Doing this training can prepare your dog for future training
If you plan to send your dog to a professional dog trainer for hunting and/or competition training, you may be wondering what you can do with your dog prior to that training. Since formal hunting dog training generally does not begin until a pup’s adult teeth come in, usually around 5-7 months of age, there is a lot of time that you will be raising your puppy before his/her “professional” training begins. Here is some valuable training you can do with your dog before sending to pro trainer.
Assuming you picked your puppy up from the breeder at around 7-8 weeks old, there are a lot of things you need to work on. Here are some of the most important.
Crate training your dog
The very first thing you should work on with your new puppy is crate training. This is a vital lesson that is best taught while pups are very young. It is a painful lesson, and you will need to be strong and committed to get through it. Puppies are not born loving a crate, but if you do a good job of crate training, it won’t be long before they do love the crate and the security it provides.
Start crate training you puppy as soon as you bring him/her home.
Housebreaking your puppy
Another training that you should start right away is housebreaking your puppy. Housebreaking, like crate training, is not fun, I won’t lie. But few things are more satisfying than knowing your pup can be left alone in the house without having an accident on your wife’s favorite rug!
A vital part of housebreaking involves using a crate, that is why these two trainings go together.
Your puppy is going to have accidents in the house, but it is your job to make sure that no accident goes unseen and unpunished. If you puppy is allowed to run around with no-one watching him/her, there are going to be accidents that go unseen, and that is a problem. The more this happens, the slower housebreaking will go. That is why it is imperative that you put your puppy in his/her crate anytime there is not someone watching them carefully.
When your puppy is very young, under 10 weeks, you need to take your puppy outside to go potty every hour or so. (This time should slowly be increased as your puppy grows and is able to hold his/her bladder longer. After your puppy has gone potty outside, bring him/her inside the home to run around for a while (supervised). Then put him/her in the crate again. Be consistent and don’t get lazy about this process.
At night, set an alarm and get up every few hours for the first couple nights to let your puppy outside to go potty. Don’t wait until he/she makes noise. If you start taking him/her out when they make noise, you will create a dog that makes noise because he/she wants out of their crate. That is not the goal here. Again, as your puppy grows, you will slowly add time until you have the puppy going through the night without having to go outside for potty.
Creating retrieving desire in your puppy
Within a week of bringing your retriever puppy home from the breeder is the time to start working on retrieving. While your puppy may not seem to be interested in retrieving at this young age, it is still time to start the process.
Using a puppy bumper or a paint roller, find a long hallway (close all the doors) and try a retrieve with your puppy. First, you want to tease the puppy with the bumper a little bit. Tap it on the ground and move it around, try to create some interest in the bumper and then quickly throw it down the hall. Don’t superman throw it, just toss it 8-10 feet down the hall.
If the puppy shows no interest, no big deal. Try again tomorrow.
If the puppy runs to get the bumper, praise him/her, and call him/her back to you. As he/she runs back to you, don’t take the bumper right away. Instead, just pet the puppy and tell him/her what a good dog they are. Let the pup hold the bumper for a bit, then when you take it tap it around and throw it again. Only do this 2-3 times, at the most, in one sitting.
Teaching your retriever puppy manners
Another training you can work on with your new puppy is manners. Manners for dogs are much like manners for people. You want to teach your pup to not jump on you, not bite you and to generally be a good citizen.
Many people do not want to teach their puppy manners. They think it is cute when the puppy jumps on them, or they excuse it as just puppy behavior. However, when the puppy grows into a dog, and is still jumping on them, they cannot understand why it is so difficult to stop this behavior.
Teaching a young-pup manners is usually very easy. Especially if you are firm and consistent in your expectations. No one is asking you to be mean or harsh to your puppy, but if you start teaching your puppy at a young age not to jump and bite, those lessons will go a long way as they grow into a full-sized dog.
We use the OFF command when teaching a puppy not to jump on us. You need to knock the puppy off of you using your foot, knee or hand while saying OFF. If the behavior continues or becomes worse, you are not using enough force and/or you are not being consistent in knocking him/her off each time he jumps on you. Each dog is different, some dogs require more correction and some less. You will learn quickly how much force is needed for your puppy to listen.
Teach your puppy to handle pressure
This training ties very closely with teaching your puppy manners. Your puppy must learn to handle pressure and adversity and not fall apart or become sullen because of it. Hunting and competition are a working dog’s job. They need to be able to handle the challenges and problems that can occur during that work.
If you are constantly comforting your puppy when he/she faces adversity, you are going to end up with a dog that is unable or unwilling to work when things get tough. Dogs like this rarely can complete a rigorous training program such as a hunting or competition training.
You can start teaching your dog to handle pressure right away when they are a puppy. Start with the NO command. When your puppy gets into something he/she should not, say NO firmly. You can even pick them up by the scruff of their neck and give them a little shake. (This is what their mom does when they get into trouble. They will understand it. I guarantee it.)
When your puppy jumps on you, give him/her a knee to knock him/her off. Don’t be afraid to knock him/her off his feet. And then ignore him/her. Don’t comfort him/her or pet them and apologize. Teach your pup that things can happen, and he/she can adjust and move on quickly and easily.
Socialize your puppy
Socialization can make the difference between an okay hunting dog and an exceptional one. It is one of the most valuable things you can do for your puppy and dog. Socialization is done over time as the dog grows. You are never done socializing your dog. Every new situation, every new training and exposure. All these things socialize your dog. But there are many things you can do when the puppy is very young to give him/her good socialization.
Training your pup through exposure
Exposure training is another thing you can do before you send your pup to a professional trainer. Exposing your puppy to as many hunting elements and situations as you can while they are young, will help them adjust quickly to professional training.
Now, this doesn’t mean take your dog out hunting. In fact, we would recommend you do not do that prior to sending your dog to a professional for a hunting program. The reason is that if anything goes wrong on that hunting trip, you could do irreparable damage to your dog. Your professional trainer will follow a proven training plan that will not put your dog in the position of getting confused, or worse.
Instead, you can put some decoys in your yard and walk your dog around them. Or, put your duck boat on the ground and have your puppy jump in and out of it. You can also take your puppy to a field with deep cover and walk around with them. These are all exposures that will help your puppy once he/she gets into the actual training program.
Training your puppy on basic obedience
Basic obedience should be worked on prior to taking your puppy to a professional hunting or competition program. In fact, you should start working on obedience with your puppy within the first week or two of bringing him/her home.
SIT is the best command to start with and is usually quickly learned by young pups. Simply say SIT and push down on the puppies bottom to make him/her SIT. Do this a few times a day until the pup starts sitting without the correction.
Around 12 weeks of age you can begin working on heeling on lead.
Final thoughts on what to do with your puppy before sending him/her to a professional trainer
While the training listed in this post might sound like minor things, each and everyone of these is vital to your puppy growing and learning. In addition, these trainings will greatly increase the chances that your dog will successfully complete a professional training program.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I am here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call. I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.