If you read the majority of the books on dog training (like I’ve done) and then start the process with a pup, I can guarantee you that at some point you’ll wonder (like I’ve done) if your dog was meant for a life on the sofa. But here’s the hard truth: Most likely the problem lies with you (and me). Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we set out intentionally to sabotage our pups. In fact, the opposite is true. We amateur trainers hang on every retrieve, live on every cast, hold our breath until every Give. And in the process we sometimes lose the sight of big picture.

Pups progress at different speeds, and chances are yours won’t match the pace of the wunderkinder pictured in the dog books. Those dogs are trained by professionals–with years of experience, plenty of time to spend with a pup, and countless places to train. And, still, those pros know that even in the perfect world pups will sometimes regress. And when they do, the pros know it’s time to revisit the basics, to reinforce the gun dog building blocks. The simple obedience commands are where it all starts. Sit, Stay, Come, Heel. Did you rush through a few of these when your pup seemed to be an A+ student? (I did.) Did you ever imagine a day that your pup might not Come to you? (That day will come. Hopefully the checkcord is in reach.)

Your dog is smarter than you think. And if you teach her correctly, she’ll do what you ask, happily. Have confidence in yourself and your dog. Don’t ever forget the basics. And always keep it fun.

And for the record, I’m gonna bet your dog has what it takes. I know Pritchard does.