Toys & Training

Robert Milner’s Flight Pen Retriever Coaching Technique

There are numerous methods to develop a relaxed, centered retriever, however Duckhill Kennel’s Robert Milner has a technique that’s distinctive. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Milner)

Waterfowlers wince when their Labs break to retrieve a downed mallard whereas one other flock makes its last method, or worse but, lunge ahead earlier than any quarry is in vary in any respect. That’s what makes steadiness so extremely prized in gun canine. There are numerous methods to develop a relaxed, centered retriever, however Duckhill Kennel’s Robert Milner has a technique that’s distinctive. Milner works his Labs in flight pens loaded with birds. Whereas that technique is unconventional in America, it’s commonplace within the UK for good purpose:  It really works.

A Considering Gun Canine 

“The primary time I noticed a canine educated in a flight pen was in England over 30 years in the past,” Milner, the Eukanuba professional coach, stated. “I used to be working Labs with Robin Watson of Tibea Gun Canines and Golden retrievers with the late June Atkinson of Holway Kennels. What struck me most was how each developed retrievers able to making impartial choices to recuperate a wounded duck whereas operating by a area filled with reside pheasant. To me, steadiness means a self-controlled canine centered on the duty at hand. To get that stage of discernment, canine ought to be able to figuring issues out on their very own. It’s finest to domesticate that habits once they’re a pet.”

The Flight Pen 

“The Brits use flight pens which can be a number of acres massive for each 1,000 birds,” Milner stated. “The pen’s aspect fences are rooster wire, they’re about six ft tall, and so they have a scorching backside. Electrical energy at floor stage retains away predators, and because the UK has few avian predators, their pens are left open.”  

Earlier than birds are launched within the pens their wing feathers are clipped to allow them to’t fly away. Add in common feeding and watering and the birds affiliate the pen as their roosting web site. These wing feathers will regrow in a number of weeks, and once they do, geese, pheasant and grouse will fly out of the pen. After spending their day within the wild, the vast majority of birds return to the pen at night time. Birds that don’t return are rounded up with retrievers, and that coaching method is named “dogging the birds in.” It’s much like a collie rounding up sheep.

Milner’s Double Barrel of Chook Pens

Milner has two fowl pens, one for younger canine and one for puppies.  “The pens are comparable with the pet pen being smaller in dimension. I’ve largely adopted the British mannequin to save lots of for further juice on the backside to maintain out the racoons. I additionally added a prime of two-inch nylon netting to maintain the hawks and owls away. I then positioned 8-foot tall stakes each 30 ft or so. These stakes elevate the netting so handlers can comfortably stroll round within the pen whereas working canine. That further peak additionally provides the birds extra air area by which to fly.”

The pen’s inside resembles a pure surroundings. There’s a spring-fed pond by which Milner planted duckweed, smartweed and rice. He’s additionally planted peas, beans, millet, and Coastal Bermuda grass. “I just like the Bermuda grass as a canopy crop,” he stated. “It’s a perennial with a strong root system and it’s sturdy sufficient to resist the strain from common canine coaching. I added hen home tunnels utilized by Delta Waterfowl of their prairie conservation tasks for roosting areas. The birds use them for nesting within the spring, and which means I’ve a brand new provide of birds yearly. That’s a giant assist for protecting down my fowl prices.”   

Milner has Guinea fowl and geese in his pet pen. His massive pen has a greater diversity of birds which embrace geese, Guineas, pheasant, geese, and some peacocks. Selection is vital for puppies and younger canine for 2 causes. The birds look and behave otherwise, and that introduction is vital for hunters who goal totally different species.

labrador retriever puppies with chickensRobert Milner provides hen rolls for geese to breed, making certain there’s by no means a scarcity of birds for flight pen coaching. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Milner)

Flight Pen Coaching Time  

When his pups are six-weeks previous, Milner introduces them to birds within the small pen. “The sight and odor of the birds helps puppies develop a relaxed confidence,” he stated. “I need puppies to study that birds should not harmful, and once they’re relaxed and assured round reside birds they received’t be excited or jumpy when within the blind when a giant flock of geese flies in. Puppies that affiliate reside birds with the pure surroundings see them as a part of their regular, on a regular basis life. Puppies or canine that don’t see a lot of birds get excited, and once they get excited, they lose focus or misbehave.”

Across the similar time, Milner works on instructing puppies his 5 essential behaviors. These 5 essential behaviors are the abilities he needs all retrievers to own. He’ll begin that coaching at six weeks of age and proceed till the habits is computerized. “Automaticity means the habits is a pure response,” he stated. “The canine doesn’t have to consider it, he simply does it.

These 5 behaviors are:  

• Recall

• Supply handy

• Sit and keep

• Reminiscence retrieve to know the place the bumper/fowl fell with out with the ability to see it.

• Whistle cease—and search for a command.

Superior Coaching within the Huge Canine Pen  

When the pup has mastered the 5 essential behaviors, Milner introduces the pet to the large pen. “I’m wanting on the bigger variety of various kinds of birds to extend the likelihood for distraction,” he stated. “I anticipate the pet to remain on job even if there are birds strolling and flying round. I introduce them slowly and in a managed method. first step is to ask them to heel after which to stroll them across the pen. Whereas birds are operating or flying round I’ll calmly and quietly discuss to the pet and ask him to heel. After the pup has exhibited calm habits I’ll transfer on to a different job like sit and keep. I’ll stand subsequent to the pet whereas one other coach walks across the pen to flush the birds. I wish to be sure that the pet stays sitting in the course of that distraction. One other job is to throw bumpers into the center of a bunch of reside birds and ship the pup on a retrieve. I anticipate them to return with the bumper with out chasing birds. If they’ll stay centered within the pen then they may haven’t any downside sitting nonetheless in a blind on opening day when a lot of geese pour in. They’re conditioned to that form of pleasure and it has grow to be regular habits. Additionally they know they’ll be rewarded with a retrieve in the event that they ignore the reside birds which they received’t be capable to catch anyway.”  

labrador retriever puppies with chickensRobert Milner’s flight pen retriever coaching technique encourages puppies to develop steadiness within the face of some very attractive distractions. (Photograph courtesy of Robert Milner)

Milner says {that a} comparable method is used within the UK when creating fox hounds. As fox hounds encounter a number of totally different recreation throughout a chase, the pack wants discernment to remain centered on the fox. Handlers introduce fox hound puppies to all kinds of animals. They’ll stroll the pups by cattle pens, horse corrals, previous sheep, round goats, and thru birds.

When you’re trying to strive coaching your retriever in a fowl pen and have a number of land then take into account constructing a pen of your individual. Another choice is to see about coaching in a fowl pen at a business looking operation. Give Milner’s fowl pen a strive. It’s one other progressive technique for creating calm, centered and deliberate canine.

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