Want a turbo retriever this fall? Start training now.

Photo by Denver Bryan/Images on the Wildside

Want a turbo retriever this fall? Start training now. Whether you’re working with a pup or a gray-muzzled veteran in need of a refresher, Cabela’s pro staffer Jennifer Broome has a three-month spring plan to turn your hunting partner into a bird machine. “Trying to train a dog during hunting season is like teaching a bunch of guys accounting in a strip club,” Broome says. “Too many distractions.” This month–our first installment in a three-part series–she stresses foundation building with a backyard obedience course that drills go, come, and stop.

1. Set the Stage
In your backyard, set out your dog’s kennel and two platforms, arranged in a triangle about 20 feet apart from one another. Broome uses Avery’s Ruff Dog Marsh stands ($190; cabelas.com) as the platforms to get the dog used to the real thing, but plywood works fine. Stand in the middle of the course with your dog.

2. First Words
Use a go command, such as “kennel,” to send your dog to the kennel. Reel him back with a come command like “here,” then send him to one of the platforms with “place.” If you’re working with a pup just learning the commands, Broome recommends coaxing him to each position with leash tugs or treats.

3. Keep Building
Once the dog is confidently running the course, introduce a stop command like “whoa” in the middle of a run. Calling off your dog should be as solid as sending him after a downed bird. Once you reach a point when the dog is coming and going reliably, introduce a bumper and the “fetch” command.

4. Rapid Fire
Mix your commands up, so the dog is rapidly fetching, placing, coming, and going. “Send your dog from the kennel to a platform, and from a platform to a bird,” Broome says. Dogs should pick up the game quickly, and owners will see how it builds the foundation for retrieves–and good behavior in the blind.