Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Hunting Hen Pheasants.

Denim Straka returns with a Hen Pheasant Flyer. Success!!!
Denim Straka returns with a Hen Pheasant Flyer. Success!!!

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”.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Teach The Neutral Position.

Chase King demonstrates a perfect neutral position at heel walking to the line.
Chase King demonstrates a perfect neutral position at heel walking to the line.



Where is the neutral position? The neutral position is between the scapula and sixth rib. The neutral position is critical while lining your dog up on marks, setting your standards for conventional and “Off Leash” obedience, or influencing the retrievers movements on the mat. The neutral position is essentially the proper place for your retriever to be while commanded to “Heel”. Lagging behind with the snout at the rear of your knee or surging ahead where the retriever’s tail is at your thigh are unacceptable places and inappropriate positioning for your retriever to be. Any position other than the neutral position if taught properly will warrant a correction that is clear when you command “Heel”. If training of the neutral position was consistent when the retriever is corrected for improper placement, the retriever will immediately re-position themselves in the neutral position while the Handler stands still.

FC-AFC Lil Bit's Cote D'Or Pinot Noir "Bart" & Tera demonstrate the incorrect position. Tera is too far back on Bart.
FC-AFC Lil Bit’s Cote D’Or Pinot Noir “Bart”Garcia & Tera demonstrate the INCORRECT position. Tera is too far back on Bart.

As you can see in the picture above Tera is positioned at the retriever’s Sacro region or rump. The is NOT the correct position for the retriever to be. This puts the Handler at a disadvantage when trying to line the retriever. The retriever’s focus is out in field and has no way of seeing (in his periphery) where the Handler’s movements are. The above positioning literally puts the Handler in the back seat while trying to drive the car.

We start teaching the neutral position for the “Heel” command with treats when the pups first arrives at the kennel. We then use a flat collar and short leash walking in a non-distracting environment in a straight line to isolate the “Heel” command while practice the neutral positioning. Once the pup understands and is aware of where the neutral position is, do we begin to teach the pup to make turns while remaining in the neutral position. Sounds simple, for some pups it is, for other who are easily distracted it is not. Be patient, utilize treats to motivate, and be consistent with positioning, you will be happy you did when you are walking with your retriever “Off Leash”.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Teach Depth Perception.


There are several factors that go into teaching a retriever to be an accurate marker. One factor that you can teach from an early age is depth perception. Depth perception will help a retriever accurately mark multiple birds from gun stations at varying distances. This drill is useful when your retriever needs to drive past a short gun station and retrieve a bird from a longer gun station. At Bay Blue Kennels we use a variety of Marking Drills performed as Single Marks to accomplish teaching depth perception.

When the puppy is just beginning their lessons of marking we will keep our drills wide. As the puppy’s accuracy increases we will begin to tighten up these marking drills. By tighten the marking drill the element of gun stations influencing one another is added. The marking drill can be complicated further by shooting a Flyer at one of the three gun stations.

Below is a young retriever by the name of Daisy Bellow who is 10 months old. Daisy demonstrates an In-Line Marking drill that we commonly refer to as the G3 drill. Daisy has displayed good marking ability and I am beginning to challenge her ability with this intermediate set-up of the G3 drill.The G3 drill involves three gun stations directly in-line of one another perpendicular to the mat where you will begin. Each gun station is spaced about 35-45 yards deep of the other. In this demonstration Daisy performs the long mark first, then the middle mark second and the shortest mark last. This is known as the “Check Down” version of the G3 drill. If the G3 drill is thrown in the opposite sequence it is known as the “Punch” version of the drill. Another version of this drill involves both the checking down and punching past by throwing the middle mark first, the long mark second  and the shortest mark last. Enjoy teaching your retriever to judge distances through the utilization of marking drills.

The sound quality is poor. I suggest you mute your computer.

Bay Blue Kennels In-Line Marking Drill “G3”

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Use Birds.

Misha Colwell pictured with the bag of the day. Misha & David are featured on Migration Nation this month hunting in Oklahoma. Bay Blue Graduates do it all.
Misha Colwell pictured with the bag of the day. Misha & David are featured on Migration Nation this month hunting in Oklahoma. Bay Blue Graduates do it all.

