Professional retriever training – why it’s worth the investment
Having your retriever professionally trained is a big deal. I understand. It’s a huge investment in time and money. Many of you consider your dog a part of the family, and rightfully so. This probably explains why clients balk when we explain how long our training programs are. They don’t want to be without their furry kid for that long. I get it.
But beyond that initial gut reaction, I think most people are not considering the big picture. It is important to understand the huge benefits that you and your family will reap from having a well-trained retriever. I have five children, so I compare it to this. When a child wants to attend a camp or other function that will take them away for weeks or longer, I may hesitate, but most likely I will concede and allow the child to attend the camp or function. Why? Because deep down I know it is a good thing for the kid. He/she will grow and learn and ultimately benefit from the experience.
Professional training is good for your retriever also. It gives him/her a chance to achieve everything he/she was created to be and, in the end, you both benefit from the training.
Average time to train a retriever for hunting
Depending on what kind of training you are looking for, hunting or competition, training programs for retriever breeds average 3-6 months or longer. Our hunting programs here at Otter Tail Kennels, for basic hunting are 10-12 weeks. For advanced hunting, including handling and blind retrieves, we add an additional 16 weeks.
For some people, this sounds like an eternity. But consider this: your retriever is likely to live 10-14 years. Dogs that complete our training programs and happy, well – adjusted dogs that most owners consider a pleasure to be around. They are obedient and well-behaved. In addition, we give you the knowledge and tools to maintain that training forever. Doesn’t that sound like a great trade off? Three-to-six months away for a dog lifetime of obedience and great hunting?
We have been training retrievers for a long time, and while many families struggle with the idea of not having their dog around for a while, I have never had one family say to me, after the training, that they regret it. They are always more than thankful and appreciative for the way their dog behaves both in and outside the home. Besides that, if your life is as busy as mine, that time will fly by and you will hardly realize it.
Why does it take so long?
Training dogs requires a balance of consistency and high expectations over a long period of time. Read How can I get my Labrador Retriever to listen. Consistency breeds mental stability. Dogs, like any living thing, are slow to adjust to new habits and expectations. They resist it, just like we all do. When is the last time you actually stuck to a New Year’s resolution?
By providing consistent training and maintaining our high expectations, we can erase or diminish old destructive behaviors and replace them with new positive ones. Of course, always remember that dogs are living creatures, so they will eventually test the old behaviors, even after training. That is why we also teach you what our behavior expectations are, so that you will be prepared to address those testing challenges as they occur.
Consistency creates a well-balanced dog. One that is comfortable with what is expected of him/her. That is our ultimate goal, but consistency takes time. Therefore, dog training programs need to be longer. In addition, not all dogs learn at the same rate. Some take longer to learn lessons. But even if a dog learns quickly, time is what is needed to cement the concepts in their mind.
Overcoming the objections
If your spouse or family is against the idea of sending your retriever away to be trained, it can be an uphill battle. Sometimes it helps to appeal to the areas that will benefit them. For instance, does your spouse like to take the dog for walks? Are there any issues that occur when that happens? Does the dog pull or jump on them? Professional training will help.
Are there any concerns about the dog’s behavior with other family members? Does your dog listen to some people and not others? Push some family members around more than others? This is often the case for many retriever homes. Many of these issues can be addressed in a training program.
Some spouses think of training in the sense that you are sending the dog to boot camp. I would like to clarify that this is not the case. For dogs, being at Otter Tail Kennels for training is more like a trip to Disney World. They get tons of attention, get to retrieve every day, and get live birds at least weekly. Our dogs are happy and having the time of their lives.
In some cases, there is not much you can do to win this argument, but I do maintain that a well-trained retriever is a blessing to every home.
What to expect when your dog comes home
When a dog completes our program, they are ready to go back home. At that time, we schedule a transition date. That transition date is an opportunity for you, the owner, and all your family to come to the kennel and see what your retriever has learned and how to maintain that training. It is an exciting time for the whole family.
At the transition, we teach you how to work with the dog and what you should expect going forward. We work with the whole family, letting each person work with the dog and learn. In this way we can identify where issues may arise in the future and how to address them when they do.
Here at Otter Tail Kennels we pride ourselves on our ongoing support of the dogs and families that trust us with their dog. So, when you drive away from our kennel, you are not on your own. We don’t leave you to figure it out on your own. You can call us directly at any time and ask for advice. No matter how small the problem seems, we are ready to help you out.
Final thoughts on how long it takes to train a retriever as a gun dog or hunting partner
Having a professional train your retriever is an investment. An investment in your dog but also an investment in a happier home life where your dog knows his place and respects the family. It is also an investment in your hunting, because a well-trained retriever gets more birds and isn’t afraid to chase down those wounded ones. It is an investment, one that our clients would tell you is well worth it.
Our clients are our biggest fans. If you need more convincing, give us a call and request some references. We would be happy to provide you with some. Or, check out our Google reviews!
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.