During the month of July we will be exploring the four part process that is preparing your retriever. This four-part series will cover obedience, physical conditioning, steadiness and marking, and finally blind retrieves. Follow these steps and your favorite hunting companion will be ready this fall.
Step 1: Obedience, obedience, obedience!
Nothing deteriorates over the long off season more than a dog’s level of obedience. It’s all too easy to fail to maintain the high standards needed in the field, most everyone does it. So the place to start with your dog is obedience reinforcement.
Sit: The command means exactly that, sit until you are released. Vary the amount of time that the dog is required to stay in one place but be very consistent. Give the command one time and if it is not obeyed immediately go to the dog and force him or her to obey. Do not give the command again as you will be teaching the dog to ignore your initial effort. If you use the “stay” command use it in conjunction with “sit.” We have found it easier to teach dogs that “sit” also means “stay” so a step is eliminated.
Here: Some people prefer the word “come,” this is personal preference. The dog needs to hear the command and obey so take away the option of disobedience by using a lead. Start out with a shorter length and move out to the standard 30’ check cord. Once again, the command should be given one time and then enforced.
Heel: Start out in the yard with the dog on lead and make sure it has your attention. Make sharp changes in direction and give the “heel” command. The dog should keep its eyes locked on you and follow your movements quickly and sharply.
Distractions: Every obedience command must be solidified under distraction. A great way to achieve a high level of distraction is in a pet friendly retail environment with other dogs present. Many pet stores will allow you to bring you dog in on lead. Do this as often as possible and it is also a great way to train during the hot summer months. Join a local retriever club if you are not already a member of one. Group training days on a formal or informal level are a great way to solidify obedience and filed work in the off season.
Collars: If your dog has been properly conditioned to an electronic collar by all means keep it on them during training. But go back through basic commands using stimulus for reinforcement to refresh the dog’s memory on how to respond. Always do this on lead to ensure control is not an issue.
Next Week: Physical Conditioning