When teaching steadiness in a retriever, the trainer is essentially extending normal obedience to the field environment. Early in a good training program, obedience must be a dominate element. Steadiness through obedience training is employed through teaching a retriever to sit, in blind or at flush, when in the field.
As a result of their breeding, steadiness is far from a natural genetic trait in a retriever. The desire to retrieve compels the dog to relentlessly drive toward prey uninhibited. Due to this hardwired genetic trait, it is vital to conclude obedience training early on in the dog’s yard prior to field progression. Doing so will lead to a solid foundation that a successful training program can be constructed on.
Once a retriever is taught control early on in schooling, the next step is to take that training out of the yard and into the field. In a blind, steadiness is defined as the retriever’s ability to stay still as prey comes in and continue to remain still until the command to retrieve is given. This control is derived from the simple enforcement of obedience. The best method of enforcement is to employ the use of an adequate e-collar after properly introducing it to the dog. E-collars ensure that the retriever listens to and responds to commands as necessary, whether near you or in a separate blind. It is imperative that the e-collar be introduced properly in order to successfully enforce commands and discipline the retriever for refusals or violations of those commands.
The introduction of steadiness is also necessary in the instance of a flush. This command is an extension of obedience that is imperative to the field. With the flush, steadiness is easily taught with the “one whistle sit command” and “chaining”. These are both fairly simple training techniques to employ. The trainer simply needs to exclaim “sit” to the dog while immediately following the order with one whistle blast. If the retriever then does not comply, the trainer enforces the command by pulling the dog into submission with the leash. Once the retriever comprehends the command and responds as ordered, steadiness is achieved and the retriever is not only ready for the flush, but is capable of being controlled when trailing game, even at maximum range.
Proper obedience training and the use of available tools will help you successfully elevate a retriever from the back yard to the field, and are essential to an enjoyable, long term union between hunter and dog. A poorly trained retriever will inevitably result in a marriage thwart with disappointment and frustration. Steadiness, control, command and enforcement are essential to ensuring a long, enjoyable and loyal union. Ill-timed or ill-advised commands put even the most ideal of pairings in peril, which is an unfortunate consequence to both involved, two legged and four legged.