Training Tip Of The Day: Support your passion, become a member!
Support your passion by becoming a member of a retriever club, training group, or volunteer to help a professional retriever trainer. Seeking enthusiasts who share your passion will only help promote and keep the retriever sports flourishing. It also helps clubs provide more events such as fun hunts, picnic trials, and clinics year round. Being active is the key, one never knows when a good technique, optimal training situation, or a gem of information will present itself to help you and your dog be the best it can be.
Remember it is okay to disagree. One does not have to debate why their method is better than another. A wealth of information is learned if one observes with an open-mind first and gives relative opinion when asked second. Even though like-minded individuals will share the same goals the methods in which to achieve them could vary widely.
All information can be good depending on how you digest it. For instance: If you witness a technique that you disagree with for your dog at the time, you may have just learned “What Not To Do”. However, file it away in your memory bank. A year from now the method observed may work for another dog. This observation may also inspire you to tweak the technique in a manner to fit your method of training or help develop a new technique.
Learning what to do, when to do it, and how to do it is a long journey filled with successful moments and not so successful moments. In any case, observing what not to do and what to do can be an opportunity waiting for you if you become a member and get involved. Your dog is only as good as the time and effort you put into it. For no success comes without good, honest, hard work.
Tera’s Training Tip of the Day: Warm up your dog before training.
Over the years, having dealt with pointers guiding pheasant hunts and running/training retrievers for field trials, it is clear that the probability of injury is high under these conditions. Be proactive against injury by providing a good quality food, joint supplement (one with glucosamine and Methylsulfonylmethane MSM ), and warming up a dogs core.
Bruce Alhers, DVM and avid Field Trialer, spoke to me about his routines for conditioning and strengthening a dogs core muscles. Doing pile work up a hill is an option. Walking your dog on leash, and requiring them to stand and sit several times is another. Having the dog sit up on their hind quarters with the front paws off the ground is also a great way to warm up the core. Rapid Retrieving such as “Happy Bumpers” can cause a dog to twist and turn before the muscles are sufficiently warmed up putting extra stress on ligaments and joints. Whatever routine you decide to adopt, make sure it is done in a slow and controlled process – ultimately working up to strenuous activity. I hope this helps everyone to have great training days that provide many healthy years of enjoyment!
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Hunting Hen Pheasants.
All dogs are best at what they do the most. As puppies I will expose them to bird wings, quail, pigeons,and mallards. When they are a little older and display good mouth habits I expose them to pheasants. Pheasants are much more delicate a bird than a pigeon or mallard duck. Often times pheasants can be more expensive to train with since they do not hold up long when freezing and thawing. The skin is thinner and the feathers are softer. Sometimes retrievers will fumble when carrying a pheasant due to the feathers sticking to their tongue like glue. If your retriever doesn’t have good mouth habits they will most likely chomp or tear into the breast of the bird with little effort, an occurrence hunters and retriever enthusiast want to avoid.
Along with their delicate nature pheasants, especially hens are harder to scent than other game. Nature has also made Hen pheasants near impossible to spot with the naked-eye given their natural camouflage. For a young inexperienced hunting or competitive retriever it is difficult for them to differentiate between scents such as wounded game, mixed bags, and the ever illusive “Hen” pheasant. If you have hunted on a game preserve or been in a field trial where a hen pheasant has been nestled in cover the retrievers will practically stand on top of the bird before catching the scent.
If Hen Pheasants are going to be part of the bag your retriever is seeking then they will need lots of practice. Exposure to hunting Hens in many conditions will help, a wet pheasant gives off the least amount of scent while a fresh shot Hen flyer on a warm day with little wind can pose another challenge. So the question is as we travel in our journey of training our retrievers, “How can we manufacture these conditions for training?”
When young pups or adolescents we at Bay Blue Kennels like to develop a retriever’s hunt. Relying on my background as a Professional Pheasant Hunting Guide and Pointer Trainer I’ve came up with a drill to teach dogs how to use the wind and find game quickly. We refer to this drill as the “Hunt’em Up Drill”. It begins by planting objects in a field that have been scented such as paint rolls, bumpers, toys, and eventually birds. Then the handler takes the retriever for a walk giving one command at the beginning of the drill to: “Hunt it up”. Walking the retriever into the wind or around the object in order to catch the scent never talking to the retriever other than praise when the object is found. The goal of this drill is to teach the retriever to work independently but in relation to the handler. Excessive interaction from the handler or talking to the retriever will only distract them from concentrating on scents. Once the retriever finds the object or bird, praise them lavishly. Carry a bag to put the object or bird into so the retriever is not scenting or hunting the handler and game previously found. This drill becomes an enjoyable, quiet, productive game that many retrievers look forward to, encouraging them to dart off into cover when commanded to “Hunt it up”.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Chocolate Toxicity.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
Love is in the air! Special occasions and holidays are cause for presents or goodies throughout the house. Sometimes our dogs feel the need to indulge in the holiday treats along with their humans. A change in your dog diet such as the one time human food treat can cause dehydration, diarrhea, or other unpleasantries. As little as two ounces of chocolate can cause your dog to become toxic. Chocolate toxicity is very dangerous. Here are some of the signs and symptoms:
Increased body temperature
Increased reflex responses
Increased heart rate
Low blood pressure
Advanced signs (cardiac failure, weakness, and coma)
If your dog becomes suddenly ill around this time of year chocolate maybe your culprit and you should get your dog to the nearest vet. Chocolate Toxicity Meter
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Develop Good Timing.
