NAT Tidbits

By: Jeff Merriman

The Willamette Valley Chapter would like to share some tidbits of information to help you and your pup do as well as possible at the test.  We know some of this sounds or is obvious, but these are items we see young dogs struggle with at the test.

  • Above all else ... Keep things fun for pup, if it’s not fun for you, it’s not fun for pup!  We can’t emphasize this enough!

  • Get to know your pup ... Meaning spend some time with your new best friend!  This will go a very long way over the life of your pup.

  • Your pup has a very short attention span, keep training sessions short.  You are better off having multiple SHORT training sessions throughout the day rather than a session that is long where pup becomes bored.  A few repetitions (2 – 3) each session is all that is needed.  Finish on a positive note and always leave pup wanting more.

  • As the weather warms up, get pup out for some fun in the water.  Your pup will be expected to enter the water at the test on his/her own 2 times.

  • Teach pup to be a good citizen in public.  No one likes a brat!  This means basic obedience as in Come, Heel, Stay, Sit, etc.  This will be very beneficial to you and pup come test time.

  • Introduce pup to birds.  If you need help with this, please attend one of the training days for guidance.  The reality is you are not going to have a bird dog without using birds in your training program.  I’m sorry; this is just not going to happen otherwise.  Notice the first word in Bird Dog.  The more types of birds you can expose pup to the better.  Pheasants and Chukars are typically used at the Willamette Valley natural ability tests in addition to ducks during the utility tests.

  • If pup hasn’t started tracking yet, you should start working with pup now! Again, need help?  Please attend a training day.  Training days are no cost to members.  We are glad to work with you and pup!  NAVHDA wants to see your new hunting partner do as well as (s)he can at the test.  NAVHDA would like to see every pup receive a prize I, so do your part, get pup outdoors for some fresh air!

  • This leads me to my next point, take pup out for a romp in different environments and build pups confidence and independence if shy.  The test site has a very large field and pup will be expected to cover some ground, so conditioning is important.  Now on the flip side if you have a big running pup, you might want to see my point about pup being a good citizen again in case you missed it!  If you have no control of pup, it will be a much longer day than it already will be.  Good citizens mean dogs stay out of shelters, kennels, or worse and are much easier (read less stress) to live with.

  • For 1st time owners, new handlers and new NAVHDA members, we can’t emphasize how informative training days will be to you.  Yes we will work with pup, but more importantly we work with you so that you can take away learning's from the day and implement them in your own training program.  Ask yourself ..... What is it that you want from pup today, tomorrow, 5 years from now, even 10 years from now.  What do you want the finished product to look like?  When you can answer this, work back to front from finished product to today in your training program and you will produce a better dog.

  • Last on this list, gun shyness.  Pup will be checked for gun sensitivity at the test. This is a controversial subject that we will not get into detail here.  In most cases, not all, this is a man made problem that can be difficult if not impossible to correct.   If you need help with gun breaking, please attend a training day or contact an experienced member to help you out.  The last thing we want to do is ruin all the hard work we have put in.


Now with that all being said, have fun, don’t worry, you aren’t going to ruin pup if you spend the time to get to know pup.  Get over it, you are going to make mistakes, we all do, your pup will forgive you!

Lets paraphrase everything just mentioned into 1 word for success today, at the test, and the future ..... EXPOSURE!  The more pup is exposed to when young the more confident and successful your pup will be as (s)he gets older.