A training drill to teach you and your retriever to work as a team
If you are training your retriever to handle, there are several drills that I consider vital. I have already talked at length about the 3-Hand Cast Drill. Today, I would like to talk to you about the Wagon Wheel Lining Drill. While the 3-Hand Cast Drill is about teaching your dog to understand cast signals, the Wagon Wheel Lining Drill for retrievers is about fine tuning your dog’s alignment for marks and blind retrieves.
Upon successful completion of this drill, you will be able align your dog more precisely for marks and blinds and work better as a team.
What is the wagon wheel lining drill?
The wagon wheel is a drill that helps you practice precise alignment of both yourself and your dog. These adjustments will be extremely helpful as you work to line your dog up for marks or blind retrieves. In addition, you will learn how to read your dog better. Practicing this drill builds a relationship of teamwork between your dog and yourself for more accurate initial lines toward marks and blinds.
Why should I work on wagon wheel with my retriever?
Working on the Wagon Wheel Lining Drill can:
Help develop teamwork between you as handler and your dog
Teach you to read your dog better
Help you line-up your dog better for marks and blind retrieves
Condition your dog to auditory and physical cues
Help you practice precise alignment and making small adjustments
- Improve you and your dogs performance during hunting and/or competition
Equipment needed for Wagon Wheel Lining Drill
Here is what you need to do this drill:
White bumpers – at least four but as with most drills, the more you have the better. Learn what kind of bumpers/dummies we recommend.
Orange bumpers – at least four as you advance in the drill
An area to train – This drill can be taught in a small space like your driveway or yard.
Prerequisites for your dog
There are a few prerequisites needed for your dog to do this drill. Your retriever should:
Be steady, meaning they do not retrieve an item until you tell them to
Have at least a moderate retrieving desire
Be through the 3-Hand Cast Drill
The playing field
This drill is called the Wagon Wheel Drill because you place bumpers in a circle. You and your dog are at the center of that circle or the wheel. Your dog is at a HEEL position.
Note: These instructions are written for a left heeling dog, if your dog is right heeling, you will need to do the opposite.
How to perform the Wagon Wheel Lining Drill
To start this drill:
Stand at the center of the circle with your dog at HEEL. Think of the circle as a clock. Start by facing the 12 o’clock position.
Throw one bumper, approximately 20-30 feet from you toward the 12 o’clock position. Pivot to the 3 o’clock position and throw one bumper to that position. Then pivot to the 6 o’clock position and throw one bumper that position. Pivot to the 9 o’clock position and throw one bumper to that position. Throws should be an equal distance from you, around 20-30 feet out or so. Make sure your dog can see the bumper from his position. The video below demonstrates how to pivot with your dog for this drill.
Decide which bumper you want to send your dog for. Pivot toward that bumper using the command HERE as you pivot to your right to pull the dog in that direction Remember, you are pivoting, not stepping. Your dog should also be pivoting in place. See video above:
Watch your dog’s head. Notice that you can influence your dog’s head and where he or she is looking by moving your right leg forward or back slightly. Pay attention to how your leg movements change where your dog is looking. The goal is to line your dog up with the bumper. You want the dog’s tail, spine and head to be pointing all in the same direction, toward the bumper.
When you are facing the bumper you want your dog to pick up, cue the dog that this is a blind by saying DEAD BIRD. Then when you have your dog lined up and looking in the correct direction, say GOOD. Place your hand over the dog’s head and send your dog for the retrieve saying BACK. Be careful that your hand is not blocking your dog’s vision and do not move your hand as you send him, keep it still. Your hand is not to direct your dog but just lets him or her know that you are getting ready to send him/her.
If your dog goes in the wrong direction, say NO-NO, HERE calling him back to you. Have him HEEL and line him up again.
After your dog retrieves the bumper, have him deliver it to HEEL, take it from his mouth and throw it back out to the position.
Repeat steps 1-6 moving your dog clockwise for several revolutions. Remember to use the command HERE on each pivot. Once your dog understands to move with you clockwise, then you can start moving him to the left or counterclockwise using the HEEL command to push him in the direction.
It is not uncommon for a dog to have a harder time learning to pivot to the left because they actually need to back up, so it may take longer to teach the left pivot. Once your dog understands how to pivot to the right with HERE and to the left with HEEL, you can start mixing it up.
Advanced wagon wheel drill
If your dog is doing well with the four bumpers, you can start adding more bumpers to your wheel. See diagram. This will allow you to work on more precise lining. You can also start using orange bumpers every other spot to make it more challenging. Dogs struggle to see the color orange.
Final thoughts on wagon wheel lining drill for retrievers?
The Wagon Wheel Lining Drill is a great drill to teach your retriever any time of year. It helps you, as handler, learn to read your dog better. It also helps you work with your dog as a team to improve your dog’s lines for marks and blind retrieves. As you add in more bumpers, you improve the precision of your dog’s lines and he will lock in better to where you want him to go. This can make a huge difference when you are sending him for a blind retrieve or competing in a hunt test.
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’m 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.