Foundation is defined as “the basis or groundwork of anything.” In retriever training, we build our foundation on four words: Here, Heel, Sit and Down. There are variations and extensions; come, stay, stand, etc. No matter what the semantics, one thing is true – these simple words, when used consistently, establish order, structure and ultimately, civility.
In the hunting environment, they form a better understanding of placement, perspective and opportunity. Most importantly, they guide and direct the safety for all those involved. In order to refine these simple commands into potentially nonverbal forms of communication, there needs to be an ongoing tutorial. Starting the day we pick up our new hunting companion, we begin our introduction through positive reinforcement. We encourage by rewarding and praising good behavior. Our language and movement becomes a comforting pattern that eventually develops into a web of subtitles and anticipation. We form understanding by merging environments through simulation and eventually, reality. All of this develops the choreography from the Crate to the Flatbottom. Ironically, this fluidity of the team, established through practice, patience and the genuine desire to hunt, owes its success to those four words: Here, Heel, Sit and Down.