Summer Drills to Practice With Your Retriever


Is this quarantine starting to show its effects on your sanity? You’re not alone. But there are several healthy outdoor activities you can partake in during these strange times, and yes, you can maintain a safe distance from others while doing them! Take a hike. Run hunting drills with the dog. Get out and go fishing!

While there is no training that can substitute for the crucial lessons learned afield, smart dog handlers recognize the importance of off-season workout sessions to keep their retrievers well tuned and in top condition for fall.

In this article, I’m going to highlight a couple drills I plan to focus on early this summer with my retriever, Stella, and they would be great for any new dog owner who’s new to this hunting dog world.

The first rule of thumb with these drills – or any drill you’re introducing to your dog for the first time – is to keep them short. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t nail it right away, and quit before the dog gets bored. You will be amazed with the dog’s progress after a few consecutive days of training.

The second is to start simple and gradually add increasing complexity as your dog progresses.

The first drill I’m going to highlight is sort of the next step after introducing your retriever to water work. Your dog should have some experience with retrieving a bumper, and be comfortable with going into the water on their own before introducing this drill.

As you’ll hear from Josh DeWitt of Brookstone Kennels Performance Gundogs, the goal here is to teach your dog to drive across a body of water to retrieve a dead bird without getting to the middle and stopping.

From there, it’s just a matter of increasing the distance to cross water while reinforcing obedience.

Check it out:

As with many aspects of retriever training, increasing the distance is a part of the progression for your dog. The final step in introducing your dog to water retrieves is incorporating a bumper and actual retrieve.

Next up is an introduction to handling exercises.

In the event your dog didn’t take the line you wanted, you’ll need to be able to communicate and work together to get to the downed bird or at least downwind so they’re able to catch the scent.

Like the last drill I talked about, you need to make sure basic obedience like recall is well understood before running this exercise or you could end up with a dog who wants to run around and play keep away.

Again, these are leaning towards the advanced side of hunting dog training, so take it slow. You have all summer long to hone your dog’s skills and abilities, so don’t be in a rush. Stella continues to make positive strides it seems every time we go train, but like every dog she has her off days too. Ideally, I hope for her to have a firm grasp on each of these exercises by the end of summer.

Hopefully you found these drills helpful!

If you do get out this weekend for some dog work, snap a picture and tag us on Instagram. We love to see dogs doing what they love most!

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