Gun Dog Success can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but at times also one of the most frustrating. Tips for training your hunting retriever are discussed here.
Steady First, Retrieve Later Many hunters make the mistake of moving past basic obedience in favor of countless retrieves without restraint. Only after the dog has been encouraged to chase after a dummy with enthusiasm do hunters attempt – with great frustration – to steady the animal. Instead, your dog should first be proficient at “stay” with non-retrieves. In this way, your dog will not expect to retrieve everything that falls. When emphasis is placed first on steadying, the dog also learns to offer calm behaviors, instead of hyperactive enthusiasm for retrieving game. In training, make your dog sit and watch dummies for 10 – 30 minutes before you send him or her to retrieve them. Additional benefits of this practice include improved knowledge of hand signals, better blind retrieves, and less hard-headed independence.
Recall Gun Dog Success startsbefore your dog ever steps foot in the field, he or she should be proficient at coming on command. Again, this problem is directly caused by placing more emphasis on retrieves than on obedience. A dog that is well-trained for recall will obey the command no matter the distraction – including falling game.
Personality Once you have purchased a dog, you cannot change its personality. However, a common problem among hunters who train their own dogs is that today’s retrievers have more personality than their ancestors from 50 years ago. Instead of calm and gentle personalities, today’s breeders seek to produce dogs that are well-suited to field trials, meaning most retrievers are hyperactive and stubborn. If your dog is too much to handle for your level of expertise, do not hesitate to seek the help of a professional dog trainer. The money will be well worth the decreased frustration.
Electronic Collars Electronic training collars are powerful tools that, when used properly, are unparalleled for putting the finishing touches on a hunting dog. However, when used improperly they can produce just as many problems as they solve. Unfortunately, many dog owners who are untrained in their proper use turn to electronic collars and create anxious, fearful dogs. The electronic collar should never be used as a first resort, and dog owners should beware that if you cannot train your dog without the collar, the chances of successfully training him or her with electronic stimulation are slim. Before turning to an e-collar to solve a problem with basic obedience, turn to a professional dog trainer first.
Good Bloodlines There are two ways to produce a good hunting dog: through extensive training, and through breeding. Ultimately, a dog with good bloodlines that is properly bred will be easier to train than an animal with inferior qualities. For instance, a quality-bred Labrador Retriever should naturally have a soft mouth that does not require force-fetch training. The tendency of breeders to produce dogs with a genetic predisposition to a hard mouth increases the amount of training required, while also perpetuating this trait.
Two other traits that are continually masked by training instead of circumvented by selective breeding are hyperactivity and cooperation (or lack thereof). While the hyperactive dog can be extensively trained to be under control, his or her puppies will have this trait. The same can be said for dogs that are hard-headed. Instead, retrievers with sensitive natures struggle with electronic collar training, and they are considered poor candidates for further training, thus removing this beneficial trait from the gene pool.
Instead, hunters spend additional time training their dogs, when they could already be in the field. While this point may not be beneficial for owners who have already purchased a hyperactive, stubborn dog with a hard mouth, one of the best tips for achieving Gun Dog Success is to seek a quality hunting lag pedigree and bloodlines with characteristics that predispose the dog to being receptive to training.
Having the correct equipment makes dog training much easier
Mistake #1: Not kennel training your dog When it comes time to take your dog on your first hunting or training trip into the field, your pet should always travel in a safe crate. One of the most important hunting dog supplies is a durable crate which will keep your pet safe during travel, especially when driving through areas that require four wheel drive. A kennel will also contain your pet during times when you need him or her to stay put, such as during emergencies.
Mistake #2: Not properly socializing your dog to gun shots A gun shy dog is one of the worst fates that can befall a hunter. However, many owners do not properly condition their dogs to accept the sound of gunfire overhead. An important hunting dog training item are blanks or poppers which are beneficial as you slowly transition your dog towards accepting louder and louder noises.
