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The Amateur / Pro Debate - Part 2


Part 2

Can a Pro can do a better job than an Amateur? (if you missed Part 1, see it here)

In this week's video, I dive deeper into a couple areas where people tell me that pros have an advantage.

  • Pros have better training grounds, equipment and bird boys
  • Pros have more time, therefor get to run more setups

But where you see a challenge, I see an opportunity.

As an amateur, you can focus all of your energy precisely where your dog needs it. And once you understand the qualities that make an outstanding retriever, you can constantly evaluate your dogs performance and customize every training session to bring them closer to your ultimate goal of having a competitive dog.

I think another big advantage that amateurs have is the ability to devote time and energy into fixing an issue. Some issues are not solved overnight. They take a significant amount of time to work through. Time that I often didn’t have when I was working dogs professionally.

For example, if your dog has a loopy or slow sit when you blow a whistle, you have a major problem. It's almost impossible to get your dog through any technical blind or keep them in an acceptable corridor. Many trainers try to fix the problem by correcting their dog while running cold blinds. This almost never fixes the loopy or slow sit, it just creates more problems. If you're not training 20+ dogs per day, it is much easier to return to the yard where you can isolate and simplify the problem. This is where you can communicate more clearly, so that your dog can understand what you're trying to teach them.

See you next week for Part 3!

- Kevin

P.S. - I get a LOT of questions about loopy sits! As we discussed above, it can be a huge problem, and hard to fix. I want to share part of my FETCH training program with you, so that you can improve or establish a high quality stop and sit right from the start. Below, I’ve posted 2 additional videos, plus written instructions, showing my progression of “Stop and Sit to the Pile”

Now, don’t simply go through the motions of the drill! Make sure you PAY ATTENTION to every detail. Spend quality time on each step, and master it before you move onto the next step. Constantly evaluate your dog’s performance, and keep the standard of perfection in mind. Be intentional about rewarding great sits, and correcting poor ones. Those are the details that make you successful!


What You Need To Know



Most of your training to this point has focused on two fundamental areas, “Obedience” and “The Forced Retrieve”. The third fundamental area of training is “Stopping while en route to a retrieve”. Your dog’s level of performance at the conclusion of this module, will in part dictate how successful they will be in the competitive arena in the future. It can’t be overstated how important it is to ensure that your dog stops crisply. That they turn and sit with urgency when ordered to do so.

What You Need To Know

For this module you’ll need an e-collar, a whistle, a dozen large white bumpers, a white stake and a bag or bucket to store retrieved bumpers in. You’ll no longer be required to put a flat collar and lead on your dog.

I suggest you do this drill in the same place where Force To The Pile was done. Your dog’s starting position will always be the same, 20 yards from the pile.

The entire procedure must be completed with the verbal "SIT" command first, and then repeated with the sit-whistle command.

Every time your dog is commanded to stop and sit when in route to a retrieve, they must execute these four elements of the task perfectly and with urgency. They must:

  • Put the brakes on immediately.
  • Spin around tightly to face you squarely.
  • Plant their butt quickly.
  • Look at you intently and wait for direction.

Timing your corrections properly is extremely important. In order to make your dog better, you must get the correction in before they complete the task. Always address substandard behavior in the following manner:

  • If they fail to put the brakes on, quickly make a correction and say “SIT”.
  • If they fail to plant their butt, make a correction and say “SIT”.
  • If they fail to spin around completely, make a correction, then simultaneously bow and blow a come in whistle. As soon as your dog turns to face you squarely, stand up straight and say “SIT”.
  • If they look away from you, make a correction. Your timing is important. The correction must take place when the dog isn't looking at you, not when they look back at you.
  • If they go before they’re given direction to do so, simultaneously make a correction and say “SIT”.

If your dog fails to stop close to the pile, make a correction and say “SIT”, even if they pick up the bumper and start back toward you. You may have to make several corrections before your dog completes the task. Then walk out, take the bumper from your dog and put it back in the pile.

When your dog fails to stop at the pile and picks up a bumper, follow this procedure:

  • Place your dog about a yard or two from the pile.
  • Place yourself next to the pile.
  • Swing your arm down toward the pile and say “FETCH”. As soon as your dog starts moving, say “SIT”.
  • If they fail to stop and sit before picking up a bumper, press the button and say “SIT”. Take the bumper away and repeat the procedure. If they stop before picking up a bumper, pause for a moment and give them praise, then cast them to pick up a bumper. Follow up by repeating the procedure and then upon a successful conclusion, move your dog back to their starting position and continue the drill.

These steps will solidify your dog's need to listen attentively for the “SIT” command, and respond appropriately even in challenging situations.

Over time, making corrections for a substandard stop or sit, can lead to a loss in momentum in your dog. If you sense your dog is losing momentum, shift gears and refrain from stopping your dog for a send or two. You can also throw a bumper to the pile before sending them, in order to encourage better momentum.

