Summertime is Swim Time

Marybeth Piedrafite

     Hunting season is in the fall, winter, and early spring season the when weather is favorable and scenting conditions are at their best. So what do you do with your hunting dog in the late Spring/Summer? You swim!


    With our field degrees requiring water work, the best time to introduce or train your EC to water is when the water is warm and the sun is hot. Teaching your dog to swim can be fun!  A game of fetch played in on the shores til the dog is hot, will make the water a welcome cool down for the pup who has not had much water experience. You must be ready to swim too, for the cocker that needs an “ass” ist to get the rear up when they paddle too hard in the front. Once you get them in balance, they will usually cruise forever.
     Don’t overtire your novice swimmer. Use the same common sense you do for humans when you take your pet swimming. If you have an experienced swimmer, take them along, the rivalry will usually bring out the best in the inexperienced swimmer. Just remember to make it fun and short.


     After your pet is an experienced swimmer (and not until then) is when you start retrieving.  I usually continue the game of fetch from the land to the water. Throw something small like a “big” stick in to the water. The dog must learn how to open its mouth without getting water down its throat. A ball might be too much to handle the first time. Make sure what you throw has good visibility in the water. Get down on the dog’s eye level in the water to make sure the dog can see (MARK) it. Remember to always keep this a light fun situation of short duration.  When your companions is swimming strongly, smoothly, effortlessly and is able to retrieve, is when you start him on birds or bumpers. If your EC does not have bird experience wait til the fall training sessions and go to the pond with the dead bird after the birdwork. The dog will be pumped up (with desire) and hot, and then the retrieve will be natural.
     In the summertime, use bumpers. Start with the baby bumpers then work up to the large bumpers. (This would simulate a duck retrieve.) Remember, they must learn to use their mouth on retrieves. If you practice with different objects your dog will be able to handle different birds, i.e. quail, chukar, pheasant, and duck. The weight ratio is pretty close with a wet pheasant on a 30 yard swim. It is a “conditioning” exercise. Don’t feel restricted by using a long line on your dog. In the water I use a flexi lead. You are now working for that straight out and straight back on retrieve, out of the water to land. Polishing comes after there is no doubt in your dog’s mind that what he is there for. The sit on shore, the send and retrieve back to hand is the finished performance.


      So take advantage of the good ole summertime for the enjoyment of the water work. We’ll put the finishing touches on the pond work at the fall training sessions. Please remember you do not like to get thrown into a swimming pool so please don’t do that with your EC. Make it comfortable and pleasurable. I use kiddie’s swimming pools to introduce them to the water and I have found even though they are not swimming if they get used to jumping in and out and getting wet, they’ll jump in and out of water anywhere.  Take them to the beach, rivers, and lakes: wherever you go in the summer to cool off and enjoy.

P.S. Don’t forget mud puddles!