By Kristy Fike
If you research or ask any retriever trainer how long it takes to train a retriever from a puppy to a finished retriever, you will find out that it takes months and even years of training. What do you do to take advantage of your training sessions with your retriever?
Planning what drills you would like to run your dog through before you even leave your house to train is one way to get more out of your training sessions. This will allow you more time to train, instead of having to make up a plan when you get to your training grounds.
Having your gear organized as well will help you set up faster and get right to training.
Always think of the variables that could interfere with your dog when working your retriever. The most common variables that handlers consider are weather and wind. If you ask a retriever trainer one of their first steps in planning a training session many of them will say that they look at the weather forecast and the direction of the wind.
They might consider the temperature to plan which part of the day would be more efficient to train, and they look at the direction of the wind in most cases to use that in the dog’s favor.
Trainers will often have marks thrown downwind of the dog, so that the wind is blowing the scent from the bird directly to the dog.
Sometimes owners or handlers plan and set up great drills for our dog to run, and we get our dog out and he is just not all “there”.
Say you wanted to devote a training session to running one hundred-yard blinds on land with your retriever. You line him up and send him on BACK! The dog runs out about fifty yards.
You blow your whistle to stop and then cast the dog, but the dog won’t stop. You blow the whistle again and the dog just keeps going his own way.
Finally, after this behavior continues you may decide to whistle him back to you, line him, and send him again only to get the same results. At that point you should call the dog in and review some whistle stop drills.
That is an example of a scenario when the handler had to take a few steps back in training and be flexible to the training session.
You can have the “best” drills for your dog to run, but if your dog is having an off day or you moved too fast in training, those “best” drills will be worthless for that day.
Now, as a handler only you know your dog. You need to evaluate if the dog is truly having an off day, is the dog confused about what you have asked him to do, or is the dog just being stubborn.
Praising your retriever and blowing your whistle are two major parts of teaching or training your dog where timing is critical.
Praising your dog at just the right moment to help create a light bulb moment for your dog is very important, as most handlers know.
Blowing the whistle to stop your dog or to call him in is important as well. Letting your dog run too far out after sending him on BACK! for a blind retrieve before you blow your whistle to stop him, or not letting him run far enough out can play a major role on how successful the blind retrieve will be.
We all want to use our training sessions with our retrievers to the fullest. Take advantage of your time during your training sessions, by being organized. Keep in mind anything that may influence your training.
Sometimes we must move backwards in training in order to move forward. Pay attention to what you are doing, so you can time your response to your retriever correctly. As a result, you will be only helping yourself and furthering your retriever in their training.