Good Dog Gear: 'Training Retrievers to Handle' by D.L. Walters

There has never been a greater quantity of easily accessible resources for the beginning retriever trainer than there are today. From dozens of DVD-based training programs to Internet websites, chatrooms, bulletin boards, forums and blogs that are frequented by thousands of like-minded gundog enthusiasts, you're just a mouse click away from answers to any training question or problem you are likely to encounter. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if someone is feverishly working on a retriever training iPhone app (and if they aren't, I've got dibs).

Compare that to just a few years ago. I'm not exactly old, but when I got my first dog the only information sources I had were a stack of old _Field & Stream_s and a copy of Bill Tarrant's "Hey Pup, Fetch It Up!" A few years later I did acquire some worn-out VHS copies of Rex Carr and Mike Lardy training seminars, but that was about as high-tech as it got back in the early 1990s.

Right now is truly the Golden Age of gundog training information. So why am I singing the praises of a musty, old-fashioned Gutenberg 1.0-based training app that was first published back in the Stone Age, A.D. 1979?

Because D.L. Walters' Training Retrievers to Handle is - in a field crowded with a number of very good training books and systems - still one of the classic treatises on teaching your dog to run blinds and handle, whether for the field or field trials.

Walters, a legendary retriever trainer who died last year at the age of 82, lays out his training methods in a systematic, clear, concise, no BS manner. Everything is covered, from simple introductory three-legged pattern drills to baseball, walking baseball and water patterns. There have been many advances in retriever training methods since Walters' book was first published, and many pros have built on and arguably improved on Walters' methods, but like the books of James Lamb Free and Bill Tarrant, you can always find something useful within its pages, and it deserves to be on the bookshelf of all serious retriever enthusiasts.

And if you want to read a fascinating Bill Tarrant profile of DL Walters, here's a Google Books link to the June, 1974 issue of Field & Stream. It's cool stuff...