Head-Start Training for Your New Retriever

There’s 2 things you’ll want to do with your new puppy as soon as possible.

So, you’ve decided you want to raise and train a retriever puppy. As you look down at your new 7 week old bundle of energy, the thought of transforming this rambunctious pup into a polished hunting retriever can be daunting to say the least. Just like diets, everyone seems to have an opinion on what training techniques work the best. However, just like those diets, people have to realize that in order to be successful, there is no such thing as one size fits all.  Puppies, like people, are all different. And different training techniques will prove effective with  some pups, and they might now work on other puppies. If you don’t have any prior training experience, it might be wise to send your pup to a professional for at least a portion of his/her foundational training. Professional trainers have one thing that you don’t; deep experience. Through trial and error, over many years, with many dogs, they have seen what techniques do and do not work on pups displaying specific characteristics and traits. But, pups aren’t ready to head over to the pro trainer at 7 weeks, so let’s walk through a few things that are pretty close to one-size-fits all.

1. Socialize Your Puppy. The more experiences, sights and sounds you can expose your puppy to, the better. You want your puppy to eventually be comfortable in a variety of situations, for example: boats, blinds, trucks, water, fields, etc.  Using this logic, you want your puppy to get used to dealing with the unordinary. That way, they will rely on their training and listen to you in unusual situations instead of letting that situation dictate their behavior.

2. Introduce Them to Water and Birds. Following the train of thought from point #1 above, you want to expose your puppy to situations that will soon dominate their hunting career as quickly as possible. You want your dog to get comfortable with the concept of water and swimming right away.  However don’t force the issue.  Just like people, this is a great opportunity to have your pup learn from example. If you have an older dog, let that pup run around with the older dog. The puppy will see that the older dog loves the water and that getting into the water is a treat. Most of the time, the puppy will follow the older dog into the water and be swimming before he/she even realizes what they’re doing.  In these early pre-pro training days, it is important to keep the puppy’s enthusiasm high. So any chance you get to introduce the pup to feathers – take it!

While there isn’t a training one-size-fits-all, I believe the two points above will equal greater training success for 99.9% of all puppies. And, even if they don’t end up being the next Amateur Field Champion, the foundation you gave them built on socialization, enthusiasm, and fun will ensure that you’ll have a companion ready to hunt and play for many years.

Eddi Hicks is a retriever pro and owner of Jordan Valley Retrievers