Having read many articles in the Countrymans over the last few years regarding the subject of starting young lurchers lamping, I decided to throw in my two penneth, much advice has been given in the past but no detailed methods of preparing young dogs for lamping has been explained and because non of the writers touched on the methods used by my friends and I, I thought I would give the readers an insight into our way of doing things with which we have had considerable success.
All the following training tips are carried out whilst our pup is having basic training waiting to start work, all the usual, heel, sit, stay, down type of stuff learned it is time to move onto retrieving, which the pup will have been doing in some form since it was about 8 weeks old, only you will know when the time is right but the next stage shouldn’t be started until your pup has mastered the daytime retrieve from all types of cover from reed beds, rock and river, thick heavy fields to lush grassland this will vary from dog to dog, some will be ready at 6 months , some may take longer.
I am talking about lamp retrieving training, the methods we use teaches young lurchers several essential arts of lamping that they will need to master when they are ready for the real thing, including working off the slip lead, running the beam, spotting their quarry, picking up sitters and of course retrieving and finally returning when the lamp is knocked off.
All these skills will be learnt over many nights over the coming weeks, one stage at a time.
To start with you need to take your favourite dummy preferably with a rabbit skin attached and stick a good sized piece of reflective material to it, the type found on hi - visibility jackets used for cycling or the type road workers wear, this will enable the pup to spot the dummy when the lamp shines on it, have plenty because you will need to use 2-3 dummies in the final stages of training.
You will find it best to start on ground that the pup is familiar with, with nice short grass, if you have a decent sized garden this will do, I am fortunate I have a park opposite my house that the council keep in good nick, this is where I do my training when it is quiet.
The first lesson for our pup is to be accustomed to walking off the slip at heel in the dark, whilst doing this use the lamp and flash it on and off all around at regular intervals, talk to the pup, if the pup strays or is inquisitive use your command for heel, don’t be afraid to talk, silence is not needed during training lessons, your pup should be used to the dark at this age but if it shows signs of being nervous, comfort and encourage it.
After a couple of nights of this the pup should be confident to move onto the next stage, sitting and staying, this will learn the pup that there is nothing to fear from being alone in the dark and that you will return, just as you have done in daylight, start off in contact then lengthen the distance, use your commands and the lamp to let the pup see you.
Once you are happy and your pup is happy, we are now ready to try a simple retrieve, have your pup at heel, show and let it smell the dummy, then as with all retrieve training start off throwing it about 10 – 12 feet away but make sure you have the lamp on so the pup sees everything happen, it will have seen the dummy land and the reflective strip should help catch it’s eye, then send the pup to fetch the dummy.
If the pup has been paying attention it should bound away to pick the dummy up and return to you just as you have taught it in daytime, if all goes to plan once more then lengthen your next throw, not too far about 20- 25 feet and repeat the exercise, if all is ok extend the distance but call it a night after half a dozen or so retrieves, always heap loads of praise on your youngster, as I said at this stage noise is not a problem.
Any problems, start at the beginning, plenty of lamp light and short retrieves until the pup is confidently retrieving, don’t overdo it and don’t show any frustrations, if not going to plan, pack in on a good note, try again the next night, you know your pup best, some click on quicker than others.
Having spent a couple of nights doing the retrieves and the distance increased, now is the time to leave the lamp off when you throw the dummy, once again start with a short distance and increase, keeping the pup at your side turn the lamp on the dummy, it should be able to see it, watch the pups head it should be focused on where the dummy is, give your signal for the pup to go, I generally use a hissing sound to put my lurcher onto something.
Away it should go picking up and returning the dummy, if your pup hasn’t spotted the dummy, turn the lamp on and off a couple of times, it should spot it with the assistance of the reflective strip, then when sure send the pup on.
Repeat this exercise over the next few nights and pretty soon the penny will have dropped, your pup should be spotting and retrieving the dummy from a good distance, this has taught your pup to run down the beam because it expects the dummy to be at the end of the beam and it will do this as routine.
At this stage I should mention that at any point in the training exercises where your pup runs out and does not pick up the dummy, or wanders about, turn the lamp onto your feet and shout the pup back to you.
You can also do this exercise by sending the pup out when no dummy has been thrown, call it in immediately it realises it can’t see anything and put the lamp on your feet so it can see you, this is where plenty of praise is given, and always finish off by letting it run out and find a dummy.
This learns the pup to return to you as soon as you put the lamp on your feet, with experience of this it will return as soon as the lamp is knocked off.
By now your pup should be really confident on the lamp, time to place 2-3 dummy’s around the place prior to taking the pup out, then select one at a time and send the pup out as soon as it has retrieved each dummy, until all have been recovered, do this two or three times over the next couple of nights, another valuable lesson learnt, consecutive retrieves. If not going to plan start again with single retrieves and build up, when your pup is ready try again.
After a couple of weeks of practising all the exercises you both should be ready to move onto more difficult terrain, thicker grass and broken cover, start again short distance and make sure the reflective strip can be spotted on the lamp, all the earlier training will now come into play, with the pup running down the beam and spotting the dummy in cover.
Practice this again over a couple of weeks, if the pup struggles, make it easy or shorter until it grasps the idea, which it should with its earlier experiences.
Another exercise to practice is jumping on the lamp, pick a small fence, one that the pup is familiar with, use the lamp and send the pup over on command, when you think your pup is confident, vary the use of the lamp from full on to faint light, all the time they should be jumping with ease.
My friends and I have been using this method over the past few years with good results, when our young dogs have been taken out for the first time on the lamp the only thing they have had to get used to is handling live rabbits, which it may have experienced already, all the rest they have been practising for months.
Some lurcher owners believe that a lamping lurcher either takes sitters or they don’t, using this method has ensured that to date I have never had a lurcher that didn’t take sitters, or that didn’t turn out to be a reasonable well trained lamper and I guarantee you have given your pup the best start to it’s lamping career.