6. Pick Up a Pen
Just as a coach keeps detailed records of his or her players' stats, a retriever trainer should keep a journal of a dog's progress in training sessions. It's easy to forget the nuances of a dog's performance in the last session. A written record will help you identify strengths and weaknesses that can be reinforced or addressed in future training.
"Keeping notes on each dog's training helps. I can go over the notes and usually find out what the problem is and then make a change in that dog's routine." –Jim Karlovec
"I do a lot of training alone, and most of the time I follow a regular training routine. This works well most of the time, but on occasion there's a dog that doesn't quite fit into the routine," says Jim Karlovec of Flushing Star Kennel in Columbia Station, Ohio. "Keeping notes on each dog's training helps in this regard. I can go over the notes and usually find out what the problem is and then make a change in that dog's routine."
Another advantage of keeping a journal is that it keeps trainers on schedule. There may be a temptation to skip drills that are particularly time consuming or demanding, and a journal will help trainers conduct training sessions in the proper order. "If a brick is left out of the foundation, eventually the entire structure will fail," Karlovec says. A journal will keep trainers honest about whether they are working hard enough on the right drills at the right times. Too many blank journal entries will indicate that some problems may not be entirely the dog's fault.
7. Take a Hike
Once a dog has mastered casting and lining to visible bumpers, Karlovec shifts his focus to blind retrieves. One of his favorite techniques is to take a dog for a long walk in the woods. He drops a white bumper and continues walking another 50 paces before bringing the dog to heel and giving it a line for the blind retrieve. As the dog is running to get the first bumper, he tosses out another bumper in a different direction and the stage is set for the next blind retrieve.
"As you continue walking, get creative by tossing the bumpers over logs, across roads, and into different types of cover. Distract the dog by sending him on marked retrieves so he doesn't see you drop or toss the bumpers," Karlovec advises. "If the weather is warm, try to include ponds along your route so you can work on water blinds. This is a great drill to teach 'backs' and 'overs' in the water. As the pup gets proficient at this drill, lengthen the distance of the blinds and switch to different kinds of bumpers to mix things up."