Respect the training process (Don't test your dog too soon!)

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There are many phases to training a dog and doing it correctly requires respect, communication, balance, and maintenance. These are what we at Otter Tail Kennels the cornerstones to training. I will go into depth on each cornerstones in future blogs, but today I want to discuss an often-overlooked part of training that hinders you from achieving your retriever’s true potential.

When training your retriever, it is important to understand that all dog training follows a defined process or order. The human equivalent of this is crawl, walk, run. In dog training, we call it teaching, learning and enforcing. This process is often glossed over or ignored in an effort to “show off” with devastating results.

Hoping your dog can outperform your buddy’s dog or showing off how awesome your dog is to your neighbors are examples of not respecting the process because:

• You expect your dog to perform tasks they are not done learning

• You expect your dog to perform a task in a new situation or with distractions he is not familiar with

To avoid embarrassment, remember you cannot expect your dog to perform a task they have not been taught or are not solid on. And, you cannot expect your dog to obey you in the field if they are still struggling at home. Putting you dog “to the test” in situations that you have not trained for is just asking for problems.

The process

The first step to training, whether you have an 8-week-old puppy to an 8-year-old dog, is the same. You need to teach the command first. For example, you say the command SIT and then press down on the dog’s bottom, making him sit. This is teaching the dog what the command SIT means.

Once a command is taught, we then enter the learning stage. During this stage, you can tell that the dog knows the command, but they are still making mistakes much of the time.

Once your dog is performing a task around 90% on command with no correction, then you can start making sure to enforce the command the instant they choose not to obey. Start enforcing commands in this order in these locations:

  • Start in the house,

  • move to the yard,

  • away from home such as on walks,

  • in front of other dogs and distractions,

  • finally, in the field.

Following the teaching, learning, enforcing pattern of dog training will make life easier and better for you and your retriever.

Until next time, happy retrieving.

Steve Smith