Pedigree, training keys to developing dog, owner as hunting team

Just as not every dog will be a grand champion, not every dog owner will be a great dog trainer.

But every dog and every owner can be better than they think.

Take that advice from Grand Junction physician Jim McLaughlin, who trained and coached his black Labrador retriever Lizzy to her recent international title of grand hunting retriever champion.

Mclaughlin says it’s a three-part program, starting with the selection of the dog itself.

“Spend some time looking at pedigrees, especially the mother,” he said. “Has she had good litters in the past, and has she performed well in hunt tests or field trials?”

A good pedigree will cost a bit more, but it’s money well-spent, McLaughlin said.

Second, invest in some training help, either a pro trainer or a good video or two, of which there are many on the market.

McLaughlin said he’s used several videos to improve his own training techniques.

“There’s so much more out there (for the amateur trainer) than 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. His preferred videos are produced by Arkansas trainer Chris Akins at

Finally, don’t try to do it alone.

It takes help to throw dummies, set blind retrieves and all the countless things done in most training sessions.

“My recommendation is to join a club of like-minded dog owners,” McLaughlin said. “It’s the best thing you can do, by far.”

McLaughlin founded and is president of the Western Colorado Hunting Retriever Club, He can be reached at 270-2236.

The most important thing, he said, is never forget the dog is a companion.

“Lizzy is a pet first,” McLaughlin emphasized. “She’s in my office every day. She’s a hunting dog second and a grand champion third. That’s what’s really important.”


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