of the problems that owner-trainers experience when training retrievers
could be easily minimized if addressed early in training. It is much
better to not condition in a problem that you must later train out.
Here are some of the top pitfalls trainers face:
Long Training Session
much enthusiasm from the trainer often proves detrimental to young
pups. As a result of lengthy, repetitive training sessions, the pup
simply loses focus, becomes distracted, and finally burns out. Pups
under six months have very short attention spans. Sessions should not
exceed 5 minutes and should include only a few repetitions-any more
than that and they will lose focus. It is not essential to train every
day. A few minutes twice a day is more effective than an hour every
day. Often a break of a few days in training produces surprising
Pups between 6 and 12 months must maintain a positive
attitude toward training. Pups this age will benefit most from sessions
no longer than 20 minutes. Never continue to the point of boredom. If
things are going well and the session is complete, there is no need to
push pups past 2 to 3 repetitions. Always stop on a positive,
successful exercise or response. A good duck dog can be trained with
the investment of 10 minutes a day three to four times per week if one
adheres to an effective training plan.
can be gained by exposing pups to hunting situations under the age of
10 months, whether it's upland game or waterfowl shooting. Taking a 4
to 5 month old pup on a dove or duck shoot for "experience" is similar
to taking a first grade child to high school for "experience." What
positive effects could possibly be achieved? Yet the downside potential
is huge: gun shy, water shy, bird shy, even physical injury.
can result from the exposure to aggressive dogs on the hunt, fatigue,
frigid water, etc. What is the up side? Be patient. Let the pup mature
and do your homework building strong basic gundog skills. No dog should
be exposed to a hunting situation until all basic gundog skills are
entrenched, excluding blinds. Don't rush the process.
3. Waiting to Steady
are fearful that if they attempt to steady their pups early in basic
gundog training, the dog will lose enthusiasm and drive. Not true if
properly accomplished with gentle methods. Steadiness to shot and fall
is one of the most important lessons a young dog will learn. Any
properly bred retriever can mark and retrieve with very little formal
training; it's knowing when not to retrieve that takes the
conditioning. Start early denying pup retrieves. Pick up 50% of all
bumpers and later 50-60% of all the downed birds on your pup's first
few hunts. Condition patience from the beginning.
Many Meaningless Marks
a pup is enthusiastic about early retrieve (no more than 2 to 3 per
session), there is little point to continuing meaningless, repetitive,
hand-thrown retrieves in elementary sessions. Once the pup dashes out,
picks the mark and returns back to the handler, nothing more is
necessary. Marks now must teach something-falls in long grass, in
water, over water onto land or in high crops.
Marks can be
used to teach doubles, lengthen the dog's retrieving distance, or to
exercise watching the sky. Excessive marking can be counterproductive
by unsteadying the pup and promoting independence rather than
interdependent relationships. Additionally, marking to improve memory
is actually is the poorest of methods. Place more emphasis in the early
steps of training on steadiness and memory development rather than
5. Setting Pups Up to Fail
learned from failure in the dog world. It is vital that pups succeed
every time in training to develop confidence in you and in themselves.
Don't ask young dogs to exceed their capabilities. Nothing succeeds
like success. If necessary, walk out and help locate the fall yourself,
shorten distances, simplify the concept or re-visit basic core skills.
Teach every skill within a concept and then
link them together. Dogs learn from association established through
consistent repetition. In effect we are establishing a learning chain
through causal relationships. Be careful not to circumvent this
process. Think "win, win"…how can the exercise be set up to enhance the
possibilities of success?