Mistake #3: Starting with an electronic collar An e-collar is considered by many to be indispensable among the list of hunting dog training supplies, however, it is not appropriate to put an e-collar on your dog the moment you begin training. Owners should work through a variety of training methods, starting with a check cord, working up to a pinch collar, and then finishing with an electronic collar. Consult the help of a professional dog trainer if you are unsure of the use of an e-collar.
Mistake #4: Not giving your dog enough independence It can be easy to micromanage the training of our dogs, either because we are afraid of losing them in the field or because we want to control every single aspect of the experience. However, many dogs learn best when they make their own mistakes, such as coming upon a skunk or porcupine on their own. When a hunter is overly concerned with losing a dog, its range in the field is severely limited. For these pets, a tracking collar is a necessary hunting dog training supply as it provides the owner peace of mind while giving the dog an opportunity to truly learn.
Mistake #5: Not building a strong obedience foundation By far one of the most common hunting dog training mistakes is to not build a solid enough foundation in obedience before moving onto hunting drills and exercises. If your dog cannot master recall in a controlled environment, he or she will greatly struggle when placed in a field with unlimited distractions and the reward of a downed bird. If you need tips on starting your dog’s training, training-specific books and DVDs can help guide you through this important step.
“If your dog is injured, he is probably in pain. It is important to not give him aspirin. Aspirin will actually decrease the ability for blood clots to form for approximately five to seven days. This is not going to help at all. Additionally, ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen can be toxic for dogs. There are few effective and safe over-the-counter pain meds that work in dogs, so the best option is to move quickly to get your pet some veterinary help.” – Dr. Lauren Pugliese, guest author, Veterinary medicine
I recommend always carrying a Dog First Aide Kit with you on any trip and be prepared for an emergency, just in case.
Hopefully you will never be involved in a dog emergency response situation and never need the information discussed here in this brief post, but it is always better to be prepared than to be caught is a situation that you need something and do not have…
Bull Valley Retrievers Receives 2019 Best of Woodstock Award
Woodstock Award Program Honors the Achievement
WOODSTOCK December 3, 2019 — Bull Valley Retrievers has been selected for the 2019 Best of Woodstock Award in the Dog Trainer category by the Woodstock Award Program.Each year, the Woodstock Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Woodstock area a great place to live, work and play.Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2019 Woodstock Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Woodstock Award Program and data provided by third parties.About Woodstock Award ProgramThe Woodstock Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Woodstock area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.The Woodstock Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.
There are a number of common setbacks that hunters encounter when training their retrievers at home. The most common training pitfalls are discussed here, as well as how to overcome them.
Lengthy Training Sessions As hard-working humans, we are conditioned to the idea that that the more time we put into something, the more we get out. However, when working with young dogs, this equation does not hold true. Instead, training sessions that are too long can lead to mental fatigue and negative associations with hunting. For dogs younger than six months of age, training sessions should not last more than 5 minutes. Additionally, training sessions do not have to occur every day in order to be effective. For dogs 6 – 12 months of age, training sessions should be positive, upbeat, and less than 20 minutes long.
Hunting Too Soon Hunters often become impatient and want to expose their dogs to the hunt as soon as possible. However, dogs under 10 months of age have nothing to gain from this experience, and the risk of serious training setbacks, such as becoming gun-, water-, or bird-shy is high. Instead, be patient and continue to build basic skills while mimicking controlled hunting scenarios at home until your dog is ready for a real hunt.
Emphasizing Retrieves over Steadying A common misconception is that working on steadying too soon will result in a dog that is unenthusiastic about retrieves. However, this theory is not true, especially when trained properly and with gentle techniques. Any retriever with good bloodlines will inherently mark and retrieve, while not retrieving is the skill that requires work. Practice non-retrieves early in your dog’s training by picking up half of all bumpers.
