Honestly too much time spent in a lawn chair at the tests for me. It also got to be in conflict with matches, so something had to go.
Wife still does with our dogs (Goldens).
We've got the entire south end of our 9 acre pond turned into a "technical" pond for retriever training and another smaller 1/2 acre pond we put in for "swim bys" etc.
We built coves, fingers, channels and an island. The island "briefed well" until the cover got so high that we couldn't see the dogs. One year mowing by brining a push mower across on a boat was enough to turn the island into a "lollipop" and we just drive the zero turn over. We've also turned one smaller field into cut rows to teach younger dogs to push through cover. We also put in "handler's" mounds so you can see the dogs work the channels etc.
We'll often have groups out for training days, so I literally have to schedule my shooting days with my wife when I want to do long range stuff.
After having bird dogs (pointers and Brits) for years I got my first dog that was considered a retriever, a Boykin spaniel. I read several books and watched many training videos so I started training her as soon as I got her at 8 weeks old. At 9 weeks she was retrieving a teal dummy.
I had just built a pond in back and introduced her to water which she took to like a fish. I can't take much credit for teaching/training her as she was almost a natural. I entered her into the Boykin spaniel national field trial when she was 2 y.o. to see if she and I were up to snuff. She didn't place but she finished the trial 9th out of 37 dogs entered. That was the first and last time we did any field trialing. We just hunted together for the next 13 years until she passed.
Those 1st 2 years were important for both of us and cemented a lasting bond. I sure miss her.
Hunting and personal reward. I am not a big fan of field trails as I think it pushes dogs too hard and so much training for them alone. I've never heard of as many dogs with CCL or other problems and getting that $5k knee surgery. When i was younger we just trained the dog and hunted the dog. Taught them shut up, sit still, not break, mark and fetch them up. whistle sit and hand signals too.
I joined a club with the girl in my avatar and it was just a long boring day every time I went. I got to many other thigs to do and training a dog is 10 minutes a day. She would not deliver to hand, but we always hunt in fields and layout blinds and she was taught to spit the bird out and get back in the dog blind as more birds might be coming. She showed a little CCL problems and I kennel rested her and never pushed her that hard again. I'm happy they swim out and get my birds or get the crippled runners in the fields. It works for me and makes me happy.
I grew up with goldens and later had labs. I used Richard Wolters Gun Dog books/methods. I went to some trials to watch but never competed. Great hunting companions.
The best hunting dog I ever had was a male golden named “Buckskin”. He hunted at least 5 states and made some spectacular retrieves on wild game birds.
My family has hunted and bred Goldens starting just after WW2:
Great dogs, but you've got to watch the breeding carefully. Besides the normal medical certifications, they seem to have broken into 3 lines:
Show/Confirmation: hairy sheep looking things, non-athletic, not fond of water, very limited drive.
Field: Trial and hunting dogs, actually meet what the AFC says they should look like.
Backyard: who knows what you're getting.
We own males and we just picked up another breeding for this weekend, our normal stud fee is $1500-2000. So 3-4 breedings a year, almost covers the entry fees, motels & gas. Which is way more than I can say for my hobbies...
Hasn't lost a Bird yet, and won't give up. No Field Trials, She's a Hunter and companion. I started her with a retrieving dummy with a few drops of bird scent on it. Her first time was a wonder to watch. She was all puppy in the car, jumping around, licking my Son's face and I was thinking She's not ready. When I reached the field She jumped out and it was like someone flipped a switch to "Hunt". She stopped all playing and started to hunt. Other than flushing birds too far away which we worked on. She was a natural.