Shore-Breaking Your Retriever
From Tri-Tronics Retriever Training Book, By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs with Alice Woodyard
Reprinted by permission of Tri-Tronics Inc.
Counteracting the dog's natural inclination to run shore- lines is the foundation of water work. Like everything else in retriever training, the most effective way to make the dog understand what you want is to make it seem easy to do the right thing and difficult, or less pleasant, to do the wrong thing. With low-level electrical stimulation, you can cause the dog to associate displeasure with its failure to take a direct route by water. The drills in this chapter are designed to teach the dog to go straight through water rather than to run the shore.
Begin shore-breaking using white dog training dummies, so that the dog can see exactly where it is supposed to go. The placement of the bumper is very important. H it does not fall where you intended, pick it up. Do not send the dog for a poorly-placed bumper.
When possible, shore-breaking lessons should be taught in water that is swimming depth right up to the shore. The dog will have a much easier time grasping the concept if taught in swimming water rather than where it can touch the bottom. If swimming water is not available, make sure the shoreline lacks cover and is clearly defined.
If you previously taught the dog to run through obstacles on land, you will have less trouble teaching your dog to "trim corners." Because the dog sees a comer of water as an obstacle, going straight into the water becomes an extension of the concept it learned on land-run straight through the obstacle.
To set up this drill, choose a place along the shore about ten yards away from the end of a channel or small pond. Throw the first dog training dummy into the water away from the comer so that the dog will make the retrieve by staying in water. See Illustration Trimming Corners.
Next, throw the bumper across the water so that it falls on the far shore (Step 1 B). When the dog completes this retrieve, throw the bumper farther up on land. Gradually move both your starting position and the placement of the bumper closer to the corner (Step 1, positions C, D, and E), so that the temptation to run the shore is very strong.
When the dog yields to temptation and runs the shoreline, apply momentary stimulation at the "apex" of the dog's route around the end of the channel or pond. This technique allows the dog to compare two different routes to the bumper, the easy water route and the less pleasurable land route.
Try to influence the dog to return by water after it picks up the bumper. To do this, command "Here" and take several rapid steps away from the corner. Start moving the moment the dog turns, so that the first thing it sees after picking up a bumper is your motion away from the land route.
If, despite your efforts, the dog runs the shore on the way back, apply momentary stimulation again at the apex of the dog's route around the corner. Then give the dog the comparison that the water route is easier by throwing a fun bumper into the water but farther away from the corner.
Trimming the Corners
Continue repeating the drill, letting the dog make the comparison between the comfortable and the uncomfortable route. Each time the dog is successful at taking the water route to a bumper, increase the challenge slightly by moving your starting point and the mark closer to the corner.
There are three important points to remember. First, every time the dog fails to take the water route going out or returning, it must experience momentary stimulation at the apex of its land route. Second, throw the next bumper so that it lands in water away from the corner. Now the dog will make an immediate comparison that the water route is more pleasant than running the shore. Third, don't say anything as the dog runs around the corner. Act happy with the dog as you throw the fun bumper into the water. The dog will make the right decision on its own.
Eventually, you can increase the challenge until the dog will cut directly across the corner of the water without veering off line and running the shore. When the dog will trim the corner of the water and take the direct line, it is demonstrating that it fully understands the concept in this location. Now repeat the drill in as many different locations as you can find.