By Sam Anderson
Puppy training starts the minute you get home and ends at about four to six months. This time of your retriever’s life is commonly known as the “Puppy Stage” and is the first step in brining out the best in your dog. In this four to six month time period, you will be teaching your dog basic obedience and strengthening his desire to retrieve.
For any training program to work to its full potential, it is necessary that you have control over your dog at all times. This means that you must show him that you are the boss as early as possible. Being an authority figure can be difficult, especially when your pup is seven weeks old and the cutest thing you have ever seen. In the dog’s eyes you are not his owner, in fact you are his pack leader. The dog depends on the pack leader to guide him through new and tough situations, and to feed him. All of these natural pack instincts can be used to your advantage in creating the perfect hunting retriever as well a well-behaved member of your family and household. A great example of complete control in training is when teaching the command “here”, this means that the dog is to run, not walk or jog, to me whenever I say the word “here”. The best way to teach this is by attaching at twenty-foot piece of medium weight rope to the puppy called a “check cord”. This will keep you in constant control of the pup because they cannot get away. When you give the command “here” you can pull the dog into you. This will shown the dog that when you give the “here” command, he or she is to come to you, pup will also learn that it is not in charge and must listen to you at all times, giving you complete control and establishing your role as the boss.
I always try to emphasize to people, that a puppy’s mind works like a small child’s, processing information as Good or Bad and with no grey area. For example, do not confuse them with unnecessary vocabulary. When saying, “sit”, only say “sit”, many people will throw in other words like “Rover sit” or “sit down”. All that does is confuses the puppy and slows down the training process.
Your puppy’s attention span is extremely short at this point, so keep lessons short and simple. My puppy sessions will never exceed ten minutes. You will quickly learn when your pup is not interested anymore; they might lie down or start chasing butterflies. This is okay! In the next session, try to end before they reach this quitting point. Stopping at the right point, will help you end on a good note and keep your little retriever wanting more.
Keep in mind that every puppy is different. Just like humans, they mature and develop at different rates. So don’t get discouraged if your pup is not acting like other puppies you have seen in the past, just give it time. The best retriever and friend I ever owned had no interest in retrieving, until he was about six months old. When he finally figured out how much fun retrieving was, the rest was history. He turned into a hard charging retrieving machine that taught me way more than I ever could teach him. Old Hank was truly a pleasure to train and hunt with. He will always be missed but never forgotten.