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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

Testing Instead Of Training

Many handlers discover anew each day the limits of their dog. They test him to see if he can do what they plan to teach him. A common example is training Pup to do long marked retrieves.

The typical way to teach Pup to do very long marked retrieves is to go out and try it. A helper is sent out 150 yards. He gets out there, shoots, and throws a dummy. You send Pup. Pup goes the distance of the longest retrieve he's had. He starts hunting in a circle at 30 yards and never gets out to the dummy. Now you've taught him to fail.

The right way to do it is:
a. Remember that his longest retrieve was 30 yards.
b. Send the thrower out 150 yards.
c. Walk out with Pup until you are only 30 yards from the thrower.
d. Have the thrower shoot and throw the dummy.
e. Send Pup on the 30-yard retrieve, at which you know he will succeed.
f. Back up to 60 yards from the thrower, and have him throw again.
g. Send Pup on this 60-yard retrieve.
h. Continue backing up from the thrower in 45-yard increments until, on the fourth retrieve, Pup is going the full 150 yards.
Structured properly, the lesson is a success, with Pup ending it quite confident on 150-yard retrieves.

Testing Pup to see if he can do what you want is a universal human tendency. It is also universally bad. Always engineer the lesson so that Pup succeeds.

Experimenting with Introductions

Introductions to new things are frequently conducted as an experiment to see how Pup reacts. If you are lucky, Pup will react favorably and the introduction will have been successful. If you are unlucky, the introduction will scare the heck out of Pup and you will have a very big problem that may take weeks to solve.

Introductions are often related to the bad practice of testing to train. A classic example is to walk up to Pup and shoot off the 12-guage to see if he's gun-shy. With this type introduction, a surprising number of dogs are found to be gun-shy.

The right way to introduce Pup to shooting is to start 150 yards away, watching another dog retrieving. Pup will be very interested. Then a shot is added on each retrieve, while you and Pup still watch from a distance. Then you move closer until, very soon, you are right next to the retrieving performer and Pup is thoroughly enjoying the shooting-because, of course, it is associated with his favorite thing: retrieving.

Why trust to luck? The proper way to train Pup is to engineer the training session to ensure success. Whatever you are introducing Pup to, it is your job to ensure that no unpleasant associations occur.

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Related:  retrievers

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