By: Kristy Fike
As handlers and owners, we get frustrated when retriever training sessions don’t go our way. Sometimes nothing seems to be going right.
One dog is refusing to take casts, the other keeps breaking, and your remote dummy launcher seems to be broke when you need it most. With days like these how can you reach your training goals?
Look at the Big Picture
Think about what you want in your retriever. That can go as far as good manners to running cold blinds while out hunting.
Write them all down. Based on that list, break down what you want out of your dog into categorized lists of training goals.
This will also help you determine what kind of training you will need to do with your dog. Don’t get stressed out by the amount of training you may have to do. The lists are not to stress you, but rather to help you figure out what kind of goals and training to set.
When you make and set training goals, be realistic. Don’t try to make goals that would normally take three months and try to accomplish them in one.
That only makes your training sessions stressful, rushed, and will leave your dog confused. You may also only take your dog backwards in training rather than moving forward.
Say you want your retriever to make 100-yard mark retrieves in cover with a spread of decoys. Make bite-sized goals to accomplish that.
If your retriever already marks 100-yards without cover, then your first task is getting him to make retrieves in cover. You should start by throwing only 20-yard marks in the cover. Depending on the dog you may have to start even shorter.
Once your dog retrieves these, then increase the distance that the marks are thrown little by little. Set each one of the distances you throw marks as goals for each training session.
Once your dog is picking up 100-yard marks in cover, then add one or two decoys on the outer edges of the dog’s view of the mark. Slowly add decoys more in line of the dog’s view of the mark thrown if the dog is still marking to the degree you want him to.
Be Aware Your Dog’s Abilities & Personality
Remember when setting goals and training your retriever to consider its abilities and personality. Those two factors are vital to training.
Don’t underestimate your dog and don’t push them too hard either. You must understand how they learn new things and take how they learn into consideration when you train.
The retriever’s personality will determine what training method you will apply.
For softer retrievers you will have to have a gentle and easier going approach. With stubborn retrievers that like to push boundaries you will have to be firmer and more assertive when training them.
Retriever’s Point of View
During training sessions, think from your dog’s point of view. For instance, if you use a place board for a young retriever, then think about which directions you will have the dog retrieve marks before deciding where to put it on the ground. Stoop down to the dog’s eye level and see what they see.
Not many people realize the difference in views from our height to the dog’s height.
To accomplish training goals, you must train your retriever consistently. It’s vital to keep lessons you teach them fresh in their mind.
It is even a good idea to do a little refresher at the beginning of each training session on what was previously taught.
Patience truly does pay when it comes to retriever training. Dogs can sense your moods, so if you are uptight and angry when training, then they will be uptight and not as likely to respond to what you are teaching them.
Dogs that are soft may even shut down if they can sense your anger. Other dogs may seem like they are just not listening to you, but it may be them responding to your mood.
If you are not able to stay patient while working with your dog, it is best to stop and try again later or be done for the day. You always want to end training sessions on a good note.
Retriever training does not always go the way we want it to go, that is why it is important to keep our training goals in mind.
Always think about ways to improve or further your dog’s training.
Sometimes in the moments that our training sessions don’t go well, that is when your dog can teach you, the handler, things to improve yourself as handler and owner.