Considerations for dog training, hunting training for your retriever
If you have a retriever that you want trained for hunting or competing, you may be considering hiring a professional trainer. The first question many people ask is ‘How much will the retriever training cost me?’
While this is an important consideration, it should not be the only one. There are many components that should be factored into the discussion, and all of these factors may tie back to cost. In other words, you often get what you pay for.
How much does dog training cost?
Hiring a professional retriever trainer can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000+ per month and good hunting and/or competition training programs last 3-6 months. So, training is a significant investment. In addition to training costs, you may have to pay the cost of live birds used to train your dog. Some trainers even charge for things like dog food and administering medications, so check the fine print.
But great retriever training, like anything, cannot be solely defined on price. There are people out there that will train your dog for little money, but they may have be heavy handed and will break your dogs spirit, or they may be training 30 -60 dogs, so each dog is getting very little time and energy each day.
That is why we urge you to look at more than just price when selecting a professional trainer for your hunting or competition dog.
Things to consider when hiring a professional retriever trainer
Here are things you should consider when picking a professional trainer for your retriever.
When choosing a trainer, it is important to consider how much time your dog is actually being trained. This is a lot like considering the teacher to student ratio at a school. Less students are usually better because each student gets more time with the instructor. This is the same with dog training.
Here at Otter Tail Kennels, we train a maximum of eight client dogs. We want each dog to get lots of individual attention and we do not want to have to rush through the dogs to make sure we get done each day.
We train each dog twice a day and we don’t limit the training to specific amount of time. Instead, we work on teaching concepts. We plan what concept we want the dog to learn in each session and work with the dog until they understand the concept.
Who is actually doing the training?
What you might not know is that when you hire a professional trainer, that may not be the person who is actually doing the training. Most kennels employ assistant trainers. Your dog may get assigned to an assistant and the professional you hired may never actually touch your dog.
This may turn out fine. But assistants are often learning to train and in these cases your dog may be the test subject. Otter Tail Kennels does not employ any assistants. My husband and I are the only trainers. We have over 30 years of experience training retrievers for hunting and hunt tests, and we treat each dog like it is our own.
What methods of training do they use?
Dog training can be done with different methods. We have had dogs dropped off for training that were at another trainer prior to us. Some of those dogs have come to us very skittish, scared and broken. It often takes us weeks or months to build those dogs back up to happy, energetic, fun loving dogs.
At Otter Tail Kennels, we pride ourselves on producing happy dogs that love to work. We teach your dog with firm and consistent expectations, but we work to build each dog’s enthusiasm and foster their innate love to retriever. We produce obedient dogs that work because they love to work.
Are they using birds?
Believe it or not, there are dog training kennels out there that train retrievers using only dummies or dead fowl trainers. While these items have a place in retriever training, if you want an excellent and reliable gun dog, it is vital that your trainer is also using real ducks and/or pheasants for training.
Learn more in Why do I need to use birds to train my retriever?
Birds are used for the majority of marks done here at Otter Tail Kennels. Our dogs are comfortable picking up dead birds and chasing down live ones. They know what to expect in the field and are well prepared for it.
Is the trainer a specialist?
If your dog is a retriever and you are looking for training for hunting and/or hunt tests, I encourage you to select a trainer that is a specialist in that area. Some dog trainers will train all breeds. This makes training tricky because not all breeds learn the same. Also, when it comes to hunting, different breeds have different skill sets. Pointers hunt different than flushers and so on.
Look for a kennel that trains only your specific breed or type of dog. Trainers who consider themselves a jack-of-all-trades are, as the saying goes, a master of none. Otter Tail Kennels specializes in training retriever breeds only.
Proven track record/referrals
The best way to learn about any professional trainer is to talk to past clients. Ask for referrals and then do the work, give them a call. This will give you insight about the trainer and the final product they turn out. In addition, you could look at the professional’s record in competition. Do their dogs earn ribbons when competing in hunt tests or trials?
Another great way to learn about a professional trainer is to watch them train. We invite any interested client to come watch us train.
We regularly provide referrals to potential clients. Our past clients love to talk about their experience with us and the successes of their retrievers both at home and in the field.
This may be the most important consideration of all because the training does not end when you take your retriever home.
Does the trainer provide training for you, the owner? What if you get home and start having problems with your dog?
This is real life. Dogs are dogs, they are not machines. They are not going to be perfect every day for the rest of their lives. So ongoing support is not only important, it is essential. And not just for you, but for your entire family.
This is where Otter Tail Kennels really shines. Included in your training costs is what we call a transition. During the transition, we spend several hours teaching you and your family what your retriever has learned while here with us and how to maintain that training. We let you get hands on and work with your dog and we help you work through the questions and issues you may be having. Then, when you take the dog home, you have complete access to us for any questions or concerns that arise. No problem is too small.
Final thoughts on how much retriever training cost and other considerations
Retriever training is an investment in your dog. And while price might play a role in the decision, there are many other equally important considerations that need to be accounted for. It is only when all these considerations are factored in that you can measure the true worth of the service.
One last thought, many of you consider your retrievers to be a part of your family. And indeed, they are. Having your retriever professionally trained can make that relationship even stronger because a well-trained retriever is a blessing to any home.
If you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting 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 (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.