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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Retriever Training Plan

Make a plan and constantly evaluate
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Story at a Glance
  • A training plan causes us to remain focused on skill development, to reflect and to document.
  • The plan must be detailed, flexible and under constant evaluation.
  • Successful training is progressive learning achieved through consistent repetition of related skills to the point of habit formation.
  • Training a pup is much like eating an elephant: It's best done one bite (step) at a time.

Rules to Remember

1.  Drill a command, skill or concept twice, as long as you think it should take to learn. Then double that amount of time again to insure habit formation. (Example: If you think it should take five days to teach a skill, it will take 10. Then double the repetition to 20 days to insure the pup mastered the command or skill.)

2.  "Make haste slowly," says P. R. A. Moxon, a famous English retriever trainer and author. Don't be rushed. Use patience and consistency. It's tempting to rush or avoid boring drills to "get to the good stuff." Don't! Master each step before moving to the next level.

3.  Document and evaluate each session from two perspectives: the dog's responses, attitude, success, problems, etc., and yourself as a handler and trainer. How could I improve? Did my actions cause a problem? How was my patience? Did I read the dog correctly? Were my commands clear? Was I consistent? Self-reflection is equally as important as the focus on your dog.

4.  Break down all concepts and skills into their simplest parts and teach them separately. Once success is achieved, begin linking the skills together to form the concept or the desired outcome. Remember: testing is not teaching. Failure teaches a dog nothing. Build the pup's confidence through successes. If problems develop, simplify the exercise until success is achieved. Again, plans must be flexible. They should reflect a teaching approach, not testing.

The Plan

The first step in the actual plan is for you to carefully define your expect outcome for your training process. Begin with a picture of the desirable qualities and abilities for your pup based on your expected utilization. What do you want from your gundog: competition, upland game, waterfowl, both upland game and waterfowl, companion dog, hunting companion, game tracker, flushing gundog, pointer, etc. Once you have a realistic picture in mind, begin building your model composed of the necessary elements, which will give you the desired outcomes. Now that you have listed your desired outcomes in writing, build your plan with the necessary elements that will enable you to:

  • Stay focused
  • Teach progressively
  • Employ repetition to the point of habit formation
  • Evaluate results
  • Remain flexible
  • Break down all skills into their individual components
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Related:  retrievers

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