Retriever Training – Taking an Initial Line - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Alignment Drill 5 – One Step Realignment
The One-Step Realignment Drill will help the dog learn to sit straight in the heel position. Sitting straight at heel is an essential skill for the dog if it's to take a good initial line.

With the dog sitting beside you, command "Sit" and take one step forward. Wait a moment, then command "Heel." As the dog comes up to the heel position, make sure it sits straight.

If its rear end crowds behind you, use your right foot to prod its hip as it sits. If the dog's rear end flares away from you as it sits, practice heeling and sitting next to a curb or something similar which will guide the dog into sitting straight.

Make sure that whatever you do to help guide the dog to sit straight is done as the dog is in the act of sitting. It doesn't do any good to correct the dog after it sits crooked. It won't learn how to get into the proper position on its own just because you reposition it.

After the dog has perfected sitting straight when you step forward, begin taking one step backwards and say "Heel." Make sure it sits straight. Next, practice taking one step left at a right angle across the front of the dog, and have it heel into that position. Then practice taking one step to the right, making a quarter turn away from the dog. Finally, practice taking a side step away from the dog.

Eventually you should be able to leave the dog on a sit and step away at any angle. When you say "Heel," the dog should realign itself accurately next to your leg in the precise direction you are facing.

Now repeat the one-step drills, but instead of leaving the dog on sit and taking a step, have the dog move with you as you step away. Command "Heel" as you take one step in any direction.

These drills can be mixed in with other lessons. It takes time, but eventually the dog will form a habit of sitting straight at heel, which will put its body in the proper position to take the correct initial line.

Alignment Drill 6 – Forward Pivot
When the dog is good at doing one-step drills to the right, teach it the forward pivot and the command "Close." This drill enables you to align your dog to the right. It will also enable you to pull the dog in close to you when you are on the line.

To start, make several quarter turns to the right, telling the dog "Heel" each time. Then instead of commanding "Heel," command "Close" each time you step and repeat several quarter turns with this new command. The dog will go with you out of habit. When the dog is proficient at making quarter turns, repeat the drill with one-eighth turns.

Any time the dog is slow in following your command, repeat the drill three times in a row, each time giving a leash correction as you move and command "Close." The dog will soon try to beat the leash correction by moving promptly when it hears the command "Close." When it succeeds, tell it "Break" and throw a fun bumper.

Alignment Drill 7 – Locking On
A dog that leans forward in anticipation of being sent is very likely to go in the direction its leaning. In this drill, you can teach the dog to lean forward by using birds instead of bumpers.

With the dog sitting at heel, toss a bird just a few feet in front of you. Now drop your hand forward and over the center of the dog's head just high enough so that it doesn't have to duck under it. Hesitate until the dog leans forward in anticipation of being sent, then send it immediately.

With repetition the dog will automatically lean forward when you drop your hand. Be sure to hesitate just a moment before sending the dog; otherwise, it will interpret the lowering of your hand as its signal to go.

Alignment Drill 8 – Push-Pul Drill
Dogs become worried and lose confidence when you "fuss" with them too much at the line as you try to get them to look in the direction you want them to go. This drill will help your dog learn to move with you. Once it readily accepts subtle realignment cues from the movement of your left leg, you and your dog can work together as a team to get lined up in the correct direction.

By moving your left foot forward or back, you'll find that you can push the dog's head away from you or pull it toward you when it's sitting at heel. The dog will have some tendency to do this naturally; in the "Push-Pull" drill, you enhance this tendency by sending the dog as soon as it moves with you.

With the dog sitting at heel, toss two white bumpers that are 45 degrees apart and about 20 feet in front of you. Make sure the dog can see both bumperson the ground.

When the dog looks toward one, calmly say "NO." Then move your left leg one step forward or back, whichever causes the dog to turn toward the other bumper. Immediately say "GOOD" when it makes the adjustment. Drop your hand, hesitate, and send the dog "Back." Now repeat the drill, but from now on, have the bumpers in place so that the dog doesn't see them thrown.
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