Expose your puppy to live and dead birds young. It does not matter what kind of bird as long as it is alive and has feathers. In my earlier years of training I have used many pigeons, chuckar, quail and white farm geese for my exposure lessons. I am now a fan of using Banty or Bantam Roosters, a hardy active and exciting bird the pups love to chase. It is important to instill and build prey drive from an early age. It is near impossible to have a hard charging bird loving retriever if they have never had the pleasure of chasing down a live bird. Call a Dog Trainer, Pheasant Farm, Hunting Preserve, get a green Chicken Coop or go to a Farm store and buy some chicks to raise for your pup. Where there is a will there is a way to find that young pup a bird or two.

Get Birdy and Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Blow’em Out.

Junior Hayden feeling great after his eye cleaning.
Junior Hayden feeling great after his eye cleaning.

Video: Keeping Retriever Eyes Clean

Click on the link above to see a Video of blowing out a retrievers eyes to remove nasty debris.

Whether your hunting or training the Fall is a time of year when allergies flare, vegetation is dying, and seeds are prevalent. Depending on your retriever’s facial/eye anatomy they maybe more or less prone to getting seeds and other debris in their eyes. Droopy bottom lids usually catch more debris than a tight bottom lid. Either way the debris must be removed before it works its way under the dogs third eyelid.

Third eyelid
Third eyelid

Once under the third eyelid it can cause all sorts of problems. Some eye issues from seeds include drainage (usually the first sign of a present seed in the eyelid), eye ulcers, and ultimately damaged or impaired vision. All can be avoided with a simple technique that we refer to at Bay Blue Kennels as “Blow’em Out”. After the dog has run a training set-up or hunted before the dog is put up the Trainer or Handler should inspect the eyes.

Place your right-thumb on the dog’s brow and your left-thumb just below the bottom of the eye. Apply gentle pressure and move your thumbs opposite of one another to spread the eye open further than it appears normally. This should give the Trainer/Handler a good view of the eye. Inspect the eye for seeds or other debris. If debris is present keep your thumbs in place while holding the eye wide open, take a deep breath, place your mouth about two to three inches from the eye, and deliver a strong blow of air. Make sure to position your mouth at the inner portion of the eye closest to the muzzle so that the “blow” pushes the debris away from the eye to the side of the dogs face opposite his/her muzzle. Here you should be able to wipe the debris clean away avoiding a trip to the vet. Visit the link above to see the process in action. It just takes a few seconds to perform the task and will help keep your dog seeing well for years to come.

Blow’em Out, Keep’em Clean, & Happy Training!





Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Scent The Bumpers.


Once your puppy is utilizing their eyes well on “Marked Retrieves” introduce scent. The introduction of scent should be a gradually process. In order to keep all things in balance and encourage the use of eyes first then nose secondary add light scent to your bumpers. A technique we use at Bay Blue Kennels is to put our 3 inch bumpers in our fresh hen pheasant flyer bird bags overnight in the freezer. Hen Pheasants have the least amount of scent than all other birds. The bumpers will soak up the scent when the birds thaw and the scent dissipates after a couple days making your bumpers ready for another type of scenting scenario.

Another method used at Bay Blue Kennels is injecting the bumpers with scent. I like to use a small needle and store bought liquid scents you can find at many outdoor stores. Fill the needle and insert it into the string or body of the bumper. Inject scent in several areas of the bumper depending on the strength of scent you desire. Start out lightly scenting and then increase strength of scent all the while keeping the use of eyes verses nose in balance. This technique lasts about two weeks while marking with the bumpers on land and in water.

Happy Training!

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day

Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Develop Memory Young.

Tera & Ruger Aul
Tera & Ruger Aul

There are many ways to develop memory in a young puppy. If you have a pup retrieving with enthusiasm and gusto he/she is a prime candidate to start exercising the muscle between the ears. It is never too young to start with an enthusiastic pup. Keep in mind your over all goals. Prevent unwanted behaviors such as “Switching” by using a check chord or thin rope. Make sure your marks are kept wide with plenty of separation. Encourage desire and success by keeping the marks short, hand-thrown marks in short cover where the bumpers are visible to the pup work best to start.

