Fighting your retriever’s natural tendency – The No-No Drill
Today I will discuss one of my favorite drills – the No-No Drill. This drill is for more advanced retrievers with lots of drive and a strong love to retrieve. If your dog is not there yet, do not do this drill as it could do more harm than good.
A dog’s natural tendency is to take the easy route to a retrieve. Unfortunately, the easy route may not be the straightest or shortest route. And whenever your retriever veers from a straight line to the bird, their memory can be hampered regarding where the bird landed.
Not going straight to the bird and avoiding or being swayed by factors is called cheating. The factors that can affect your retriever’s line are wind, hills, water, downed trees, and difficult terrain, to just name a few.
The No-No Drill is designed to help your dog learn to be more honest, taking the most direct/straight route to a downed bird.
Equipment needed for the No-No Drill
The items needed for this drill are:
- at least one bumper/dummy,
- an obstacle 1-2 feet off the ground for the retriever to jump over.
I have done this drill using logs, PVC tubing suspended on cement blocks, culverts, and, yes, even snowbanks.
How to teach the No-No Drill to your retriever
To teach the No-No Drill, you need a defined black and white teaching area. Just like in my post about Stand Alone’s, in the beginning we need it very clear to the dog what is expected. We do not want to create any unnecessary confusion.
Find a snowbank or an obstacle for the dog to jump or climb over.
Start with an obstacle at least 8-feet wide that has no obstructions on either end. This is important because you need an easy way for your retriever to go around the obstacle, giving them the opportunity to cheat.
With the dog at your side, stand a few feet away, perpendicular to (facing) the snowbank (obstacle) that you want your retriever to jump over.
Throw a bumper/dummy over the obstacle. It should land just a few feet from the obstacle, on the other side.
Send the dog for the retrieve.
As your dog jumps over the obstacle, immediately say “GOOD”. After they pick up the item, call them back immediately. As they jump back over the obstacle on the return say “GOOD” again. Have them heal, deliver the item and then repeat.
By saying “GOOD” as your dog jumps the obstacle, you are telling them you are happy with their action. You are also making it clear what is expected.
Here is where the drill gets its name
So, if your dog is going right over the obstacle to make the retrieve and returning to you by coming back over the obstacle, all is good. However, I have yet to train a dog that didn’t try to cheat the drill by trying to run around the obstacle on the way out for the retriever or on the return.
This is where the drill gets its name. When the dog tries to cheat, you firmly say “NO-NO”.
How to correct your retriever when he/she cheats
Cheat on way out
If the cheat occurs on the way out, say “NO-NO”, then call the dog back to your side and resend them for the retrieve. It is very important that the dog is not allowed to get the retrieve if they cheat. In the beginning, you may need to have your dog on a long lead so that you can stop their forward progress and ensure they return to you and don’t get the retrieve. Learn about leads in this post.
If you need to, it is okay to step closer to the obstacle for the resend or even throw another bumper.
Cheat on return
If the cheat occurs on the return, immediately say “NO-NO” and walk towards the dog. Heal them back behind the obstacle and place them on a SIT. Next, walk back to your original throwing spot. It is critical that as you walk back that you walk over the obstacle. Don’t cheat, as the dog will notice.
Once you are back on the other side, call your retriever to you and as they jump the obstacle say “GOOD”.
As your retriever progresses in his/her understanding of the drill, increase the distance between you and the obstacle. You can also increase the distance of your throw.
Final thoughts on how to train retrievers in the winter
By keeping consistent and high standards for your retriever, it won’t take long for him/her to understand what you are trying to teach and your expectations.
I have found many dogs like this drill once they get the hang of it and they jump over the obstacle with lots of enthusiasm, as if it’s a game.
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.