7 common hunting dog training mistakes
Dog training requires patience, common sense and a good solid training plan. Even with these things, there is a lot of problem solving to be done. And every retriever trainer runs into issues somewhere along the line. When that happens, it usually is a result of one these common mistakes. When training retrievers, avoid these mistakes that could lead to problems in performance in the future.
Common mistakes to avoid when training your retriever
Here is a list of common training mistakes I have seen over my 30-years of retriever training.
Training all dogs the same
Some people are extremely fortunate. They get a dog that seems to train themselves or picks up on things very quickly. This is great; however, the problem comes when this owner gets another dog.
Every dog is different, just like people. Thinking, or more importantly, training them all the same is a mistake. Some retrievers learn a concept in one session, others may need 10 sessions to get it. Consider each dog’s temperament and ability to learn, and train them accordingly.
Not keeping a routine
Dogs like routine. They like knowing what they can and cannot do. They desire boundaries and thrive knowing you will respond in a certain way when they test those boundaries. They love to eat at the same time each day, train at the same time, etc. See How to train a Labrador Retriever Tip #10.
Change is unsettling to a dog, so the more specific your daily routines can be, the better your dog will be.
Not resting your dog.
Retrievers need down time, just like people. They need time for their bodies to rest and recuperate. Training them 7 days-a-week is asking for injury and a dog with a poor attitude. Make sure rest is a part of your training schedule.
Not developing your dog’s love to retrieve
Most, not all, retrievers love to retrieve. You can help develop that love by how you train your dog. Encourage young dogs to retrieve early on. See How can I teach my retriever puppy to fetch?
But here is where they problem usually lies. Dogs that mainly, or only, retrieve balls or frisbees, often become reluctant to retrieve bumpers/plugs or even birds. Balls are incredibly attractive to retrievers because they roll and bounce. Plugs and birds seldom do.
I am not against using a ball for young puppies to encourage retrieving, but as soon as the pup is retrieving reliably, stop using a ball.
Never play tug-a-war with a retriever if you plan on using the dog for hunting or competition. Read Help, I don’t want to ruin my hunting dog puppy.
I rarely say ‘never’, but dogs that play tug-a-war are some of the most difficult to train for hand-delivery of the bird. They almost always become hard-mouthed, a condition of biting and damaging the bird they are retrieving and often think that delivery of the duck or pheasant is a game of tug-a-war when you try to take it from them.
Not following a plan.
If you are training with a ‘let’s see what happens’ plan. this is not a good idea. Read 4 steps to successful retriever training goals.
As a professional trainer, I start each day knowing what I plan to work on and what I hope to achieve. If you are training your own retriever, you need to be following a proven training plan.
It is not a good idea to pick and choose your training from various trainers and YouTube videos. We see this all the time. And the result if a very confused dog. Find a plan from a trainer that has proven success and then follow the steps, in order. Do not be tempted to skip steps just because you are anxious to see if your dog can do something they have yet to be trained how to do.
Competing with your friends
When training with a group, you should not be competing. Just because your friends’ dog can do a triple with two retired gunners, does not mean you should try it with your dog. Simplify to what you know your dog can do or slightly above their skill level. You want the dog to learn, not fail. Too much failure and you end up with a dog with a poor attitude and you can dig a hole that may take you weeks if not months to repair.
Final thoughts on retriever training mistakes you should avoid
Training your own retriever can be a fun and rewarding pursuit. Just beware of the problems that can arise along the way. Thankfully, retrievers are a very loving and forgiving breed and most mistakes can be corrected, but not all. So, do your best to avoid the ones we talk about here.
Remember, 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’m 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.