Originally Posted by brendo
Practice getting your dog back hunting for you after it chases a bird in a timely manner. Practice zig zagging and having your dog stay with you in the field. Even if itís a bigger running dog make sure you can prove itís hunting for you and not itself. Donít reward hunting behind you. Make sure if your using pigeons in training that you get it on the birds you are using in the test sometimes the new scent throws off a pup. We had a lot of no prizes due to water get your dog extremely comfortable in the water!! Get the rules and aims packet from navhda and read it that breaks it all down for what they are after itís also online. On test day just keep your cool and have fun the dog will feed off your emotions.
Brendo is right on. I'm going to add a couple of things that helped me and a tip or two from the judges. If you notice the dog hunting behind you, when you catch their eye, make a 90 degree turn. See if they will get back in front of you. When they do, give them a little positive reinforcement. Telling them "good dog!" or whatever you do when they come zooming past in front reinforces they are doing something good and they are reconnecting with you.
If you do training days with your NAVHDA chapter, make sure you let them know where you are at with your dog. For example, at our second training day we worked on both tracking and pointing. My dog had never smelled or seen a pigeon. Let them know that. At one of our later training days, we had a pup that had never seen or smelled a chukar. She still found and pointed some but the first one seemed a little confusing for her. The dogs figure it out but it is good to talk to your experienced handlers in the chapter and let them know where your dog is.
Tracking, tracking, tracking. My dog had done a few duck drags and chukar drags in the yard. He was ok at tracking. The first track in the field was pretty much him breaking into search immediately. I didn't have a track command. They need a different command than your hunt command (hunt em up, find a bird, etc.) to associate with tracking (track, dead bird, hunt dead, etc.).
Talk to the judges. We had awesome judges. All were extremely nice and very willing to answer any questions you had. Let them know your experience level and don't be afraid to ask them even during the test.
Our judges wanted to see us connect well with our puppies. Mine had me bring the dog in to my side and give him water quite a few times. He told me to make eye contact with him, calm him, give him a sip of water even if he didn't want to. My dog started off by making a huge cast right off the bat. I think the judges could tell I was nervous because I didn't know what they would think. He started working back our way and they had me call him. After doing that twice, the head judge asked me if I could tell a difference in the dog. I could. Murphy was more settled, calmer, and was looking at me a little more. He also said I needed to keep my eyes on Murphy more so when he looks at me, I'm looking at him. Again, to reinforce that connection.
Finally make sure that the judges don't try to sneak away with your dog!