Video: Training Tips from a Pro

While Pritch's training is progressing nicely, I've noticed a bad habit starting to develop. During our sessions, Pritch will fetch a dummy, come running back, and then often blow right by me like I'm invisible. She usually gets about 10 yards past me before she starts frolicking. In these cases, I reel her in with the check cord but am unsure of the proper way to correct the problem. (To see an example just click on the video.) At its worst, Pritch will make a large half circle on her way back to me, sometimes dropping the dummy and not returning.

For help with the problem I asked a professional trainer, Pamela Owen Kadlec, author of Retriever Training for Spaniels and owner of Just Ducky Kennel in Edgefield, S.C. Here's what she had to say:

"This is a common problem and one that is fairly easily resolved with some repetitions. I teach the obedience separate from the retrieves in these cases and enforce 'Here' more than any other command.

"Using the check cord, take her on walks and command 'Here' at random times. Keep her in check cord range so you always have control. While she is heading off in one direction you change directions and give a tug on the check cord. When she comes running, tell her 'Good Here' and give her an ear rub. Release her and go off walking again. Repeat this exercise until she starts to focus on where you are not the other way around.

"When you return from your walk, toss her bumper a few yards, keeping the end of the check cord in hand. As she comes back, side step and do whatever you need to do to block her from running past you. Don't worry right now about her dropping the bumper, just getting her to come when called. If she insists on avoiding coming in give her a tug on the check cord. If needed you may need to pick her up by the scruff of her neck, lift her completely off the ground, make eye contact and tell her, 'Here'. Set her down and still holding the check cord, back up giving her short tugs on the check cord, say 'Here' and when she comes in, say 'Good Here' and praise her.

"Toss another bumper and try again. Only do this until she comes in one time, with or without the bumper."

What struck most about Kadlec's advice was something I continually forget--THE BASICS! I can't expect a perfect retrieve if I haven't nailed down the "Come" or "Here" command. Sure I've worked on it, but like many, I'd rather be working on the real fun stuff. Now I know better. If you have any other suggestions please feel free to join in the discussion.