By Bill Nichol
A serious challenge for many dogs is what's known as a far-bank retrieve, where the dog has to cross an expanse of water and then hunt on land for a bird that has crawled into vegetation on the opposite shore. This may not seem difficult, but it can be a confusing situation for a retriever.
"If a dog has never been taught to get out of the water for a retrieve, he's not used to getting out on the opposite side," says Mike Stewart, a professional trainer who operates Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi
. "But don't put a dog out on an opposite bank until he will handle. He needs to stop and cast. Otherwise, he'll learn to be out of control on an opposite bank, and there's not much you can do about it."
The primary lesson for a dog to learn here is not all birds are found in the water. For this purpose, Stewart selects a command during training
to signal the dog to hunt on the opposite bank. He says a simple command such as "get over" works best. He begins training by putting on his waders, placing a bumper on the far bank, and then wading into the water with the dog at his side. When the water is about nose-deep on the dog (still shallow enough for the dog to get some footing), he sends it to the bumper. Gradually, Stewart progresses to sending the dog from one bank to the other, using large, easy-to-see bumpers placed near the water at first and then progressively farther up the bank. Having an assistant on the opposite bank to toss the bumper can help the dog understand what it needs to do.
"You just want to train the dog so that he handles easily from the opposite bank," Stewart says. "You want to use a long but narrow body of water, such as a slow-moving river, for your work, so that the dog doesn't cut corners."