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Banding Together for Waterfowl

The Top Ten Practices That Interfere with Training

Avoid these major culprits
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Story at a Glance

10 Practices to Avoid

  1. Raising Pup Outside

  2. Giving Pup an Unlimited Diet of Uncontrolled Retrieves

  3. Repeating Commands  

  4. Shouting at Pup  

  5. Pleading When He's Out of Reach  

  6. Letting Pup "Run Off Some Energy" 

  7. Giving Pup Too Many Marked Retrieves 

  8. Testing Instead Of Training 

  9. Experimenting with Introductions 

  10. Changing the Rules in the Hunting Field

Giving Pup an Unlimited Diet of Uncontrolled Retrieves

The practice of training Pup to retrieve by throwing him countless out-of-control retrieves is sheer foolishness. Pup is born with the retrieving instinct. His mother gave it to him. And whether you give him one retrieve or ten thousand retrieves, you are not going to improve his genetic inheritance.

I have occasionally seen young dogs that show little interest in retrieving. Sometimes further investigation uncovers the fact that such a pup retrieved wonderfully when he was younger, but suddenly quit. The cause can quite literally be too much retrieving. Thirty or forty retrieves in a row can bring the young pup to the edge of his physical capacity. He is growing at a phenomenal rate, and most of his energy is going toward that growth. Unlimited retrieves can put him in a state of exhaustion and physical pain.

The greatest and most insidious danger of unlimited retrieving is the price it exacts on Pup. You frequently see people throwing untold numbers of balls or training dummies for Pup to retrieve at will. They rationalize this by saying, "I'm developing Pup's retrieving." The real reason they do it is that it is easy and fun for Pup's owner. They don't think of the trouble it will cost Pup later, when they change the rules and want Pup to be steady and under control. They plan to get him steady later.

They are training Pup to be out of control on retrieves. They are training Pup to break, thus ensuring that they will have to use quite a bit of punishment later to train him not to break.

Again, Pup did not inherit obedience and self-control. That's where he needs training, and that's where out-of-control retrieves are totally counterproductive. Pup should have to wait for every retrieve he gets. Then you are training him to wait and to exert some self-control. You are making it easy for him to learn the behaviors you want. You are making it easy to train him without a lot of punishment.

Repeating Commands

Repeating commands is a common mistake people make when dealing with dogs. The practice is an excellent method for training Pup to respond on the third, fourth, or fifth repetition of a command.

Generally, if Pup doesn't respond to the first command, it's not because he didn't hear you. It's because he doesn't feel like responding. The solution is not in repeating the command. The solution is to trigger the response and reinforce your dominance. You should employ a dominance technique such as a direct, threatening stare or "looming over" body position. These techniques are behaviors employed by the pack leader to reinforce dominance in a canine pack.

In obedience classes, I frequently have the handlers go through the obedience drills in silence. That's one of the best ways to counteract the human habit of repeating commands. After all, the dog already knows the responses. He needs the right signal from his master to trigger the response. Silent obedience drills force the handler to speak in Pup's language and produce the right signal.

It takes a little effort to overcome our human nature on the practice of repeating commands, but it pays big dividends. It is much more pleasant to have a dog that responds quickly to the first command. Conversely, it is a pain in the neck to hunt with a dog that responds only when he's constantly bombarded with a steady stream of repeated commands.

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Related:  retrievers

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