) collar, but not sure what you should have written on it—What should you do? Right off the bat, most people feel the need to put their pet’s name on the tag. In all reality, this may not be the best idea. If someone can read your pet’s name it may be easier for them to steal the pet (we have all had the pups that will come to anyone who calls their name sweetly). So, maybe leave that tid bit of information off of the tag.

One important thing you want to include on the ID plate is your name. Whoever might find your dog, should they get lost, will NEED to know who to get in touch with. Also, be sure to put a telephone number you can easily be reached at. Those two things are probably the most pertinent information to include on an ID tag. Also, if your pet has any type of specials needs or needs some kind of medication, etc. be sure to have that put on the plate.

If you want you can even put REWARD IF FOUND on the plate. This tends to give people a push to want to get the pet back to you as quickly as they can. However, do be ready to give someone a reward should they find your dog or cat. You can really put anything you want on a plate. Just remember it does cost money to include lots of info! Make sure that no matter what, you have your IMPORTANT contact information engraved on it. Make it as easy as possible for a person to get your favorite four legged friend back to you, and of course we all hope you never have the problem of losing your pet!

Conditioning Your Dogs All Year Round

So, for those of you who do hunt and have hunting and field dogs, do you tend to not practice and exercise them nearly as often as you should when it’s the off season? Hey, everybody does it. You don’t think too much about it until it is almost time to start back again! The problem is that then you have dogs that get worn out pretty easily and you have to spend a large portion of your time conditioning them so that they can run for longer periods of time.

If you live anywhere near the South, or maybe if you like to travel to places in the warmer months for hunting expeditions and competitions, you might particularly have problems with your dogs’ ability to stay consistently ready to go. The hotter and muggier it is, the easier our pups get worn out. If you add to that humid, warm weather with unconditioned and less than worthy exercised dogs, you might get extremely tired dogs after only several minutes.

To avoid this problem we all just need to find a way to get our dogs the conditioning they need on a consistent basis. But hey we all know that life is too busy to focus 100% of our attention to our pups (even if we wish we could). One effective way to get them some great exercise is to use roading harnesses.

Lots of you may already use a harness instead of a regular ole collar when you walk your dogs. This idea doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to gun dogs. Any pet can be walked or ran using a harness. Collars tend to put pressure onto the dog’s neck, can be very uncomfortable for them, and cause them to hack and other health problems if they pull against it hard enough! With a harness the pressure is taken away from their neck, and instead distributed across their chest and shoulders.

A harness makes it easier and safer for the dog to pull and keep moving forward. Be ready when they have the opportunity to pull away from your resistance. Some of our dogs may be stronger than we realize! Walking and running your pups with a roading harness is a great way to build their muscle, stamina, have some fun, and even get yourself a little exercise!

By the way, you can even do this by horseback or from a top a four wheeler. Just be sure to take your time building up the dogs’ stamina. Also, if you’re doing this to build up their conditioning for hunting purposes, consider roading them in the way you most often would when you hunt (if you hunt mostly on foot it would be best to walk and/ or run them by foot).

Does Your Dog Need Help with Basic Behavioral Problems?

So, we have all had these problems with our pets at some point, right? —jumping on people as they walk in the door, chasing cars, chewing our shoes, furniture, etc. Maybe you’ve even had problems with your dog grabbing food off of your plate when you turn your head or dragging out the garbage and shredding it?

If your dog has these kinds of behavioral issues, you may want to invest in a basic problem solving collar. There are many to choose from, including the Tritronics SPORT Basic and SportDOG SD 400. Do not confuse these with remote dog training collars. Remote dog training collars can be used to teach your dog to come, stay, and sit on command (among other things). They differ in the level of stimulation from one another. If you are looking to train your dog, check on a collar like the Innotek ADV 1000.

Also keep in mind that if you are trying to keep your dog from barking like crazy every time there is a little noise, you may need a no-bark collar. With a no-bark collar your dog will be given stimulation when there is unwanted barking (even when you aren’t there). With collars that are made to correct behavior problems or to train, you need to be present to give the reprimand or command.

We all like to think our dogs will mind us because they love us. The truth is, just like people, some dogs are just more spirited or hardheaded than others. In any event, one of these collars can give your dog the little boost they need to understand you mean business!