controlled retrieves by which I mean strict formal
precise retrieves. These will help you develop
advanced heelwork, steadiness, marking and memory,
distance control, back command and blinds in
addition to the retrieve and present.
Controlled retrieve one: sit the dog, remove the
lead, and heel the dog 20 feet in a straight
line along a hedge. Stop the dog; throw a
dummy a couple of feet in front of the dog.
Pause. Heel the dog back to your start
position, turn and face the dummy. Pause.
Cast the dog for the retrieve and insist on a
good sit and present. Repeat the exercise in
different directions i.e. hedge on the left or
on the right, using different combinations of
verbal, hand and whistle signals.
Controlled retrieve two: sit the
dog, remove the lead, and heel the dog 20 feet
in a straight line along a hedge. Stop the
dog; throw a dummy a couple of feet in front of
the dog. Pause. Leave the dog there and
return to your start position, turn and face the
dog. Pause. Recall the dog. Pause. Heel
the dog and cast the dog for the retrieve.
Repeat with different directions and alternate
with exercise one so the dog doesn't start
anticipating your actions.
retrieve three: sit the dog, remove the lead,
and heel the dog 20 feet in a straight line
along a hedge. Stop the dog; throw a dummy a
couple of feet in front of the dog. Pause.
Leave the dog there and return to your start
position, turn and face the dog. Pause.
Recall the dog but stop the dog half way back.
Pause. Cast the dog for the retrieve by saying
'GO BACK' and raising you hand vertically in the
air from your knee to as high as you can
reach. If the dog does not understand, take a
pace towards the dog and try the go back
again. If successful repeat the exercise,
keeping the dummy the same distance from the dog
but increase the distance between you and the
dog. Alternate between all the exercises. If
the dog starts to anticipate the retrieve after
the recall, put in another recall.
these exercises to start to increase the length of
retrieve, incorporate rights or lefts with backs.
When the dog is returning with a retrieve get
someone to put a blind in the same spot and repeat
the exercise but pretend to throw a dummy towards
the location of the blind and cast the dog back.
If successful, build on the distance for the blinds
and incorporate rights, lefts or backs with blinds
to make the exercises more complicated. Don’t be
too repetitive, as the dog will start to anticipate,
work in different directions and use different
terrain, uphill and downhill. Start to use cover,
hedges and ditches to make some of the retrieves
more difficult, i.e. a mark in the open and blind in
cover, in a ditch or through a hedge.
dog is handling blinds confidently try extending the
distance by putting out five or six blinds, about 5
yards apart, along a hedge in a straight line.
When you send the dog make each retrieve a separate
retrieve, pause between each retrieve and set the
dog up properly. Start extending the distance to
the first blind and then the distance between
blinds. If the dog is progressing, start from the
middle of a field and cast into a corner, using two
hedges to guide the dog on a straight line.
As far as
jumping is concerned, you do not actually teach a
dog to jump, you teach a dog to jump ‘on command’
and I use ‘OVER’. If you threw a piece of raw
filet steak over a small fence the dog would be over
before you could say the word. So the training
element is getting the dog to jump when commanded
and to build its confidence to tackle larger and
larger jumps with heavier and heavier objects.
Start with tennis balls over small jumps and work up
to hare dummies over stock fences, five bar gates
you are happy the dog is 100% on the above you can
start to introduce water work but this can create
enormous problems unless tackled slowly and
progressively. Treat water as an obstacle to the
retrieve, not as a different type of retrieve and so
always send the dog over the water not into
it. After all you didn’t learn to swim by being
asked to jump into the deep end of the pool. Start
with a marked retrieve over small shallow stream
then gradually increase the width and depth
alternating with blinds and marks. Do not over
face the dog as it may start to squeak or, if the
water is deep, to shake before it presents so be
prepared to go back to the shallow bit. Always
keep in mind that it is the retrieve itself that is
paramount and do not accept poor presentation,
dropping the dummy or shaking, I teach the dog to
shake on command after the retrieve. Once you
start on deeper water try to encourage the dog to
make a gentle entry rather than hurling itself in.
Show the dog that the dummy will be carried away by
moving water in a river or by wind on a lake.
nine months or so, if everything has progressed
without a hitch, cold game can be used prior to the
introduction to the shooting field. BUT remember
the best way to ruin a well-trained dog is to take
it shooting so the introduction must slow and
gentle. If the dog has sat quietly and patiently
throughout the whole day it may be rewarded with a
carefully set up retrieve, in the open on a dead
bird that has been down some time.
copyright©Bruce Ross-Smith 2006 (photos copyright ©Pippa
Bruce Ross-Smith breeds and
trains Golden Retrievers for shooting and field
trials, at his Canburne Kennels in Devon.
You can visit the
Canburne Gundogs here