One method involves hand-throwing a mark then picking up the pup turning him/her around then back to face the mark once again for retrieval providing a second or two delay before the pup is sent for the mark. Using a single throw to start providing a moment or two delay where the pup loses sight of the mark and then having the pup refocus to remember the mark is teaching memory in its simplest form. If your pup experiences several failures stop what you are doing and go back to the drawing board. Too many failures could result in momentum issues later in his/her work.

A more advanced method involves building the hand-thrown marks. Start by having the pup perform a single mark, then another single mark, and lastly repeat the marks as a “Puppy Double”. To throw your “Puppy Double” correctly promoting a high probability of success throw the last single mark your pup retrieved first, the “Memory Bird/Bumper”(the bird/bumper thrown first in a multiple mark set-up) then throw the additional mark known as the “Go Bird/Bumper”. Send the pup as soon as the “Go Bird/Bumper” hits the ground. Your throws should be kept WIDE so to not influence one another. When the pup returns from the “Go Bird” quickly refocus the pup on the “Memory Bird” and let them go. Initially don’t give a release command, it could be distracting and stop the pup’s travel to the “Memory Bird”.

These are just a few method to help begin teaching your puppy to use his/her memory. Remember to strive for success in a positive environment that is known to your pup. Gradually, increase the length of the delays, distance of the throws, and introduction of commands as your pup becomes familiar with the process. While building up to advancement make sure your pup keeps a good training attitude and balance out memory work with single marked retrieves.

Happy Training!

Tera’sTraining Tip Of The Day

Training Tip Of The Day: 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 ok 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 witnesses 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 manor to fit your method of training or may 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.

Here are a few links to some retriever clubs:






Clubs without web pages:

Wolverine Retriever Club Metamora, MI Barb Younglove

American Amateur Retriever Club Willmington, IL Sharon Gierman

South Texas Retriever Club Giddings, TX Tera Lanczak

A clients prized T-Shirt from a fun club event in 1985. The Good Ol'Days
A client’s prized T-Shirt from a fun club event in 1985. The Good Ol’Days




How to build a Force Fetch Table

Heavy Duty Version
Stationary Table

The force fetch table is unique to the person training on it.  The table should not be too tall or too short but at a height the individual can rest a hip against.  The table top should be no wider than 48in & no smaller than 24in. The table top should have sufficent room for a full size dog to stand on without falling off.  For the purpose of this article we will use the demensions of my table.  I am about 5ft’9 in tall and have a long reach.  The dogs I typically work with are large breeds so my table top in 36 in W’ X 60 in L’ X 36in T’. The length can vary according to personnal preferace, some methods involve teaching simple casting on the table before transfering to the ground. 

Once the size is determined you will need some supplies depending on your budget you can build for forever or build for now. Because our table sits outside we chose to go with treated lumbar and scews for extra sturdiness.  We also have no plans on moving the table so it is heavy and will not fall over.  If you chose to build a lighter table make sure you secure it before using it. 

The table top will have a back wall mearsuring 36in W’X 48inL’. This wall is used to secure the dogs back legs and prevent him from stepping off the edge of the table. Then there is another side wall that is off set on the interior surface of the table.  This wall is where you will secure your pole and prevent your dog from moving his shoulders.  Once the table top is built and the base is secure attach an eye hook any where to the base where it will be out of the way.  This eye hook is where you will secure the dogs flat collar when you are transfering the dog to fetch off the ground.  Every table is unique and you can tweek the demensions however you like to fit your needs.  However, all tables need a place to secure the dogs legs and a pole to secure the dogs head.  There are many designs for force fetch tables and this is the best design for our kennel.  We feel that the less movement the dog has the quicker and better learned is the lesson being taught.  Please provide question or comment as we are here to provide accurate information to insure responsible training and humane force fetch training.  Good luck with your training!!