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The Walk-Up Retrieve
by Joe Law
23 March 2011

The Retrieving Ability Test for Gundogs (RATG) provide for a Walk-Up retrieve in the Open class.  What is a Walk-Up retrieve?  As the name suggests, the test simulates a situation where a hunter walking with his dog at heel, either through fields or along river banks, might suddenly flush game within shooting range.

This situation requires an immediate response from the hunter and also requires the dog to remain steady, alert and under control.  A well-trained gundog should never retrieve game until the game has fallen and only then will the dog be sent to retrieve.

In Retrieving Trials (RT), the handler carries a gun and is required to discharge a primed blank cartridge in the direction of the game when it is cast.  However, in RATG trials, no gun is carried and the exercise for this reason becomes a somewhat different experience for both dog and handler.  In fact, at the time of writing this article, the new RATG rules are non-specific about what action or demeanour the handler should adopt at the time when the game is cast.  Never-the-less, the essential requirements are that the dog:
Walkup
a. Is under control and takes the pace of the handler.
b. Remains steady when the Game is cast.
c. Marks the fall of the Game.
d. Does not retrieve until instructed.
e. Does not need direction from the handler.
f. Returns directly to the handler with the Game.

In training for this exercise, the dog needs to be conditioned to remaining steady when game is cast.  The training procedure for steadiness is outlined here and clearly the Walk-Up exercise raises the level of steadiness and alertness required.  Once you are satisfied that your dog is remaining steady to the cast when it has first been placed in a stand or sit position, you can then begin to shorten the time between steadying your dog and having an assistant cast the game.  Eventually your dog will remain steady on any occasion when game is cast and automatically remain steady until ordered to retrieve.  You will then be ready to introduce your dog to the Walk-Up experience. 

As mentioned earlier, the present RATG rule is unclear as to what actions or demeanour a handler should take at the moment when the game is cast and it would be a good thing for the handler to be able to develop a set of verbal and body-language cues that might alert the dog to the fact that the game has suddenly been cast.  Until such time as the National Committee issues clearer directions, it might be a good idea to check with the judge on the day of a trial what actions are considered appropriate or inappropriate at the moment the game is released.  Whatever directions are given by the judge, it will be important that the essentials previously listed are adhered to and observed.


Photo by Lara Sedgmen

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Dogs NSW magazine.

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