Chase at 12 Weeks

See the Blog “Chase and train” to learn more about my newest duck demon dog~!

Chase is my newest retriever and soon to be the best dog I have ever owned…. I feel it will be true…at least I hope so. I have owned some fine Labradors and consider none better as a family waterfowl dog.  However my last best turned out to be pretty weak.  Don’t get me wrong, I love him, he is a great part of our family, he gets out to hunt, but he isn’t the trust worthy partner I desire. 

So after coming back from my North Dakota Duck Hunting Adventure last year I started preparing the wife that I would be getting another partner.

“Chase” is now twelve weeks of age and I thought I would share were we are in his training.  The goal from 6 weeks to 12 weeks was really simple. Get him to; know he is loved, to know his name, come to his name (most the time), understand “no”, play retrieve, and get potty trained.

We have achieved all but the last one.  Here was the process I followed.

As I am prone to say, I am no body’s expert, but I have read a lot on dog training and have trained 5 labs, a Llewellyn Setter and a German Wire Hair.  I have made my share of mistakes but hopefully am better educated and more patient this time around.  Here are the steps I used in getting Chase this far.

First, I am sure to keep training session short.  Like 2 to 5 minutes short.  Or just do a few things while I take him on a walk. Second, I use little bits of a cheese stick to reward and “No” to punish.  Nothing else.  I prioritize that he always feels safe.  I carry him and take him for walks in different locations as much as I can. 

To teach his name I said it to him each time I lower his food dish, whenever I pick him up and when I taught “come”.

To teach “Come”, I got a few feet away on our walks and kneeled down and said “Chase, come” as I kept one hand low to the ground with a small piece of cheese.  He figured that out pretty quick and came a run’en.  Over time I lessened the lean to the ground and when he gets to me push his butt down and say sit.  I give him the cheese the second his butt is on the ground. He is not solid on “sit” yet but is on “come”.

“No” was emphasized when he was biting.  To address this behavior I would hold his mouth shut with my hand look him in the eye and say “No”.  He figured out to stop biting pretty quickly and the command “No” was transferred to jumping on people and chewing on the furniture. He is pretty reliable to stop a behavior when told “no”.

Play retrieve is just throwing a small bumper and him bringing it back to me. No food reward is used in training this behavior.  I started in a hall way and would get Chase excited about the small bumper and just toss it a foot or two.  When he grabbed it I pulled him toward me and gave him lots of praise and loving.  Soon I would toss it three to four feet and he would go get it and bring it back for his loving.  Important thing here is to not take it from him.  I love on him and praise him and wait for him to drop it.  I have gradually built this behavior that I could take him out in the yard and toss it 20 feet. Now I can take him on a walk and throw three or four 30 to 35 feet and he will go get it and bring it back.  Occasionally, he will get distracted by a smell or stick or whatever and drop the dummy or not pick it up at all.  I respond to this by just saying “No” and walking over and picking up the bumper.  I don’t show any negative emotion and I wait to throw it after I get his attention and some excitement. I always end on a positive play retrieve even if I have to wait a while. I have also introduced him to a duck wing and have him retrieving it at least once a day for the last two weeks. 

Potty training is primarily a discipline on me.  Immediately when he wakes up he needs to be taken outside or he may have an accident.  Within 15 minutes of eating he needs to go outside for at least 20 minutes.  If I do my part he is about 90% good.  Occasionally I screw up and don’t get him outside and he will wet the floor.  I think as we continue he will be dependable in the next month.

What’s next?  Well for sure to keep him introduced to lots on new environments.  In addition I need to get him exposed to live birds soon.  This week I hope.  I don’t own a pigeon coop so I need to go buy one and let Chase encounter it and hopefully get real excited. 

In addition I want to get him to understand the “down Command” and to sit away from me and let me take the small piece of cheese to him.  That last one requires some discipline and I expect it to take a while to get there. This is not a sprint, it is a marathon and I don’t rush him.  I offer and reassess and focus on making sure he has lots of success and no to almost no failures.  A puppy will teach YOU how to pace him. 

If he reacts positively to the live bird, I will get him a once a week exposure to a restrained pigeon until I start his more advanced training. 

When he can sit on command away from my reach reliably, I will start the place command.  Place is taught by rewarding him to go sit on a round piece of plywood.  This is an important command because I will use it as the foundation to teaching Back, Angle Back, and Over as well as aligning for pile work. 

Training a hunting partner is a great joy and for me a source of pride.  It gives me purpose and a supply of joy during the off season (when not Turkey hunting or fishing).  Check in often to see how our training adventure is going. 

And until I see you in the field, be safe, be good, and BE LUCKY!