Firing Your Retriever Up For This Season


Field Dog Life Staff with Marty Roberts

You and your retriever are likely itching to see those leaves starting to turn after this long, extremely hot summer. The call of cool, crisp air flowing through his fur and the first bird call have you both ready to put your eyes to the sky. Even though your dog is ready to fire it up, it’s extremely important that you create and implement a solid plan to get your retriever back into hunting shape. Here are a few helpful tips on getting your hunting dog back to work.


Many of these pups have had an easy summer and like their owners, may be a little out of shape. It is ideal to have him work water early in the season. Training pre-season in water can get him into shape quickly and it is easy on your dog’s joints. Be aware that summer heat can pop up out of nowhere even with Fall in sight, especially as you begin to train. For early geese and dove season heat is usually still a factor, so be sure that you both stay well hydrated. When training at this time of year, try to get out there as early or as late in the day as possible when temperatures can be at their lowest.


Work on steadiness with a single dog or pup, and then slowly incorporate other dogs into the mix. Working delayed retrieves as well as denials (walking out to pick up the bumper or bird instead of sending the dog) can work wonders especially if you train alone. It’s also easy to do in your backyard. However, you still need to get out and train in as many places as you can before the season because dogs can be place-specific. This means they may be perfect in controlled conditions like the backyard but may lose composure when worked in other places, especially when gunfire is introduced.


When getting your retriever back into hunting shape, it’s important to replicate what they will actually be doing in the field. For example, dog stands, decoys, bird calls, and even spinning-wing decoys all create a sense of distraction for your dog, especially during the first few training sessions. Exposing your dog to these types of distractions during preseason training may prevent major delays or mistakes in the field.


When a dog, especially a young pup, is getting into shape taking your time to really drill down into specific a training exercises can accelerate your dog’s ability to master skills sets. This is especially useful for dogs that participate in Hunt Tests. If necessary, going back to basic obedience will further enhance more advanced skills. It is common to refresh a basic skill from time to time – even for the best of them. Dogs need to be constantly conditioned to the most efficient and effective way of approaching a real hunting situation. In time the more seasoned hunters, with the right base building, will work on autopilot.

Most of all, keep the training fun!

all photos courtesy of Sporting Life Kennels and Retriever University