Before listening to the Woodstream Corporation's Audio Library tapes about retriever training, I did not know a thing about dogs. But after applying myself to the basic and advanced courses—consisting of slightly more than an hour and a half of information—I was qualified to test the techniques under battle conditions. I do not have a dog. but I do have a father-in-law who had not spoken to me since we went fishing and I hooked his hat with a purple worm.
When my wife was in college she dated a rugged individual who could tell a greater scaup from a lesser at 100 yards on a cloudy day, and when this guy was out fishing he could tell what was doing the biting by the merest twitch of the rod tip. He could fire from the hip. chop wood, call turkeys, chew tobacco without becoming ill and was not afraid of the dark. My wife's father is also a sportsman who hunts and fishes and even whittles, and it was his fondest hope that his son-in-law would be a guy who once got a limit of quail despite having a sprained shoulder, or at least somebody who could handle a man's drink, straight sauce, without holding his nose. When I first met my father-in-law, I ordered a banana daiquiri and was coughed on. Until I memorized much of what is on the cassettes, he locked himself in the bedroom every time we went for a visit.
The retriever-training tapes and an accompanying booklet cost $19.95, available by mail from the Woodstream Corp., Front & Locust Street, Lititz. Pa. 17543. and are a must for anybody with a pup he hopes to hunt one day. Or a father-in-law who thinks his daughter married a simp.
The tapes are narrated by Dave Duffey, who is hunting dog editor of Outdoor Life. He sounds a touch like John Wayne, especially when he relates how to teach your dog to "hunt 'em out," which means there is a "bird out there to either pick up or bring back." Duffey casually but expertly explains the training process to a straight man. The lessons were recorded at Duffey's former training farm in Neshkoro, Wis. You can hear a dog named Charly breathing heavily in the background.
For those who will use the tapes to train a dog, the lessons are separated by a beep so you can rewind and replay important parts before going out into the yard with your dog. But for those who are interested in regaining lost face, you can let the tapes run non-stop and absorb the essentials in one sitting.
The program was so easy to comprehend that I went to my father-in-law's house without notes. As he turned for the bedroom, I asked. "How are your dogs?" He has three. He looked at me suspiciously. I asked if he had gotten the red one to "kennel."
The process of kenneling is elucidated on Side Two of the pre-field play-training tape. You issue the kenneling command when you want your dog to get into a confined space. If the dog refuses, you pick him up and toss him in as you say. "Kennel."
The first time my father-in-law had showed me his dogs, I made the mistake of opening the gate of their pen so I could scratch behind the ears of the largest animal. As I kneeled and said, "Here doggie." the beast leaped over me and ran off into the woods, where it spent the night. There was a lot of ground to be made up.
"Repetition is the key," I said. "You have to repeat the voice command 'kennel' even when the red dog goes in the front door of the house."
My father-in-law said the dog was kenneling all right, but admitted he was having a little trouble getting him to heel.