Retriever transitional training processes are designed to transfer learned behaviors and skills from yard work and other controlled environments to practical field-hunting situations. Although these exercises usually lack multi-level concepts or actual hunting scenarios, they do involve elements that will be confronted in the field. Individuals occasionally fall short in this aspect of retriever training. They work hard on skills, drills, patterns and conditioning.
Then they pitch the young prospect directly into the exciting atmosphere of a hunt test or actual day's shooting. The outcome can be less than desirable. With this in mind, one should progress systematically and concentrate on transitional exercises, which will benefit a young dog's skills by reinforcing learned behaviors in a variety of practical situations.
As we begin the transition to delivery-to-hand conditioning, it is important to be absolutely consistent in the manner in which delivery is accepted, as well as the use of the command, "hold," and "release" (or "drop," "give," "dead"). If one decides upon the side delivery/finish, work must begin on the various turns and alignments prior to involving the bumper. Then, once proficient in the recovery position for delivery, the bumper is added to begin hold/delivery sequences. It is important to accept the object (bird or bumper) from under the object and the dog's lower jaw. Release should only occur on command. Handlers should avoid making a habit of delicately grasping a bird's wing or foot to accept delivery. By taking a firm grip from underneath the dog's jaw, the hunter stands less chance of losing those boisterous wounded drake mallards or cock pheasants that the retriever has worked hard to deliver to hand.
Front delivery is popular with spaniel and bird dog handlers. There is obvious merit to this delivery position for waterfowl retrievers as well:
1. It is fast and accurate. Straight in, sit, deliver and recover to heel.
2. Wet dogs will shake in front once the bird is delivered, not on hunter.
3. Usually handlers can grip the bird better from the front position, as both hands are available.
4. Side delivery is often useless in hunting situations - tight quarters in blinds, pits, boats, deep water, etc.