Retriever Training Articles
There is not universal agreement as to the meaning of the term "soft" in describing a retriever. Many enthusiasts confuse lack of desire or recalcitrance in training with softness while others label shyness, spookiness, and other deficiencies of attitude as softness. We apply the term softness more simply to the inability or unwillingness of a retriever to respond well to heavy force.
Last issue we discussed building retrieving desire, the single most important objective of puppy work. In this column we give another important tip on maximizing a pup’s focus and motivation, and discuss an issue which comes up with almost all good puppies: how to get the pup to come back to you.
You can accelerate learning with most dogs if you first attach the Tri-Tronics collar around the dog's waist with the contact points on top of its rump. The collar looks strange on the dog's rump, but this point-of-contact method helps the beginning dog learn. The dog's natural inclination to react away from the stimulation on its rump will cause it to sit quickly. (If the collar strap doesn't fit around the dog's waist, buckle two collar straps together.) You may need to insert a lower-level intensity plug into the collar for this lesson because most dogs are more sensitive on the rump than on the underside of the neck. Also, some dogs are startled by the feeling of a strap around their waists. If this happens, calmly reassure the dog and have it sit quietly while it gets used to the strap.
You have already taught your dog to get into a crate on command in order to earn a food treat. That training taught the dog what "Kennel" means. Now you're going to use the dog's knowledge of the "Kennel" command to teach it to turn off stimulation by moving away from you
. Take the dog's crate into the training yard. Run a long check cord through the back of the crate. Attach the snap to the dog's collar and have a helper hold the other end. If a helper is not available, run the check cord around a post behind the crate and back to you.
In this our first column for Tri-Tronics on retriever work and training, we start at the beginning, with puppy work. While most of us find puppy play to be a lot of fun, it is also a chance to build the foundation for a good attitude and streamlined learning later on. The wise trainer doesn't miss this opportunity. This month we will focus on the underlying goals of puppy work, and getting started with a little puppy only a few weeks old. In our next couple of columns, we will address introducing a puppy to water, birds, gunfire, etc., work for older puppies, and problems of puppyhood.
The three-action introduction lays the foundation for your dog's future training with the Tri-Tronics collar. The three-action introduction teaches the dog that it can turn off mildly unpleasant electrical stimulation by performing three already familiar commands. The commands represent three distinctly different actions: come to the handler, go away from the handler, and become stationary.
Last issue we described how to teach your dog the most important part of force-fetching: to carry and deliver dummies with a firm hold and without fumbling, rolling, or dropping them. With the "fetch" command, we condition a fast, positive pick-up and, equally important, establish the basis for reliably going when sent. When the procedure is complete, you will discover an added benefit in the dog's respect for, and appreciation of, your authority.
Acquire your pup at or around seven weeks of age. He needs to interact with his littermates until then, but should be separated from them by eight weeks of age. As soon as you get your pup, start teaching him "how to learn." A seven week old pup is very capable of learning. From seven to 16 weeks of age pups learn ’how to learn.’ It is a very important time frame in the life of your pup. Use it wisely. Remember, puppies cannot learn anything locked in a crate or left in a dog run. Your pup should become a part of your family and your life.
Force-fetching is the process of making a dog absolutely reliable in its bird/dummy handling and delivery. It converts retrieving from a matter of play to a matter of obedience. It provides a foundation of confidence for advanced training--no matter how confusing or stressful a situation, the dog knows that going when sent is the right thing to do. This confidence is the basis of greater style and intensity than is possible in any play-retrieve.
Many owners think their dog can be a great field competitor. When asked why, they invariably say he loves to carry underwear around the house, always has something in his mouth, loves to play in his water bucket, lays in any puddle he finds, retrieves the family parakeet, or fights the water hose. None of these statements mean anything in terms of potential to compete successfully in the field.