Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Healthy Treats.

Kye Straka loves apples.  She also likes to play with her heathly treats.
Kye Straka loves apples. She also likes to play with her heathy treats.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM THE BAY BLUE KENNELS CREW!!!

When caring for multiple dogs buying treats can get expensive. Not to mention with all of the dog food recalls and recent news of dogs dying from contaminated treats we have decided to take a more natural approach to treating our students during their down time. However, we feed Purina Pro Plan Performance and treat train with ONLY Purina Performance brand treats. We feel confident in doing so because Purina has had no issues of contamination or recalls on food.

At Bay Blue Kennels we have found that the dogs really do like fruits and vegetables. There are many health benefits to providing fruits and vegetables in your pets diet. Carrots provide vitamins to enhance eye sight, they keep the teeth clean, and offer some stimulation as they take a while to chew. I like to buy the large bagged carrots leave the peels on and cut them into 4 to 5 inch chunks. Apples are another alternative to store-bought treats. Apples also keep the teeth clean, provide chewing stimulation, and clean out the digestive tract. It is important to cut the apples up in quarters to take out the seeds as the seeds in apples are harmful.

When dogs are under stress or traveling I like to add a little extra fiber to their diet. Extra fiber will keep stools nice and firm to cut down on accidents while on long road trips. Green beans are chuck full of vitamins and are a good source of fiber. For your elderly and over-weight dogs green beans provide a nice filler food with very little calories. This helps the dog’s belly feel full while keeping the weight off those aging joints. Plain canned pumpkin is another good source of fiber to keep stools firm.

There are some foods to steer clear of raisins, grapes, and chocolate can be deadly as the dog’s liver can not breakdown these foods. They will cause toxicity and ultimately death if an emergency goes unnoticed. Consult your vet and have fun testing out new, inexpensive, healthy treats.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Exposure Is Key.

9 week old Naughty Grevlos displays her fearless desire to retrieve.
9 week old Naughty Grevlos displays her fearless retrieve of a Drake Mallard.

From the moment you bring your puppy home your training should begin. Initial introductions to your puppy’s new home will influence their behaviors to all things for the rest of your retriever’s life. Creating a bond and earning your puppy’s trust will become ingrained, shaping your puppy’s personality and reactions during these critical periods of introduction.

If your puppy is fearful or apprehensive of an object or situation this behavior must be noted. Positive, repeated, safe exposure of these objects or situations will mold the puppy’s reactions into fearless behaviors toward these initially scary situations or objects in the future. Forcing your puppy into these situations will only make them more apprehensive toward these situations. Most times a passive indirect approach from the trainer works the best.

For instance, if your puppy displays a fear of getting into the water you should allow them to explore and inspect the situation in their own manner. Pushing the puppy toward the water or picking them up and putting them into the water is forcing the matter. This influence from the trainer will only cause the puppy to retract from the water and make the situation unpleasant in the puppy’s mind. Let the puppy approach the situation on their own time, offer the exposure in a positive matter, and celebrate the courage of the puppy’s exploration when they advance toward the water. Don’t get discouraged if your puppy shows a negative response, understand as the trainer this is an area of exposure that needs to be practiced upon. Over-time the puppy will learn there is nothing to fear and gradually learn the water can be fun with your encouragement.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Single Marks

A standard marking set with two short marks and a longer mark up the middle.
A standard marking set with two short marks and a longer mark up the middle.

It is a monumental event to have a 3 year old retriever earn a placement in an Open All-Age stake, complete their Field Championship title before the age of 4, or qualify for a National Retriever Championship. None of these events could have happen without having the retriever perform many single marks.

It is a common misconception that a retriever needs to do many multiple mark set-ups to become a good marker. Developing a good marking dog involves focus, memory, desire, intelligence, and courage. If a dog is head-swinging from gun station to gun station then he/she lacks the focus to properly watch the mark. This retriever will have a less accurate mark than a retriever who watches the mark leave the thrower’s hand following the bird all the way to the ground before he/she moves their focus to another mark.

