Planning Your Training Sessions

Now the days are getting longer you may want to spend some time tightening up on some of the commands you’ve taught your dog that need more work either because you’ve not had time or the opportunity to work on them until now.

This week has been an interesting week for me, with some shocking revelations on the BBC about how dogs have become victims of ruthless breeders, and personally witnessing the cruel handling of a couple of young gundogs at a public demonstration.  I hope none of you have had the misfortune to have been a victim or witness of these circumstances and that you do your research thoroughly before entering into any purchase.

This got me thinking about my own handling techniques and I know my dogs don’t always do as I expect, but I’m constantly looking at what I do to ensure that firstly I’ve trained the exercise so the dog’s understand what I mean and secondly I’m being consistent; both of which take hard work and lots of practice.  We are all in danger of being in a hurry to get to the fun bit, in my case the retrieving, but without the groundwork it can all too quickly go wrong.  For me it’s all about building trust, having lots patience and above all making it fun.

So with this in mind I set off with Robyn my black Labrador to do a 1:1 session and made a mental plan of what I wanted to achieve before we set out.  Firstly I didn’t want the distraction of my other two dogs, nice though it might have been to have them with us, I know from experience that you can’t concentrate on them all at the same time.  My plan was to make sure I took my time on each exercise and finish it to the best of our ability before moving on to the next, and with two other dogs in tow that just wasn’t going to work.

I don’t often get the chance to practice jumping, so headed for the perfect spot where I knew there was a fallen tree that would be just the job.  I wanted something safe, not too high and as natural as possible to make it a realistic challenge.

So we set off doing some nice heel work to make sure Robyn was listening to my commands and to get her warmed up.  We did a few straight line retrieves to stretch her muscles as she is prone to being quite enthusiastic and I would prefer she didn’t injure herself when she takes off at great speed.  I was pleased to find that the ground conditions were perfect along the track I had chosen and we did a few memory retrieves before setting up for the jumping.  You can’t see from the video, but I quietly placed a dummy on the ground about 50m away from the fallen tree as we walked along.  My intention was to do another memory retrieve with the added complexity of the jump, and sending her through a 180 degree turn to go for the retrieve chaining several exercises together.  The steadiness I was looking for in this exercise was achieved by asking the dog to wait for a minute or so before being sent for the retrieve, and also by not rushing to take the dummy off the dog once she got back to me.  I was thrilled with the “first take” results and have high hopes for this lovely young dog.  I’ll be back with more updates on how Robyn and my other dogs get on throughout the summer.