By Kristy Fike
We all hit our low point when it comes to training our retrievers. Maybe your retriever’s training has just seemed to hit a plateau.
Waterfowl hunting spots are scarce. Therefore, you are starting to question just how much work your dog will actually get this season.
Meanwhile, texts and social media are flashing with boasts on how successful your friends’ dogs are.
You might be asking yourself, is this really worth it? What if I just sent my dog to a trainer?
It is normal to get discouraged when training and even hunting our retrievers, but it is how you respond to these times that will determine you and your dog’s success.
Pour Gas on the Fire
Although, there may be some disheartening moments that occur when training and hunting your retriever, but that doesn’t mean you should give it up.
Go back to the roots of where you started with your duck dog. Revisit what ignited that burning fire inside you to get out and train or hunt with your dog.
Your friend or spouse may have shaken their head when you were trying to buy a neoprene hunting vest for an eight-week-old retriever, but that is okay.
You had a dream or vision for a family companion, best friend, and retriever that would surpass all in the field.
Maybe it is the time you are able to spend afield with your dog. For some, it may be the memories that they are able to make and share.
Others may glow with pride when they see their retriever’s best performance is in the field.
Whatever got you started and has kept you going don’t forget it. Use that as fuel to keep you driven and focused.
Real vs. Highlight Reel
People are aware of their life’s reality versus the highlight reel of other people’s lives that they see on social media, but many still compare the two.
You know this and may even preach this to your children that are looking at their favorite celebrity’s social media pages.
More than likely you too have compared your duck dog’s success to other’s success.
This can be very hard to avoid doing sometimes. I find myself regularly scrolling through professional trainer’s, well-known kennels, and many other people’s social media.
As well talented and successful as many other trainers, kennels, and even your close hunting buddies are, just remember you are seeing the glorified moments of their lives.
Social media is a good place to find new ideas and inspiration, but be careful how you use it.
Having someone to help and mentor you through retriever training is a valuable resource.
One place to network with other trainers and owners is retriever clubs. There you can meet new people, work your dog, and see other’s training perspectives.
Most clubs welcome new members and are more than willing to help you out.
Some clubs hold training days that have mock hunt tests scenarios set up.
These mock tests are set up at the varying training levels that you would see during real tests.
Even if you are not interested in running hunt tests, there are still skills/manners that you will use in the field hunting that can be polished in the group atmosphere of a club.
Some of these skills/manners might include honoring other dogs, steadiness, blind manners, marking off of a gun, and much more. A club might just be something to look into.
Anyone that has trained a duck dog has gone through discouraging times.
Even those who own world-class kennels have been where you are. It’s important for you as the handler and owner to stay in the game.
Remember that your retriever has the natural abilities to do what you are training him to do, and they probably want to do just as bad as you want to see them do it.
Sometimes you may have to just give your retriever a few days off from training. That alone can hit a reset button for the both of you, and give you the fresh start you need to move forward.
Remember why you got into this and don’t give up!