The only two main things, from the dog's perspective, that you will really have to work on while hunting, is to maintain steadiness to wing and shot and to maintain the dog's independent search, ie. not impede the dog's natural range. You need to hunt like you trial, to a degree.
It can be done, but it is more work(and might be less fun for you in the field) to do it that way than to just hunt.
I most definitely fall in the category of not hunting much anymore, and both you and Neil are spot on in my case...not much opportunity locally and working with and competing with the dogs is great fun, very enjopyable and has become a goal in itself.
However, I do encourage you to try to do both. The dog will be a better dog because of the varied experience. Not to mention a dog that is steady to wing, shot AND fall, wll stand there looking good when the bird flies away.