By Kristy Fike
All retriever owners have waterfowl season on their minds, so that means making sure their dogs are in top shape for the upcoming season. Sometimes owners train the same setups so hard that their dog becomes bored. When a dog gets bored during training sessions their performance goes down quickly.
I have experienced this myself, and it felt more like I was dragging my dog around and arguing with her rather than having an efficient session. While preparing for the upcoming season it is important to keep your retriever fully engaged.
High Valued Rewards
At the end of training sessions provide your retriever with a high valued reward. This gives them something to look forward to at the end of sessions.
For me personally, I use fun bumpers. Fun bumpers are free thrown bumpers where the dog does not have to follow normal retrieving protocols. You can tailor fun bumpers to your dog’s weaknesses and strengths.
Since one of my girls has been known to not deliver to hand, I require her to deliver to hand during fun bumpers. I only throw fun bumpers after my retrievers have performed to my high standards during the training sessions. Each dog has different personalities and responds differently to rewards. That’s why you must make sure the reward you choose does not encourage bad behaviors or habits.
Essential Tools and Changing the Scenery
Bringing essential tools that you use in the field will keep your retriever engaged during training sessions. A few common tools include shotguns, waterfowl calls, real birds, dog blinds, and layout blinds. This will not only provide a change, but it will help prepare your retriever for hunts later in the field.
While bringing in your essential tools, change the location where you train. If you train primarily in a small flat field, then take your retriever to a large open field with rolling hills. If you train in a small pond, then take your dog to your duck blind on the river. The idea is to make your hunting scenarios as real as possible during training.
By changing things up you may have to gradually introduce your dog to the scenario you are striving to accomplish. While preparing your retriever for the upcoming season, you will also keep him enthusiastic for your training sessions together.
Group Training Sessions
Another way to keep your retriever engaged in training sessions is to train with other retriever owners a couple of times a month. This will add the extra excitement of “competing” with another dog. Along with keeping things interesting, you will be teaching your dog how to work in the field with others. If you can’t find a group of friends, consider becoming a member of a retriever club.
While afield this spring and summer, make sure you keep your retrievers’ full attention. It’s important to still praise and reward your dog, even in instances where they have run a specific setup a hundred times. This lets them know they are doing good and will keep things fun and happy.
Changing the location and scenario is critical in order to keep your dog on their toes and to prepare them for situations later in the field. Always remember to keep your retriever hydrated and cool during these warm seasons.