The river dog sporting companion must be obedient, patient, and trustworthy; a dog with the capacity to sit quietly on the bank of a stream or in any boat, attentive yet in no way disruptive for extended periods of time. Many dogs are demanding of other owners for their attention and most are intrigued by a fish's movement, both in and out of water. These interests left uncontrolled can interfere with the outdoor experience for those in their company.
Training for this level of control and patience is best started, when the dog is quite young, with place training. If our subject is an older dog, the same skills must be taught but the earlier the start, the quicker the behavior will be entrenched. Begin place training on a mat, platform, or stool. A "place" defined for the dog that limits their movement helps to teach the concept. Heel work, sit and stay (permanently) must be thoroughly taught. The recall command, "Here" command, must be instantly responded to by a river dog. Control is imperative. Practice these skills and once they are understood, move outside around distractions and activities. Reward patience and stillness with vigorous praise and perhaps the occasional small treat.
Place training or stay must be conditioned to the point that a dog will remain steady even if the handler is not close by. Our dog must understand that patience and quietness is expected in all matters on the bank, boat, blind, camp, etc. NO exceptions!
Some of the most fulfilling outdoor experiences I have shared with my dogs have been on rivers: hunting waterfowl; shooting quail along stream banks; float trips while fishing and hiking. I'm with Joe Auteri, the companionship of a dog on a river excursion just can't be beat. To see two short videos of River Dog Training, visit www.uklabs.com, "Video Section."
Criteria for developing a river dog
- Steady to shot
- Responsive to whistle and hand signals
- Understands the effects of current
- Athletic ability and stamina
- Obedience off lead: heel, sit, remote stay
- Patience to remain still and attentive for long periods of inactivity
- Rides well in water crafts
- Not disruptive to the outdoor experience
- Does not chase wildlife
by Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels