Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas
Transitional training is the practice of utilizing specific training exercises designed to bridge the gap between field training activities and actual hunting conditions; the Wildrose Way is to train as you hunt, hunt as you train.
There are multiple steps to training a gundog that will receive a recurring invitation after each and every hunt. The first is yard work. Any skill that you wish your dog to perform must first be perfected in a mowed flat area with no distractions. The goal here is to set your dog up for success. Then there is field work, where the same skills are now repeated in an assortment of terrain and situations: tall grass, water, woods, etc. Sequentially, the last step many may consider is to go hunt, that is if you want all your training to go out the window. For the training of a proper Gentleman’s Gundog there is another step in the process before going afield on opening day.
Transitional work is most often the quickest to be overlooked. The key is mimicking realistic hunting scenarios in a controlled environment to entrench the skills you have been teaching. For instance, in the video above we are shooting several clays before ever launching a bumper to ensure that the clays and gunfire have not unsteadied the dog. Having already set out decoys and set up in the blind, all we need is a simple mark or a couple of memories. Most often all of the confusion of broken clays and gunfire will be enough to challenge a young dog. Keep the retrieves successful, and make haste slowly to adding complexity.
If you are not lucky enough to have all of the facilities and assistance needed for a challenging transitional setup at your disposal, don’t be discouraged. A simple hand-thrown clay thrower, decoys, gunfire and maybe even waders or duck calls can be enough to add to a training session to get your dog focused as if it’s a real hunt. I had a long-time Wildrose dog owner suggest getting to the training ground before daylight and beginning the train at sunrise for an added environmental factor to more closely mimic a hunt. Be sure that the real hunt is mimicked, but don’t hesitate to stop and train where your dog is struggling. First hunts are actually extensions of training.
Transitional training transfers basic lessons to practical field situations similar to a football team scrimmaging, war games to infantry men. Lessons learned in training are transferred to realistic field/marsh situations.
Sporting Dog and Retriever Training: The Wildrose Way, pp. 37, 143, 155, 255