Off-Season Retriever Training


It’s that time of the year again. The off-season–that time of year when we pack all of our hunting supplies up and shove them into a hole in the basement until fall rolls around again.  While dust collects on decoys, bags and other miscellaneous hunting gear, I believe a lot of people let activities with man’s best friend fall to the wayside.

Dog training should never stop! I see it time and time again with hunters and their dogs. Once the off-season arrives, they just let their dog go. Nothing is worse than the beginning of hunting season coming around and you bring your beloved companion out hunting, and he/she only becomes a nuisance. It reflects poorly on you and annoys your friends, possibly to the point to where you are no longer invited out!

To prevent you from becoming “that guy,” here are some helpful retriever training drills and advice to keep your dog in peak condition during the off-season.

Marking drill

There are hundreds of tips and drills I could go over, but with this post I am going to touch on marking. Marking is your dog’s ability to judge a downed bird’s distance by their sight and make a successful retrieve.The biggest problem I ran across with marking drills is finding help while training. Marking drills seemed like a two-person job and good help is hard to come by. Don’t be discouraged, though, because I have a marking drill that only requires you!

The first key to this exercise is having a steady dog. Have the dog sit, then start walking away from the dog telling them to stay if you are unsure of how they will handle sitting there by themselves. Keep the distance short for the first couple of retrieves. Second, throw the bumper high up in the air so that your dog will see it. Then give your dog the “go” command. It’s that simple!

This will keep your dog’s marking skills up to par. Once you feel like your dog is getting good at this drill stretch it out. Push the dog to a 50-yard mark, then try a 100-yard mark and then finish with a short mark. Mix the distances up to keep your dog on its “toes.” Just remember to make it a fun activity with them. Keep your training sessions short and your dog always wanting more!

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