Retriever Handling Level 1

By David Borgesen

This document is protected under international copyright protection and any reproduction in any manner is strictly forbidden.
Copyright 2013 David Borgesen

Training Philosophy

Keep it FUN!

There are four things you must never forget about training dogs.  If you learn nothing from me today, please do not forget these four things.  

  1. Have high standards and be very consistent
  2. Have perfect your timing of praise and corrections
  3. Have lots and lots of patience
  4. Keep it fun, keep it fun, keep it fun

Keep high and consistent standards, keep your praise and more importantly your corrections perfectly timed, and always make sure you and the dog are having fun.   You will ALWAYS get the best results, performance and style when you make it enjoyable for the dog.  Always, plan and base your training programs around making the task fun for you and the dog.   Be patient, don't compare your dog to other dogs, and measure your success in weeks, months and years, not days.

Have Realistic Expectations

Drive and Motivation

Difference between Training and Testing

Handling Hand Signals

Level 1

Level 2

Visibility of Handler

What good is a hand signal if your dog can't see or recognize you?

Wear something common in training as you will in a test

Whistle Commands

Types of Whistles

Field Visibility and Sound Test

Core Verbal Commands

R​emote Commands

At the Line

When Dog is Returning or Working

How to give verbal commands

Positive Reinforcement Marker Training

Corrections, When, Why and Never

Sit and Stay at Distance

Sit to Whistle

If your dog does not stop, turn and face you and sit when you blow the whistle, you can't handle your dog. 

Key points:

Platform Casting

By this time, your dog should be jumping on and loving the platform after doing the previous steps, "Sit and Stay" and "Sit to Whistle".  In this exercise we are going to teach the dog to cast left, right, back left and back right.  This is initially taught without fetching dummies in piles or thrown because any problems with fetching will interfere with this training.

Teaching go to platform

Teaching Left and Right Overs

Now that you can send your dog to a single platform with the command "Place", it is now time to cast them left and right between two different platforms.

Introduce a third platform

Teaching Back

The back command along with a hand signal tells the dog what way to turn and run backwards at a 5 degree angle.

Key Points:

Cast with dummy in dogs mouth

Casting to all four locations

Casting without Platforms

Note: Dog must not be a shopper or swapper before doing this exercise

Put a long leash on the dog

Blow the sit whistle before you throw with a verbal sit as well.
In the beginning, after you throw, give the hand signal and back command right away, then progress to waiting 5 seconds before sending.
Always give hand signal first and back command 1/2 second after.  Then eliminate the back command and only use the hand signal.
Motion to make the dog sit straight if not facing you directly
If the dog breaks or moves before your signal just step on the leash, give a verbal correction, calmly bring them back to the position and try again, be patient.

Back Left and Right Mark with Distraction

In this setup you will throw two dummies behind the dog one after the other and send them for the mark

Left and Right Over

Memory Casting

Up until now, you have been only sending on marks.  Now it is time to send only on memories.

Close Retrieves

You are now ready to really challenge your dog by throwing two dummies on the same side.  One as a back right and one as an over right.   Don't attempt this until all the above training is mastered.

Back Left and Right Memories

Casting with No Trellises

At this point your dog is now handling on a small scale with controls in place to prevent failure.  It is now time to remove the terrises.  Place three dummies behind the dog on the right side.  Send him back 10 times.  Now move the pile to the left side, send him back 10 times.  

Casting Drills

Remember, at this point, only send your dog for memories

Congratulations! your dog is now a junior handler

Pivot Training

Now we are ready to teach your dog formal lining.  This involves teaching the dog to stay in the heel position when you turn left and right.  This training can be done at the same time as training handling.

Commands when Lining

Commands to Send

Dog on Left Side

Dog on Right Side

Wagon Wheel Training

Note: Dog must not be a shopper or swapper before doing this exercise

4 piles every 90 degrees, send on Back command

When this is mastered, with the dog a heel, throw a dummy 20 meters away, pivot 90 degrees, throw another one, pivot 90 degrees throw another one, pivot 90 degrees, throw another one.  Now you have 4 dummies.  Pivot 180 degrees and send your dog on Back.  When he is very good at this, start turning only 90 degrees and send.  

As you progress, extend the distances, mix up the distances of each throw, pivot left, pivot right, pick up the dummy yourself, wait for 5 minutes and do nothing, keep it challenging and different. Remember, never send him for a dummy he wants.  Do not handle, use the whistle or your voice, just let him find it on his own.  If he gets lost or goes for another dummy, sit whistle and call him back.  Start over making it easier for him.

This is a drill you will do for the rest of the dogs life.

Pattern Blinds

Place a pile of dummies on the ground.  Walk with the dog 20 meters way.  Heel, pivot in the direction of the pile (that can't be seen), and send him on Back command.  Now walk another 20 meters and make another pile and then walk back towards the middle.  Heel, pivot to the last pile and send.  Alternate back and forth.  Do not test your dog, make it easy, make him be successful.  If he starts hunting too soon, move forward and try again.  Blow the whistle once he is within 1 meter of the pile, even if he already sees it.

Note: If your dog is shopping or swapping the dummies, move them further apart.  If he still has a problem, do not do any more pile work until the swapping problem is solved.

Hunting a Tight Area

It is said in golf that a great putter will always win the game.  I believe the same is true for retrievers.  What good is it if you can handle your dog 150 meters to the area if when you tell him to hunt he runs all over the place.

### Important Note ####

At this level, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give the hunt command other than in this exercise, so no hunt whistle for the next two months...  Do not test your dog in training.

Phase 1

  1. Sit your dog, drop six balls all around your dog within 1/2 meter from him.  Walk back a few steps, give the sit whistle, and give the hunt whistle followed by the Hledat command.  Do two sessions of 10 times twice a day for 1 week (140 times)
  2. Place six balls in a small circle.  Walk your dog around and then have him sit inside the circle.  Step back and give the command/whistle to hunt 10 times a day for 2 weeks (140 times)
  3. Same as step 2, except put balls under the grass 10x day for 1 week (70x)
  4. Same as step 3, except reduce to three balls 5x a day for 1 month (150 times)

Phase 2

  1. Walk with your dog at heel.  In your right hand drop an orange ball in medium high grass without your dog seeing it.  Walk a few steps and circle back so that the wind does not blow the scent of the ball to your dog.  Sit him 1/2 meter from the ball.  Walk away, give the sit command, and then the hunt command.
  2. Alternate where you put the ball, front, side, back, etc, but always within 1/2 meter where he sits.  
  3. Hide 5 balls under the grass in 5 different locations.  Mark with stakes.  Go to each one, have him sit, walk away and command to hunt.

Training Schedule

This document is protected under international copyright protection and any reproduction in any manner is strictly forbidden.
Copyright 2013 David Borgesen