Building desire in marking is most effectively done with successful single marks when the retriever is a puppy, letting them go before the mark hits the ground allowing the pup to pounce on the object. Intelligence is nurtured by gradually adding factors within the path of travel to a mark or adding a shorter gun station in the field which maybe distracting.The retriever’s gotta have the heart of a lion. They have to look out across a piece of water and feel confident to swim to the other side to conquer the mark, be productive, and a competitive retriever. This courage is enhanced by gradually lengthening single marks.

A retriever’s memory can be developed with many techniques, but the simplest form of building memory is with single marks. Having the dog hold a bird in their mouth while watching a mark being thrown is one technique. The delay between the handler taking the bird from the retriever’s mouth and sending the retriever will strengthen memory. Having a bird thrower hide or retire after the mark is thrown will also boost memory power. Be creative and utilize single marks to their fullest potential.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Bigger Is NOT Always Better.

Jack Aul a large male Labrador Retriever displaying his WINNING ribbons.
Jack Aul a large male Labrador Retriever displaying his WINNING ribbons.

I will admit I have a fascination with heavy equipment, the bigger the better. I can watch an enormous bean harvester or bulldozer work for hours on end. A tall, long, broad chested retriever crushing a quadruple marking test in an Open stake of a retriever competition is truly, a thing of beauty. As impressive as size, power, and speed can be it does not always mean it will last longer or do the better job. For certain jobs, a smaller more maneuverable piece of equipment may do a superior job.

If you are looking to purchase a Labrador Retriever keep in mind your life-style. As you look through the breeder’s listings think about what your retriever will be doing most days. Will he/she be in the house, will your dog be guiding hunting trips or on a Professional Retriever Trainer’s truck, training on a daily basis. Will you be hunting your retriever primarily out of a boat, in a heavily vegetated marsh, hunting out of a pit blind for geese, laying against a levy in the rice fields chasing snows, running the prairie for pheasants, or maybe competing for the majority of their life.

If you are going to primarily hunt out of a boat a larger dog maybe too heavy, taking up too much room and a smaller dog maybe more suitable for this job description. Or if you chose to hunt the prairie for pheasants a lighter smaller dog may not get hot as quickly as a larger heavier dog. If hunting Greaters in a chopped corn field in Canada is going to be your retriever’s job where the bird’s wing span can be 5 to 6 ft, a larger dog may better handle these birds, especially if the bird is wounded. If you choose to compete your retriever size maybe a secondary thought as talent being first and foremost in this competitive realm of retriever sports.

However, there are trade offs for everything. A larger retriever may have a visual advantage, but physically may not hold up as well as a smaller retriever. What ever your passion and choice of employment you choose for your retriever keep in mind what their daily routine will be. Choose a breeding that will carry attributes common with your goals and ask lots of questions. The breeders, owners, and trainers will be your best source of information, helping you chose a Labrador Retriever that will fit your goals and life-style perfectly.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Routine In Care.

Kye Straka relaxing during her weekly ear cleaning.
Kye Straka relaxing during her weekly ear cleaning.

Providing a routine in care for your retriever can be beneficial. It will help your retriever live a healthier, happier, and obedient life. Dogs generally fear the unknown, they will approach changes in environment and situations with caution. Having a routine of normal care such as; a time to eat, a time to play, a time to work, and a time to sleep will provide your retriever with the security they need to relax. Your retriever will anticipate and look forward to these events throughout the day.

A routine provides clear guidelines for your retriever on how they are to behave during these times within their daily routine. Having clear guidelines and boundaries will help your retriever feel secure. If your retriever does not know when these basic needs such as eating or sleeping will be met then your retriever will naturally be in a constant state of alert. Having your dog in this state of alert is stressful for them, the stress can manifest in unwanted behaviors over time. Howling, barking, aggression, and diarrhea are just some of the signs your dog is under stress.

Providing a routine for your dog will help your retriever understand what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and provide them with the standard in which they are to be a part of your life. When a routine is provided for your retriever changes in environment, new training lessons, and new situations are a less significant event in your retriever’s life. Your retriever will deal with stress and cope with these changes quicker and easier, making your retriever a more enjoyable companion and consistent competitor.

