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5 Key Points for Training Your Retriever

Robert Milner explains training fundamentals
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Story at a Glance

Keypoints to be discussed in this article are:

  • Obedience first
  • Coming on command
  • Too much dog
  • Electronic collars
  • Selective breeding

3. Too Much Dog

The average hunter appears to be "overdogged," or to have a dog that is too hot for him to handle.

I place the blame for this on our field-trial system. Our retriever field trials were brought over from England in the early 1900s, along with the golden and Labrador retrievers. The trials were small and very representative of a day's shooting, and the skills judged were those that had value to the hunting dog and hunter. The trials emphasized game-finding ability, softness of mouth and calmness of demeanor.

The typical Labrador retriever of 30 or 40 years ago was a gentle, calm dog. Today, an unfortunately large number of Labradors are hyperactive and difficult to train. The basic reason for this shift in breeding selection appears to be our field-trial system.

Unfortunately, our field trials - mainly because of increasing entries - have evolved over the years into elimination contests that evaluate skills that are of little importance in a hunting dog. These behaviors include lining, angle entries into water, pinpoint marking and precise handling at long distances. Gone by the wayside are line manners and obedience, as well as game-finding initiative.

Moreover, training precision lining and long-distance handling require a great deal of repetition and some degree of punishment. The dog that excels at these skills tends to be hyperactive, with a high pain threshold, which is exactly the type of dog we are breeding today.

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