Repetitive, Meaningless Marks If your dog is enthusiastic and driven about early retrieves, do not throw too many marks during early sessions. As soon as your retriever is reliably chasing, marking, and retrieving, make the marks more difficult by having them fall in different terrain, such as tall grass, water, or in high crops. It is important to avoid excessive marking, as it can create bad habits rather than instill good behaviors.
Too High of Expectations Never set your dog up to fail; instead, make sure every time you engage in a training session with your pup, he or she is set up to win. Modify your dog’s training in order to ensure success each time, no matter the drill. Simplify the training concepts and break them up into smaller steps, if needed. Remember that dogs learn best when each skill is broken down into individual components before being linked together.
Lack of Transition Training Hunters often want to test their dog’s skills as soon as they can. However, in doing so they sometimes set their dogs up for failure. One common mistake that hunters make is rushing through training without enough repetitions, causing confusion and frustration for dogs during the first hunt. A second mistake is not connecting the dots during training by going straight from yard work to a real-life hunting scenario.
In order to get the most out of your dog and ensure that your pet is ready for a hunt, training should occur in the following sequence:
Yard work: practicing skills in a controlled environment
Field training: practicing skills in a more distracting, real-life setting
Transitional training: simulated hunts that cover common scenarios, such as gun fire
Training on the hunt: the first few hunting sessions that are dedicated to training, with specific goals to achieve
Ignoring Lifelong Learning Dogs should be reinforced in their daily behaviors outside of the field, particularly in their daily lives. For instance, is the manner in which people play with your dog developing bad habits? Are children tossing meaningless, repetitive retrieves that are ruining your dog’s steadiness? Is your dog being encouraged to run, swim, rough house, and chase, to the detriment of his or her behavior on the hunt? It is important to establish rules in your household for how your dog is to be interacted with, particularly during playtime. Educate your visitors on your dog’s boundaries, and control his or her environment, if necessary.
Delaying the Introduction of Skills In general, the earlier you introduce a skill to your dog, the better. Two common mistakes that hunters make is delaying the introduction of whistles and hand signs.
The whistle can be introduced early in a dog’s training, particularly for recall and sit. Dogs as young as 6 – 8 weeks of age can be taught recall when a whistle is blown, especially when the whistle is associated with something positive. When associated with a reward, dogs can sit on whistle command by 3 months of age. The longer you wait, however, the more difficult these commands will be to train.
Similarly, hand signals can be picked up early when introduced properly. When a hunter waits too long to teach hand signals, the result is an overly independent dog, instead of one that works interdependently with the owner. After your dog responds well to casts and whistle commands, incorporate directional cues.
Improper Timing Finally, consistent timing is necessary when training a dog, for both praise and correction. The most effective dog training will occur when the animal receives reward or punishment at the exact moment the behavior (good or bad) occurs. Waiting too long teaches the dog to associate the most recent behavior with the praise or punishment, and not necessary the action being praised or corrected. Another important component of proper timing is to administer the praise or correction in the exact location where the behavior took place. If necessary, return the dog to location, make the correction, and re-emphasize the command. Remember, reward goes further for a dog than correction, and a properly timed treat can make all the difference in building your dog’s confidence.
Keep Training Going – Taking Advantage of the Off-Season
Not every drill that you perform with your dog has to require a lot of activity. One way you can take advantage of the off-season (particularly on days when it is too hot to spend a lot of time running around) is with this simple drill.
Boat steadying drills are perfect if you hunt from a boat during duck season. Start with your boat on steady, solid ground. Position your dog in the boat and then toss bumpers into the field. However, do not send your dog after the bumpers, and retrieve them yourself instead. These are called denials, which will improve your dog’s steadying and his or her ability to honor.
Once your dog is reliable with denials inside the boat, ask your dog to stay in the boat while you stand outside of it. Toss the bumpers and again deny your dog the retrieval. Always remember to reward and praise your dog for staying put in the same manner as you would for retrieving.
Ultimately, this drill is beneficial because it helps you get in right on land before going to the water!