Happy Training!

 

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Be Aware Of Poor Visibility

Picture taken by Louis A D'Aria
Picture taken by Louis A D’Aria

Whether it be in the misty morning of the duck hunting marsh, in the shadows of flooded timber, the sun setting on your marking test, or dusk in the abyss of the Great Lakes visibility for your retriever can be challenging in a matter of seconds. Dog’s are best at what they do most. If your retriever has had a lot of practice marking birds in these conditions one would think their retriever would have no problems, but things can change in an instant.

As my husband gears up for his morning adventure of duck hunting with his new gundog Cal; I am reminded of our many friends (canine too) who have joined us on our hunting and training trips. One particular frightful hunting story comes to mind. A few years back, a friend of mine from Nebraska came to hunt the marshes of Lake Huron. He and his retriever were avid hunters; in fact celebrated and famous for some of their accomplishments as a retriever team. They had driven many miles and arrived anxious to get out on the lake to hunt ducks. Arriving in the mid-afternoon the team had time to gear up the boat and get set for an evening hunt on the lake.

The retriever team’s expeditious efforts paid off, they were having a fantastic time with the ducks flying and shooting accurate. As the sun began to set with only a few precious minutes of shooting time allowed before the evening hunt was to end my friend wounded a duck. It was a close fallen cripple just landing outside of the decoy spread, my friend sent his retriever for the crippled duck. With eyes locked on his dog he watched as his retriever made a b-line for the cripple. The retriever grabbed for the duck only to have the duck quickly dive and disappear; moments later reappearing about 10 yards further than the duck’s original fall area. My friend believing the duck was wounded enough for his retriever to make a rapid retrieve he allowed the dog to go after the cripple. As visibility became poor in seconds, he watched as his retriever disappeared into the abyss, shouting out his name and whistling his retriever, no dog showed up at the boat. A big knot welled up in his throat and a sense of panic came over him. A feeling no avid hunter or retriever enthusiast ever wants to experience.

One minute it was the hunt of a life-time in the next a plan of action to find and save his retriever’s life. My friend picked up his decoys staying put hoping his retriever’s GPS would relocate him from where ever he had traveled back to the boat. By this time night had fallen and still no dog. My friend began his search; hours of riding in the boat shouting and whistling with no luck. My friend had to exit the water with a heavy heart and leave his best friend behind. The next couple of hours were agonizing, filled with grief and worry, but there is a happy ending to this story.

At about 10:30 P.M. my friend received a call from a Walleye fisherman who had found his dog! My friend shed tears of joy that his faithful hunting buddy had been found. The fisherman explained they were returning to the boat launch shinning spot lights to find buoys and saw the twinkle of the dogs eyes moving a top of the water. Wondering what this odd sight was the fishermen went to inspect it, there they found his retriever swimming 3 miles from the shore of Lake Huron with the crippled duck still in his mouth! The fishermen pulled the weary dog from the water, took the duck from his mouth, and tried to dry the shivering retriever off. The fisherman told my friend his dog seemed relieved to see someone coming for him. My friend was very grateful to the fisherman and they were happy to find this amazing retriever’s owner.Once again the retriever team was reunited, but a valuable lesson learned. No matter how experienced you and your retriever are things can change in an instant.

In our training environments we can control most variables. However, lighting conditions are NOT one of them, a higher power has the master plan there. I understand that we all don’t have the amount of time we wished we did to train or hunt. Most of us have to take advantage of every second of day light we can. Marking your retrievers in these conditions can be beneficial. It will teach them to pick out obscure objects in the air and teach them how to better use their eyes. Such as life all things need balance, seek balance with all lighting conditions and be aware of poor visibility so that when things go south you can help your retriever to the bird and back to your side.

Happy Hunting and Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Just Relax.

Top Flight's Rock Me On The Water "Rockit" is too cool for school.
Top Flight’s Rock Me On The Water “Rockit” is too cool for school.

