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Retriever Training: What Not to Do

11 things to avoid during training
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6. Not coming when called

Settle this early and don't reward running away. Never call to punish. Don't call and then do things the pup doesn't like, such as give him a shot, put him in the crate, etc.

7. Overuse of bribes

Take this example from Wyoming. The pup would not come, so tidbits were used to encourage the pup. This is not a problem in limited use at first, but these handlers took the low, easy road and kept up the use of food treats as the reward for coming when called. The dog now only comes when tidbits are offered. No reward, no compliance. Who is training whom? Get the pup to understand two words at a very young age: "No," and, "Here."

8. Bolting or running away

When a pup merely bolts to avoid your desirables, this must be dealt with quickly and at an early age. If it persists, when you start to train and the pup decides there are better pursuits elsewhere, you will have a much faster and more determined fugitive on your hands.

9. Allowing pups to run free

This is much like #8: When a pup tires of present company and he has been allowed to run free for months before beginning training, he takes to the wind. I have one in training now that often runs away, and you never know when he'll take off. He'll make a couple of nice marks, and then he may over run the next one and return some 45 minutes later. Keep pups under control at all times.

Wait until dogs are older to shoot over them10. Shooting over pups while too young

Most gun shyness is manmade. Forget introducing gunfire by shooting over pups while they eat. How would your kids react to surprise shots while they partake quietly of their Cocoa Puffs? Gunfire conditioning comes much later and employs a much more logical, progressive format.

11. Other common, ill-advised practices include:

  • allowing playing with dead birds

  • putting the pup on live birds too early, which may scare him

  • letting the pup jump off objects, i.e. boats, porches, pickup beds - this damages more hips and shoulders in the United States than genetic problems

  • snatching objects from the pup's mouth

  • punishing the pup for carrying valuable objects in this mouth (Nike shoes, etc.)

  • allowing the pup to chase off game (rabbits, chickens, etc.) at an early age - others may claim this builds drive or is amusing for the pup

  • rough housing with the kids, which can result in the pup being intimidated or injured. When the kids pick up or drag the pup by his legs, the pup's hips could be damaged. Never allow kids to play with pups unsupervised - an unpopular statement, I know... but you do want an easily trained gundog, don't you?

  • retrieving sticks, especially in water

  • throwing the pup into the water, especially cold water

Another Wildrose Kennels law of training: "Don't condition something into your pup that you must train out at a later time." Pups don't forget. The most important element in pre-training socialization is to develop the pup's confidence in you. Good or bad, the pup won't forget. So, my friends, let's make it good!

"Don't condition something into your pup that you must train out at a later time." Pups don't forget. The most important element in pre-training socialization is to develop the pup's confidence in you. Good or bad, the pup won't forget. So, my friends, let's make it good!

"Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends." -Alexander Pope, 1709

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