Conditioning Your Dogs All Year Round

So, for those of you who do hunt and have hunting and field dogs, do you tend to not practice and exercise them nearly as often as you should when it’s the off season? Hey, everybody does it. You don’t think too much about it until it is almost time to start back again! The problem is that then you have dogs that get worn out pretty easily and you have to spend a large portion of your time conditioning them so that they can run for longer periods of time.

If you live anywhere near the South, or maybe if you like to travel to places in the warmer months for hunting expeditions and competitions, you might particularly have problems with your dogs’ ability to stay consistently ready to go. The hotter and muggier it is, the easier our pups get worn out. If you add to that humid, warm weather with unconditioned and less than worthy exercised dogs, you might get extremely tired dogs after only several minutes.

To avoid this problem we all just need to find a way to get our dogs the conditioning they need on a consistent basis. But hey we all know that life is too busy to focus 100% of our attention to our pups (even if we wish we could). One effective way to get them some great exercise is to use roading harnesses.

Lots of you may already use a harness instead of a regular ole collar when you walk your dogs. This idea doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to gun dogs. Any pet can be walked or ran using a harness. Collars tend to put pressure onto the dog’s neck, can be very uncomfortable for them, and cause them to hack and other health problems if they pull against it hard enough! With a harness the pressure is taken away from their neck, and instead distributed across their chest and shoulders.

A harness makes it easier and safer for the dog to pull and keep moving forward. Be ready when they have the opportunity to pull away from your resistance. Some of our dogs may be stronger than we realize! Walking and running your pups with a roading harness is a great way to build their muscle, stamina, have some fun, and even get yourself a little exercise!

By the way, you can even do this by horseback or from a top a four wheeler. Just be sure to take your time building up the dogs’ stamina. Also, if you’re doing this to build up their conditioning for hunting purposes, consider roading them in the way you most often would when you hunt (if you hunt mostly on foot it would be best to walk and/ or run them by foot).

Does Your Dog Need Help with Basic Behavioral Problems?

So, we have all had these problems with our pets at some point, right? —jumping on people as they walk in the door, chasing cars, chewing our shoes, furniture, etc. Maybe you’ve even had problems with your dog grabbing food off of your plate when you turn your head or dragging out the garbage and shredding it?

If your dog has these kinds of behavioral issues, you may want to invest in a basic problem solving collar. There are many to choose from, including the Tritronics SPORT Basic and SportDOG SD 400. Do not confuse these with remote dog training collars. Remote dog training collars can be used to teach your dog to come, stay, and sit on command (among other things). They differ in the level of stimulation from one another. If you are looking to train your dog, check on a collar like the Innotek ADV 1000.

Also keep in mind that if you are trying to keep your dog from barking like crazy every time there is a little noise, you may need a no-bark collar. With a no-bark collar your dog will be given stimulation when there is unwanted barking (even when you aren’t there). With collars that are made to correct behavior problems or to train, you need to be present to give the reprimand or command.

We all like to think our dogs will mind us because they love us. The truth is, just like people, some dogs are just more spirited or hardheaded than others. In any event, one of these collars can give your dog the little boost they need to understand you mean business!

How to Avoid Making Your Retrievers Gun Shy

Some dogs are more susceptible to becoming gun shy, but regardless of their sensitivity level, making a dog gun shy or not is completely in the hands of their trainer. If you don’t take the steps to introduce your dog to a gun and gunfire in the correct way, even the most spirited dog can become startled.

Things you should ABSOLUTELY AVOID doing to an inexperienced dog:

  • Never fire a gun around a dog just to see if it startles him or not.
  • Never use a shooting range to introduce your dog to gunfire for the first time.
  • Never take a puppy hunting with an older, more experienced dog in an attempt to give him hands-on experience, before you have introduced him to gunfire.
  • Never place your dog in a situation where guns will be fired in close proximity to him.
  • Never expose your inexperienced dog to fireworks of any kind.
  • Never fire your gun near your dog while he is eating. These two things occurring at the same time makes the wrong association for the dog.
  • Try your hardest to keep your dog inside during major lightning and thunderstorms.
  • In any case, it is best to start working with your dog and introducing him to gunfire as soon as possible. This way you can try to side step the gun shy problem all together. It is much easier to introduce them correctly than to try and reverse the effects of being gun shy.

What you SHOULD DO to get started with the introduction process:

  • Expose them to noise early on. Raise them in high traffic, noisy areas (such as laundry rooms).
  • Start slowly and build up to louder, more sudden noises.
  • Be loud around your pups – clang bowls, clap your hands, open and close doors, play the radio, etc.
  • Again, remember to never go too fast when exposing them to noise!
  • Introduce your dogs to birds before you introduce them to gunfire.
  • Once your dog is bird crazy, begin introducing him to guns that make more quite sounds as they are fired (a Blank .22 pistol with crimped acorn blanks will be good for this).
  • Have a helper the first few times you expose your dog to gunfire. As long as there is no negative reaction to the gun being fired, continue to add in more elements (Keeping a bird on you so you can flush one if the dog needs a distraction).
  • Increasingly move your gun in closer until it is being fired by your side as the dog finds the birds.

Remember, most importantly you need to take your time. Never rush to expose the dog to gunfire. Your dog’s ego and education must be built through this exposure and this is all up to you and how you take the time to help him form the right association between birds and guns.

At What Age Do Retriever Puppies Begin to Retain Commands?

Puppies actually begin remembering and paying attention to what you tell them as soon as you begin to interact with them. Of course, you may get him from a breeder and he may be two months old or older by the time you first meet him. In this case, he will probably have picked up some habits and such from the people who have handled him previously.

The important thing is that once you have the puppy, you consistently teach him how you want him to act. He will learn that you expect certain things of him. The first time you pick up your puppy he begins to learn from you. Usually when you pick up a new puppy they are unsure of you and want down. If you instinctively let them go then they learn that if they whine or try to squirm their way out of your hands, then you will let them go.

By doing this the puppy now knows how to accomplish what he wants. When you need to cut his hair, clip his names, teach him common commands, put on an e-collar or tracking collar, or even reprimand him; he will remember that he knows how to disobey you and get away with it.

So, how do you avoid teaching your pup to react in a negative way? Well, teach him in a positive, reassuring way. Do not give up and into his wants, when that’s not what he SHOULD be doing. You do not necessarily have to be stern, just simply stand your ground and he will quickly pick up what you are telling him to do.

Teach them early on to mind you and it will be much easier to teach them more through, in depth training later on.

Butch Goodwin: Force or Correction? Reconditioning the dog’s mind.

Force or Correction Reconditioning the dog’s mind.


“It doesn’t matter if you use the terms ‘force’ and ‘correction’ interchangeably until you try to explain how to recondition a dog back to running tests or trials after the dog has developed behaviors that prevent it from advancing,” Pete said. “For example, we know there are dogs that have not received the benefits of a program rooted in force that do a very reliable job at tests. But there are talented dogs playing the dog games that will not be able to succeed unless a systematic regimen of force has reconditioned them to be reliable performers; eradicating certain behaviors brought on by excitement. 

  “The official name for a correction is ‘positive punishment.’ It can be the yank and release of the leash, yelling, a swat with a heeling stick, or the introduction of anything the dog views as bad. These things will normally reduce the frequency of the undesired behaviors.