Training dogs is supposed to be fun for you and your retriever. It is a time both, you and retriever get to enjoy the gorgeous luster of the great outdoors. Although, as charming as it may all seem the world we live in is not perfect nor is training a retriever. At times your dummy launcher or bird thrower will malfunction throwing a less than ideal mark. Sometimes your retriever may take a less than perfect cast but, still progresses toward the blind retrieve.

Don’t get your underwear in a bunch, take a deep breath, and relax. There is no harm in challenging your dog’s eye sight, it is a good measure to see where his/her focus is at. Especially, if your retriever has been experiencing a tremendous amount of success in their marking. In other instances being patient enough to wait, watch, and evaluate your retriever’s true intentions can save you from an inappropriate response or correction. Having a knee-jerk reaction is not always good. A wealth of information will be provided if you can just relax and wait for the situation to play out before you react and correct.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Build Momentum.

Tucker Kuenker (Super Chessie)  flying into the water to make a retrieve.
Tucker Kuenker (aka Super Chessie) flying into the water to make a retrieve.

Whether your marking or running blind retrieves having good momentum is everything. If you do not have good momentum during your retriever training one should evaluate their training plans. Momentum is essential because without it you can not advance your retriever’s training. If your retriever is not moving out from your side with enthusiasm then there is no sense in teaching them to stop on the whistle or begin casting. You must have good momentum before you begin to stop the momentum or require the retriever to change direction. If you do not have good momentum and try to advance in these areas then your retriever will lack momentum on casts or not move at all once you’ve blown the whistle, this is known as “Freezing on Casts”.

When running water marks with your retriever it is nice to see them diving in the water making a big splash. This is what would be considered a stylish water-entry. On land marks I like to see my retrievers kicking up dirt when they take off displaying a confidence in the direction they are traveling. There are many ways to build momentum. Simplifying your marking set-ups by shortening or widening the marks will inspire better momentum. Using white stakes or marking out your blind retrieves is another way to build momentum. Sometimes just by being playful and relaxed during retriever training will loosen your retriever up helping them to have better momentum. A great non-pressure related drill that builds momentum is Walking Baseball. Here is a link to diagrams and an explanation of this very useful drill for your retriever: Walking Baseball Explained

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Too Much Of A Good Thing.

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In life too much of one thing and not enough of another can be hazardous. The same holds true in retriever training. While teaching your puppy to mark there will be times you will need to help the puppy to marks they miss or have trouble finding. Other puppy’s may have an undeniable desire and accuracy in retrieving, stomping on everything you throw for them. As the trainer, you will experience both scenarios.

However, if you offer a puppy too much help too often he/she will begin to rely on the help and look for help rather than the mark. In the second scenario if the puppy is never challenged he will become complacent. The puppy will be bored and not put forth good effort toward marking because he/she always knows where the mark is. A smart puppy needs to be challenged and taught to figure things out. A slower progressing puppy needs to be nurtured along with things remaining simple until desire, confidence, and accuracy are developed. Try to interpret what kind of puppy you have, give them what they need, and balance your training success’ or failures. You will end up with a well-rounded consistent working dog if you do.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Something Is Better Than Nothing.

Foxy is learning her place in the house.
Foxy is learning her place in the house.

As the days get shorter and colder many training opportunities will move indoor, unless your retriever is lucky enough to go on a Winter Training Trip. Our Retrievers are a working breed. They thrive on performing tasks and receiving direction from their humans. Working dogs who are left to their own entertainment or left to decide their own role in your life could develop anxiety issues, become resentful, or just be naughty in the home.

Having a routine helps to set the stage for appropriate behavior in the home. Setting up play time and training time in the home will help as well. Some productive things you can do is teach your dog a place or kennel. Another fun game is hunting for toys or treats hidden in the house. Also the toy identification game is a good time for your retriever. Be creative, enhance obedience, memory, and focus. Your retriever will love the interaction, they will become a better companion for it, and there will be lots of laughs along the way.

Happy Training!