An intense, close bond exists between a retriever and its owner, the hunter. This bond begins with the puppy and the training process that both go through together. The retrieving instinct is pre-programmed through decades of breeding, but this instinct has to be managed and trained through countless hours of repetitive lessons. The puppy starts off with basic training, such as sitting and coming on command. It then progresses to simple retrieves with rubber bumpers that are easily visible on a lawn or field. These retrieves gradually become longer and in thicker cover. Eventually, if all goes well, a young dog of a year or two will become a retrieving machine, achieving blind retrieves hundreds of yards away and directed by hand signals.
Hunters also go through a learning process about their dog’s personality and capabilities, as well as a lot about themselves. They must learn patience and ways to communicate effectively with their dog, and he or she must also learn the power of consistency and reliability. The dog has to be able to trust the hunter in any situation. Many times, the hunter must also trust his dog and its incredible nose when searching for downed birds.
After a few duck hunting seasons, the dog and hunter become a team working closely together performing their respective duties. The hunter provides the setting and the shooting of the ducks. The dog retrieves the birds. Like any team, things do not always go according to plan, and one member may fail to pull their weight at times. Easy shots are sometimes missed, in which case the dog may look at the hunter in shocked dismay as if to say, “How could you have possibly missed such an incredibly easy shot?” When everything clicks though, the dog and hunter partnership is a beautiful sight to behold but an even greater experience to live.