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Banding Together for Waterfowl

10 Pitfalls in Retriever Training

Top pitfalls trainers face and how to correct them
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  • photo by Grant White
Image of

Mike Stewart
Wildrose Kennels
The Gentleman's Gundog™
Trainer of Drake, the DU Dog


Many of the problems that owner-trainers experience when training retrievers could be minimized easily 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:

1. Long Training Session

Too 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 results.

Pups between six 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 two or three 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.

Keeping training sessions short is especially important during the hot summer months. For more information, please see our Summertime Training Tips article.

2. Premature Hunting

Nothing 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? And the downside potential is huge: gun shy, water shy, bird shy, even physical injury.

Shyness can result from the exposure to aggressive dogs on the hunt, fatigue, frigid water, etc. What is the upside? 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.

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Related:  retrievers

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