Teaching your dog how to retrieve from water can be a fun and valuable skill. It is great for hunting, but training your dog this skill can also help keep them safe if they ever fall into a body of water. This blog post by LWDG Group Expert Claire Denyer will discuss the basics of training your dog to retrieve from water. Claire will cover everything from choosing the right location to start training to ensure that your dog stays safe while in the water. Let’s get started!
As the weather is warming up, here is some beneficial advice and tips in the case on the warmer days you decide to have a go at water retrieves.
Before Practising Water Retrieves
Firstly, spend time getting your dog used to water without any retrieving involved; this will help build up their confidence in swimming.
Make sure you can control your dog on and around the water. If your dog is over-excited about the water, we would recommend doing obedience and basic gundog work near the water. Ensure you can recall your dog from water with and without a retrieve.
It’s a good idea to start your water training journey on warm days, so your dog has a positive experience and doesn’t get cold.
On cooler days, ensure your dog is nicely warmed up before water retrieving by doing a couple of land retrieves, do a land retrieve between water retrieves and dry your dog off thoroughly or use a drying coat once they have finished.
Retrieving On Land Before Water
If you want to compete at working tests or even work your dog on the field, don’t start water retrieving until your dog consistently delivers the dummy to hand on the land, as your dog is more likely to spit the dummy to shake on exiting the water.
When you introduce formal water retrieving, start by dropping the dummy just into the water’s edge and walking away (a memory retrieve). You don’t want a young or novice dog going in deep straight away; just a toe-dip to pick up the retrieve the dummy is ideal to start.
This will help prevent any concerns about entering the water and help to prevent delivery issues.
Gradually pop the dummy in a little further, but do this slowly.
For example, do a few retrieves, so the dog is only as deep as the knees, working up the legs. This will build his confidence and prevent any bad experiences or feelings of getting cold, which can put the dog off and cause spitting the dummy to shake!
Also, when water training on a cooler day, make sure your dog is well warmed up, and keep them warm by alternating water retrieve followed by a dry retrieve! This will cause a massive difference in how the dog feels as it will keep them warm and motivated and less likely to spit the dummy to shake as they exit the water.
Distances In Water Retrieving
There are different areas of distance to build on
1)Distance of the retrieve in water
2)Distance of the delivery from water
3)Distance crossing water
Work on these independently and once you have the desired distance on both, start putting them together, being sure to build together gradually to give your dog confidence.
Every dog responds differently to working in water. Still, something we know is that bad starts or first experiences can create unwanted problems which are difficult to remedy when your dog is in the water or at a distance.
Depending on the dog, there are a couple of ways to get a really lovely delivery from water. The most common reason a dog will drop the dummy to shake is that it is either inexperienced or has had a bad experience (like feeling cold) during the return from water to deliver the dummy. This can be avoided by careful introductions, alternating the water retrieve with a dry retrieve, and keeping the dog warm.
In a nutshell, these are the two most effective ways:
1) Find shallow water and go in with the dog
3) Take the dummy from the dog (close to the edge of the water), and let the dog shake (mark with a cue – shake). Give the dummy back to the dog, walk backwards, encouraging the dog to follow and take the dummy again; the dog will most probably shake again (most dogs shake 2 or 3 times). You can repeat this exercise, and it teaches the dog to shake after the delivery.
Increase the dog’s energy as it comes out of the water; you will need to give lots of extra encouragement and create high energy to keep the dog focused on returning the dummy and prevent the dog from thinking about shaking. This could be clapping or your recall whistle.
Keep this up until the dog reaches you, take the dummy from the dog, let the dog shake (and mark with a cue – shake), then give the dummy back to the dog, walk backwards, encouraging the dog to follow and take the dummy again, the dog will most probably shake again (most dogs shake 2 or 3 times) you can repeat this exercise, it teaches the dog to jerk after the delivery.
Once distance and delivery are consistently achieved, we can start to make the retrieve formal and working test worthy with quieter handling.
As your dog becomes more experienced, you can increase the distance of the retrieve in water and work on crossing water. Remember to keep up the encouragement and positivity, especially when your dog starts out! With practice and patience, your dog will be retrieving like a pro in no time. Good luck!
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