Developing good timing with your lessons can advance a retriever’s training immensely. Without good timing a trainer can undermine their lesson and confuse the retriever in a heartbeat. To develop good timing takes lots of practice, all things must be considered such as, environment, area lesson is being taught, apparatuses, and so on. When teaching obedience or force fetch timing of appropriate correction is imperative. For example, if one continues to pinch the ear (or pull on the toe) while the bumper is already in the retriever’s mouth your retriever will become confused and not understand how to shut off the pressure being applied. Your retriever makes these associations (how to shut off pressure) not in seconds but, in nanoseconds. A poorly timed correction can set training back a week or even more. Upsetting the apple card in the early stages of training will breed fear and mistrust from your retriever. This is not what a retriever needs during their early stages of training. A young retriever needs a regiment, routine, and outline in order to understand where they fit in your world and the world of retriever training. Calm, reassured, rhythmic teachings and lessons will go far with your retriever. Now I know we do not live in a perfect world and humans are not perfect, mistakes and poor timing of correction WILL occur. However, when it does, try to recognize it immediately, and rebuild what ground in your lesson it caused you to lose.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Training During Inclement Weather.
I’m sure everyone across the country is hoping for Spring to dawn early. This Winter across the U.S. has been brutally cold with records being broken every week. Ice storms, multi-car pile ups, major highway closures, snowfall, days off of work and school are just some of the inconveniences that occur during this type of winter weather. As these treacherous winter conditions unfold we as Retriever Enthusiast and Trainers want and need to train our retrievers in order to prepare for the upcoming Spring/Summer season. Training retrievers in these conditions is not impossible with some creativity, proper care, and attention to detail it can be done safely and effectively.
Your dogs paws can become worn, cut, or iced while training in the winter. Having dog shoes or booties can help. At first most dogs do not like these shoes, but once they get used to them it saves the owner from hours of tedious foot care. Hydration is also key, as a house dog they are susceptible to dehydration due to the heating of our homes. As an outside dog water helps the dog stay warm and regulate their body temperature. As a Professional Retriever Trainer I try not to let the weather affect our weekly training schedule. Unfortunately, one must draw the line when safety due to conditions could be questionable. Icy conditions are too dangerous. When dogs loose footing tissues tear and career ending falls can ensue. As a rule, Bay Blue Kennels trains 6 days a week unless it is lightning, ice or snow. I don’t mind training in the snow but visibility becomes an issue.
Many have asked what can I do with my retriever during these conditions? If you are lucky enough to have friends with horses, indoor arenas or pole buildings can provide lots of space for some fundamental drill work such as the wagon wheel casting and lining, pattern blinds with diversion, “W” pattern, and the cabin drill. If you can not find an indoor space get out your snow blower, snowmobile or call the plow truck. I like the snow blowers and snowmobiles for creating paths for my patterns initially. The paths provide a clear direction of travel creating an opportunity to develop your dogs muscle memory and get him/her back into shape after being a couch potatoe. Bounding over the snow although pretty to watch can be dangerous and near impossible to run a straight line when your dealing with feet of snow. Be creative, be safe, and most of all have fun during this wicked winter.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Take A Break From The Electronic Collar.
A lot of equipment goes along with training retrievers for the field. If one is not careful it can be quite an expensive endeavor, we all love the latest and greatest gadgets. Most new products developed for dog training are useful while others are just that, gadgets that may not serve their purpose for long. In any case it is always good to go back to the basics and review a weakness of your retrievers. Before the world became so “high tech” the professionals of the past used to make champions without two-way radios, a four wheeler, electronic throwers, or the electronic collar. Hard to imagine in the world we live in today, but its true. The professionals and amateurs back in the day used to walk out to the dog to make a correction, gave a hand signal to their thrower, and often relied on the use of ropes to teach a skill.
