Retriever Training

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

Retriever Training Articles

Stand Alones

This procedure means that the Amateur can never complain about not giving his dogs marks because he has no help. I, of course, realize that a dog must be exposed to multiple gunners (doubles, triples and quads) and there is little substitute for multiple gunners or multiple remote-control bird throwers. The experience of watching multiple throws, remembering their marks and dealing with their interaction is best addressed with the real thing. However, as I have often hinted in ONLINE, stand alones can be used to advance many marking skills. This article will describe the 2 major types of stand alones (roving stand alones and one-place stand alones or send backs) and how to do them.

Working Traits of the Big Three - The Labrador, The Golden, and The Chesapeake

If you attend a retriever field trial in certain parts of the country, you may be fortunate enough to see outstanding work by representatives of each of the three main retrieving breeds. Labradors, most of them black, charge across the landscape, feet thundering like those of racehorses. Richly-colored Goldens flash out to make their retrieves, responding to their handlers' whistles with astonishing quickness, looking as though at any moment they might double back like a hare. Dull brown Chesapeakes flow over the landscape like music, their great speed concealed by the grace and ease of movement typical of even the most chunky examples of the breed.

The Swim-By

The Swim-by is a fundamental step in the Basics portion of the program currently used by many successful retriever trainers across the continent. It gets its name from the skill developed by the dog at the end of the lessons: swimming by the handler on command. The Swim-by generally follows the teaching of the Double-T on land. That step prepares the dog for several of the skills that the dog will develop in the water. The Swim-by is an important pre-cursor to teaching your dog about water channels and water cheating singles. Novices, seeing the Swim-by for the first time often question the process of Swim-by and why it is necessary. Experienced trainers have learned that the Swim-by produces a dog with a readiness to stay in the water and a dog with important skills that make teaching advanced water work much easier.

Training Group Etiquette

Working your retriever with a group of other trainers can be rewarding in several ways. Sharing the work involved in setting up tests, handling equipment, securing grounds, and throwing marks for each other's dogs keeps these tasks manageable. When the work is fairly divided, training sessions can progress smoothly, minimizing the likelihood of any participant being made to feel like a "workhorse."

Favourite Set-ups: Picture Perfect Multiple Blinds (with a teaching bonus)

In this series of Favourite Set-Ups, I have been describing only marking set-ups. In this issue, I will discuss favourite set-ups for land blinds. Previously, I have described several concepts important to consider when designing blinds. One of the most important is the idea of 3-Peats. Three-peats are a set of three blinds which emphasize a similar concept. The repetition allows additional opportunities to practice and reinforce teaching a dog to deal with a factor. Examples are 3-peats with a crosswind, angling a road or ditch, a patch of cover or crossing a pot hole. The concept of factor repetition in a set of blinds will become part of our Favourite Blind Set-Up.

Steady to Flush

In the uplands, the retriever's job is to quarter ahead of the gun, seeking and flushing birds within shotgun range. The flushing dog should sit instantly when a bird flushes, mark the fall if the bird is dropped, and remain sitting until sent to retrieve. Upland training, therefore, requires teaching the dog to sit to flush and be steady to shot. A dog that is allowed to break on shot will chase fly-aways, miss multiple marks and interfere with other hunters.

Conflicts in Retriever Training

In training a retriever, we have an advantage that the dog does not: we have a picture in our minds of the result toward which we are working, providing a context in which the commands and exercises we teach all make sense. The dog's point of view is quite different. He lacks the overall picture that adds meaning to everything we teach; all he knows is what we require him to do at each step. To our dog, there are conflicts between many of the commands or principles that we try to teach him. First, we teach him to come along with us at heel; then we want him to stay in place as we walk away. We

Training Retrievers Alone

All amateur retriever trainers would like to be able to train their dogs whenever they could on the best grounds possible and with an experienced crew of helpers, including fellow trainers. Unfortunately, there are many commitments and responsibilities in today’s lifestyles and often schedules are inflexible and time is in short supply. Adequate grounds that are close may also be in short supply. A very common problem is that it is often difficult to get 2-4 people to help throw marks and create the proper set-ups and atmosphere.

Introducing Puppies to Birds, Water, and Throwers

Birds, throwers, and water are all features of retrieving work which are best introduced while a retriever is still a pup, impressionable and flexible in its thinking. As with all puppy work, the most effective approach is to set up the circumstances so the puppy is likely to get it right. Success leads to rapid learning as well as promoting confidence. If your puppy responds "wrong," i.e., in a way you don’t want it to, keep your temper – and plan the next session so that it won’t include a temptation to that behavior. With more mature dogs, we sometimes make a point by setting up a temptation and then correcting the dog for giving in, but this is inappropriate for puppies. Remember – the most important goal of puppy work is to build desire by making retrieving enjoyable for your pup.

The Correct Timing of Stimulation

The success of training with the Tri-Tronics collar depends upon your ability to choose the right moment to apply electrical stimulation, the right moment to turn off stimulation, and the right time to increase it. In the lessons that follow, the symbol “!” will be used before the command to signify the times when electrical stimulation should be applied.