Laying the Groundwork for a Pro Training

10 labrador retrievers lined up for photo by professional trainer

There’s work to be done before you bring your dog to school

There is no quick fix to dog training. It takes a lot of time. Repetition is the key. That’s why today, more than ever, people are turning to professional trainers to teach their hunting dogs the fundamentals.

These days, our lives have gotten so complicated, most of us just don’t have the time.

Besides the time factor, the most obvious reasons a new dog owner can benefit from hiring a professional is that a trainer has access to the proper training grounds, birds, equipment, etc.

Getting acquainted

But before a person brings a dog to a professional, some ground should be laid.

The key is to socialize the dog.

Not only to acclimate it to its home environment, but to expose it to field experiences. That could mean a stroll in an urban setting or a trip to the country for a walk through a field or a dry cattail slough.

A dog also should get used to a car kennel or one in the back yard. But it’s a big mistake to let a dog get kennel sour, to waste away its time in a kennel and not do anything with it.

A window of opportunity to professionally train a dog is from about 6 to 18 months of age. From 2 to 6 months, dogs are a lot like young kids, their attention spans are very short. This age is a critical time for training, but not constructive training for a professional.

Most trainers also recommend that owners teach their dogs how to sit, stay, heel, and come before taking them to a trainer. At a minimum, a dog should know to come when it’s called and also be retrieving. If it has those two things down, then I have a foundation to do work from.

One of the most common errors I see is that owners build a good foundation in the home environment, but don’t carry their training into the field. A professional will clean up that dog, under all hunting situations.

It can take two to four months to train a started dog (one that the fundamentals of sit, stay, heel, come and it force broken) to quarter, do different types of retrieves in all types of cover, in water and have the ability to pick up different types of birds.

A finished dog, 18 months to 3 years old, will take four to six months of advanced training—multiple retrieves, blind retrieves, etc.

Most trainers will have an evaluation period where they’ll critique a dog’s ability over a two-week period, and if the dog doesn’t show potential, they reserve the right to return the dog.

There are certain animals out there that have too many issues. If that’s the case, we show the owner the dog’s problems and how they can correct it through a lot of repetition. If the owner follows through with this time commitment, the dog will pick up what we’re trying to accomplish.

Help them out

An owner has an obligation to be honest with a trainer in critiquing a dog’s problems. They also should tell a trainer what commands they use and what and where they hunt.

But most importantly, owners must make a commitment to be trained with their dogs.

In going though a training program, we ask the owners to do a lot of homework, including checking out “Game Dog” by Richard Wolters, a video library that corresponds with the book and the training course and weekly field excursions.

With proper time, I can train any dog, but if the owner doesn’t know the commands or how to respond to situations, the money and effort is a waste of time.

Suggested Reading

Here is some suggested readings and video for those who are considering dog training.

Questions for the trainer If you plan on getting your dog professionally trained, here are some questions to ask of a trainer:

  • Have trainer to detail the methods of training?
  • Ask how many dogs are being trained at one time?
  • Are electric collars being used and how are they used?
  • What kind of birds are used and what is the cost?
  • How do I as an owner fit into the training program?