With the ease of the electronic collar it has a tendency to be over used. At Bay Blue Kennels we try and put ourselves in the dog’s shoes. Basic training and collar conditioning can become a drawn out process for some retrievers. As an effort to keep all things in balance it is a good practice to take a break from the use of the electronic collar. During a young retriever’s basics training we are throwing so much information at them in a short period of time. At this period in your retrievers life they learn how to respond to all forms of pressure including the electronic collar. In order to challenge ones self for improvement in they way you read a retriever, react to their behavior, or teach a lesson do it for a day without the use of the electronic collar. By all means still make corrections and intervene in the retrievers actions as needed, but challenge your mind to find other ways to correct, teach, or practice your lessons. Your retrievers attitude toward training will benefit. Without the influence of the electronic collar your retriever may show other tendencies not noticed in training before. A look at the raw dog. Taking a day off from the use of the electronic collar will offer an alternative perspective about your retriever and their training habits.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Holding Blind Manners
Whether your in a goose blind or a holding blind waiting for your number to be called good manners are essential. Dogs rely heavily on their senses and when the sense of sight is taken from them as it is in a blind they can exhibit a number of annoying or disruptive behaviors. I have seen retrievers try to climb over the blind, whine, bark, or anxiously shake because they can not see the action they are hearing. If your retriever is taught to trust their turn to work will come and remain calm while waiting for that time you will be invited back to the hunt and may even WIN a ribbon or two.
Having a calm retriever in the blind will help their performance immensely. Your retriever will learn to conserve precious energy they may need for the long cripple sailing across the cut corn or energy needed to remember a long retired mark in competition. Either way your retriever should become accustom to hearing gunfire while they can not see where the shots are coming from. Another nice tool to utilize is being able to have your retriever sit steady “remotely” (in an area away from the handler) in a blind.I like to accomplish the teaching of these skills in a drill or yard setting first. In a competitive setting I meet the dog’s halfway and rather than making them sit with their nose facing the blind I allow them to look out of the blind toward me as demonstrated in the picture above. If I am preparing the retriever for the hunt I will begin with having them kennel in a dog blind. There is little distraction initially in the yard. As I choose to add distraction such as gunfire, thrown birds, or duck calls if the retriever breaks I can easily reproduce the situation and practice on it. When the retriever begins to masters the basic concept, such as kennel and sit, I will reinforce the commands in the yard. Then once I feel the retriever is reliable I will introduce and reinforce the commands in the field setting. This process goes by quickly, but offers a lifetime of pleasant behavior from your retriever.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Think Outside The Box.
Puppies between the ages of 8 weeks to 6 months old need to be exposed to birds if your goals are to include field work. The feathers, size, sounds, and smell of the bird can be startling to a young dog. Enhancing prey drive and inspiring the chase are essential behaviors one needs to strive for when training a young dog to be a working retriever. Quail, Chukar, and Pigeons are ideal birds to begin with. Unfortunately, these birds are not always available. As an alternative one can use Mallard wings, Pheasants, or Bantam Chickens to train puppies. For older retrievers that will be goose hunting, farm geese work well to teach the dog how to negotiate this size of bird.
I especially like the Bantams, these birds are durable, noisy, animated, and run fast. For a puppies first session with a Bantam Chicken I will put a small rubber band around the beak. The squawking of the chicken can scare a puppy the first time they are up close and personnel. The chicken’s feet should be zip tied so the bird does not run away. The restraint of the chicken will allow for the puppy to sniff and inspect the chicken on their own time. Don’t rush the puppy by throwing the bird, let the puppy walk around the bird, push it or paw at it. Some puppies will even bark at the bird. If one is patient during the first session the puppy will bravely bite the bird or grab a feather and drag it.
As the puppy gains courage and confidence around the chicken you can begin to tease the puppy with the chicken and toss it about. With the puppy’s building interest, gradually take the restraints off the chicken so the puppy can begin the chase.
Often times on difficult conceptual marks, longer marks, or retired marks I will build the marked retrieve. I like to build a mark in order to show the retriever how to properly perform the mark the first time out of the gate. Building a mark is helpful in teaching not only good habits, but boosting the retriever’s confidence in an unfamiliar setting presented with a new task. Retriever’s naturally fear the unknown so if the difficult marks can be presented in a positive manner during field work your retriever will ease into the situation with confidence looking to conquer the task with 110% the next time it is presented to them. The above scenario is a better tool than throwing the mark wondering if the retriever will succeed or not. Training is more enjoyable for the retriever if he is taught through success.
On difficult marks such as a re-entry mark, I will go to the re-entry point, perform the mark then back up to the starting point and perform the mark again. This method demonstrates to the retriever where they should enter the water after exiting. If the retriever’s memory or effort lacks on the re-entry I will simply have the bird thrower help with another throw or a “Hey Hey”.
On longer marks, distances that are new to the retriever, I will cut the mark in half. I will walk up and perform the mark. Then I will move back to the mat and perform the mark again. However, if your retriever is very focused and is looking out long well I will start on my mat and throw the mark. Once I release the retriever to go and get the mark at mid-distance to the mark I will throw another bumper while the retriever is en route. This method will encourage success, good momentum, and the proper line, all attributes to keep in mind when having your retrievers perform difficult marks. These are just a few ways to promote success in your retriever’s training on the advanced marking concepts. Analyze the marks your presenting your retriever, evaluate your retriever’s prior experiences, and breakdown the marks in order to build them up so your retriever is performing the mark correctly from the mat on the first send.