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Retriever Training: What Not to Do

11 things to avoid during training
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  • photo by Bill Buckley
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1. Too many retrieves

Nothing is to be gained by repeatedly throwing objects for the pup to retrieve. If you have selected a properly bred pup, the retriever desire is there genetically as is marking, delivery and birdiness. This is what you paid for when you bought the pup. Too many retrieves at an early age just promotes:

  • Hyperactivity and excitement
  • Boredom, if overdone
  • Running about with the object or dropping it in pursuit of more interesting endeavors, both resulting from boredom

A couple of short retrieves with a soft bumper or sock per week in a confined area are enough.

2. Tug-of-war

Tug-of-war is a horror to fix when you later expect nice delivery of your bird. Pull nothing from your pup's mouth or do things which promote hard mouth. I actually saw a film on the market that recommends this frolicking practice to increase desire! This is a NEVER.

3. Allowing pups to play with and chew on bumpers

Some recommend this practice to increase a retriever's desire and regard for the bumper, but it does just the opposite, making him see the bumper as a toy instead of an element of his work. Teaching your retriever to respect the bumper will directly result in his respect for retrieves in the field.

4. Free swimming in swimming pools or ponds

Uncontrolled and unrestricted swimming will produce pups that know no difference when it's time for water work. The pup may decide to hit the water for a refreshing dip when the moods strikes him... right in the middle of your training session. And how does the handler respond? You can find him running the bank in a frenzy, yelling and peeping the whistle. In this case, the handler is teaching the pup something special: "Hey, I'm out here where the boss can't get me... this is great!" I've seen this too many times. Handlers teach too early that the pup can get beyond his control. I try never to let a pup discover that he is not in some way under my control.

5. Chasing a pup with an object in his mouth

Never chase a pup for any reason: in play, when he won't come or when he is carrying an object. The pup will soon pick up that bumper or bird and stand there or bound around hoping to solicit a chase from you. This is a bear to correct.

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Related:  retrievers

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