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The Learning Begins Here


We all want our retrievers to be well-trained.

Even people who don’t hunt appreciate a dog that is obedient — an animal that comes when called, one that heels, sits, stays and lies down.

We’re going to teach you to train your dog to be obedient. And a lot more.

By providing this information on the Subscribers Only portion of this web site, we can convey to subscribers our unique training methods using a variety of media, including text, photographs and audio.

We will use these media to teach you new ways of thinking about retriever training.

Your job will be to read, listen, watch and learn — to transform your thinking about dog training, whether based on a lot of experience, or none — to our way of thinking.

One result will be more joy at home and in the field with your Lab, golden, flat coat or Chesapeake.

Another will be an understanding, finally, of the training methods that will make your retriever second to none in the field.

This doesn’t mean your dog will win a field trial or qualify as a Master Hunter, though he might.

It does mean you will be able to walk with your retriever at heel, under control as you enter a pheasant field, the grouse woods or a marsh, looking for ducks.

And pass the day hunting with that dog.

Under control.

Chaos often rules

How many times have you witnessed this scene while hunting:

You and a friend arrive at your hunting spot, with your friend’s dog riding in back of your pickup.

The truck comes to a stop, your friend drops the tailgate and there he is: Good Ol’ Gunner, whining, panting and scratching to get out.

Your friend opens the crate door and out blows Gunner — into the nearby ditch, and soon into a distant marsh.

Ducks and pheasants scatter like the wind.

Now Gunner is returning, crossing roads, dodging into and out of the path of traffic.

Finally, the hunt begins, with Gunner dragging his master — and you — toward whatever birds have not yet departed.

But by now, the hunt has been ruined.

Control first

Now consider this scenario:

You and your buddy arrive at your hunting spot. This time you’ve got your dog along.

After you stop the truck, you drop the tailgate to find your pal — we’ll call him Jake — lying alertly but comfortably in his crate.

You get your gun out, as does your buddy.

You load your shell vests.

When you open the door to Jake’s crate, he doesn’t move. He’s trained to stay put whether the crate door is open or not.

Finally, you softly call “Jake,’’ and Jake bounds from his crate and comes to your heel, awaiting your next command.

You and your friend walk into the field, planning to walk for pheasants for a while, then sit in a duck blind for the last hour of daylight.

Jake steps smartly at your heel until you cast him ahead, saying, again quietly, “Get on, Jake!’’

The dog bounds into cover, quartering side to side, nose down.

Always under control, your dog works ahead, then checks back — and works ahead and checks back again.

So it goes during a tough, long walk for roosters.

An hour passes before Jake’s tail begins to work faster and faster. Clearly, he has picked up the scent of a bird.

“ Easy, Jake,’’ you say, calmly, your voice level. “Easy.’’

Jake understands, because he’s been trained to listen to his handler.

In a flash the bird is up. You touch the trigger. Soon, the pheasant is in your hand, Jake panting at your side.

Challenging as the pheasant hunt was, the duck hunt is more challenging still.

Nothing is in the air for the first 50 minutes.

But Jake can handle it, because he’s been trained to sit and remain calm for extended periods of time.

With you, the dog eyes the sky, watching.


Finally, as dusk nears, a mallard begins working the far end of the marsh. You blow your call.

More alert now, Jake nevertheless remains under control. Steadfast, he’s not creeping forward; not whining.

Closer and closer the mallard flies. You shoulder your gun and fire. And again.

Your buddy also throws two shots into the air.

Still, the duck flies away.

Then, finally, drops — a lone pellet must have penetrated a lung.

All the while, Jake has remained at your side.

Watching. Waiting.

The bird fell too far away, out of Jake’s sight.

You walk your dog outside your blind, line him in the direction of the fall and say, “Dead bird.’’

Next, you say, “Back’’ — the command sending him into the water, Jake swims past the decoys. And farther still.

Finally, you blow your whistle. Jake turns to look at you, and you indicate with your arm that he should continue back but at 45 degrees to the right.

Jake turns, takes the cast as directed and swims another 50 yards to find the duck. And returns it to your hand.

At dark, with Jake at your heel, you walk to your truck.

“Kennel!’’ you whisper, and watch as your best friend goes airborne and into his crate.

That can be your dog

You too can own and hunt with a trained retriever.

But you need to know a few things first.

That’s what we’re here for.


Next up: Part 2: Selecting a Breed

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