A finely tuned retriever is truly a joy to watch and to hunt with. But dogs don’t get to that point by accident. It takes the right dog, time, patience, and more to maximize a retriever’s potential. Volumes have been written about what you should do. But there are some pitfalls to avoid as well. Here are five of the most common retriever training mistakes.
Not Planning Training Sessions
No dog trainers plan to fail but many fail to plan. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have several hours a day to train our hunting dogs. Work & family responsibilities have priority over training retrievers. The best way to make the most of the time we do have is to properly plan & set goals. Think about what you want to accomplish for each training session and set long terms goals and strategies. You’ll spend more time training and less time scratching your head.
Driving Your Dog Too Hard
While some hunters are pressed for time to train their dog, others push their dog too much. If a young dog isn’t following commands well often times the problem is simply burnout. If a dog is trained too hard it will often lose confidence or become bored. Keep training sessions short. Introducing new drills can help avoid boredom but give your dog an opportunity to master techniques before moving on to new drills. The idea is to keep him learning without crushing his confidence.
Not Using Hand Signals
Dogs are pack animals. It’s true that wolves use voice to communicate but nonverbal language such as posture and eye contact are the basis of most of the communication between pack members. Your dog is part of your pack and will respond more consistently to nonverbal commands such as hand signals than to voice commands.
Not Using A Whistle
Nonverbals are important but you need a whistle to get your dog’s attention, especially at long distances and early in training. Get puppies started with the whistle from day one. Most trainers use one solid whistle should be associated with sit and a short series of peeps for come. When introducing the whistle to puppies, use treats so the puppy associates the whistle with positive experiences.
Hunting Too Early
Did you learn to swim by getting thrown into the deep end of a pool? The best way to learn to swim is making your way through a regimented plan until you’re ready to swim into the deep end on your own. The same can be said for dog training. Sure, you can take a young dog into the blind before he’s ready. But an early jump into hunting will often do more harm than good. If your dog isn’t steady to shot or handling water retrieves well, he’s not ready to go hunting.