At some point they will begin to question whether they should go toward the pile at all. Be prepared for the eventuality that your dog will pop, no-go or freeze on the cast. If this happens, you must make a force correction and send them through to the pile to retrieve a bumper. You should then follow up with a couple of sends through to the pile without stopping your dog. These moments help solidify the proper response to force pressure, and the principle that failing to go isn't an option. When you see these behaviors in your dog, address them in the following manner:

  • If your dog pops, make a correction, recast them to the pile and say "FETCH" or "BACK" simultaneously.
  • If your dog freezes on the cast, reload by bringing your hands back into the prayer position at heart center. Then simultaneously make a correction, cast them toward the pile and say “FETCH” or "BACK".
  • If your dog no-goes from your side, simultaneously make a correction, say “HERE” and briskly move forward three large steps. Then, move your hand into your dog's upper peripheral vision ahead of their eyes, and send your dog using the command “BACK”.
  • If your dog doesn’t react appropriately to any of these force corrections, simplify by moving them closer to the pile or tossing a bumper to the pile and making another force correction similar in nature.


The Procedure


Step 1
Before starting Sit To A Pile, review “SIT” at your side while walking your dog on lead. Cover the verbal and whistle-sit commands, just as you did during collar conditioning. Look to get a high level of execution here before moving onto the next steps.

Step 2
Place a bumper on the ground and have your dog sit a couple of yards from it. Place yourself next to the bumper and then throw your arm down toward it and say “FETCH”. As soon as you say “FETCH”, say “SIT”. If your dog sat quickly without picking up the bumper, offer them praise. If they didn’t, make corrections and say sit until they stop and plant their butt, even if they pick up the bumper. Then repeat the procedure until they obey the command with urgency. If your dog fails to fetch on command, shift gears and seize the opportunity to force without stopping them in the process.

Step 3
Put out a pile of bumpers and mark it with a white stake. You can use the same location that you used for Force To A Pile or use a new location if you wish.

Have your dog sit beside you facing the pile, which should be about 20 yards away. Toss a bumper to the pile and send your dog with the command “BACK” to make a retrieve. Send your dog to the pile a couple of more times in the same manner to finish establishing the pile.

Step 4
Have your dog return to your side facing the pile and take delivery of the bumper. Next, leave your dog in place and move your handling position halfway between them and the pile, and 5 yards back from your dog’s line of travel to the pile.

Step 5
Toss a bumper to the pile, then throw your arm out toward it and say “FETCH”. As your dog moves past you, move back to your dog's starting position to prepare to receive them and take delivery of the bumper. Then, leave your dog and return to your handling position on the opposite side of your dog’s line of travel to the pile, and repeat the procedure. You may need to toss a bumper to the pile for the first several sends, to get your dog accustomed to the routine.

Step 6
Once your dog has momentum going to the pile, you can begin stopping them en route to the pile.

After taking delivery of the bumper, return to your handling position and cast them to the pile. Once they’ve taken a couple of steps, say “SIT”.

Now you must instantly assess your dog’s reaction to the command. You should feel as though your dog sat with urgency. If the speed and execution of the stop and sit is less than urgent, simultaneously make a correction and say “SIT”. It’s very important to make the correction before your dog completes the task of stopping. If your dog put the brakes on and sat quickly, give them praise. After a brief pause, cast your dog to the pile to retrieve a bumper, and meet them back at their starting position to take delivery. Continue to repeat the procedure until your dog stops crisply every time you say “SIT”.

In order to maintain momentum, regularly send your dog through to the pile without stopping and be sure to alternate your handling position between the left and right side of their line of travel to the pile.

Try to avoid barking the word “SIT”. It’s your dog’s responsibility to listen attentively for the command at all times. When issuing it, use a typical conversation tone of voice.

Step 7
Once your dog is stopping well in the previous step, begin asking them to stop one-third of the way to the pile. Before moving onto the next step, look to attain a very crisp stop and sit by making corrections when your dog doesn't meet the standard, and giving praise when they do.

Step 8
To increase the level of difficulty, change your dog’s stopping position so that they’re halfway to the pile.

It’s at this step that your dog must turn and face you squarely when they stop. If they fail to turn fully, simultaneously make a correction, bow and blow a two blast “Here” whistle. As soon as they square up, stand up straight and say “SIT''. Be sure you maintain this standard throughout the remainder of the drill and the program.

When your dog stops consistently, turns and sits well, you can move onto the next step.

Step 9
Cast your dog to the pile and stop them twice in route, at one-third and two-thirds of the way to the pile.

Step 10
Cast your dog to the pile and stop them by saying “SIT” when they’re close to the pile.

Step 11
In the next couple of steps, move your handling position back to your dog's starting position. Then, send your dog from your side and ask them to stop when they’re only a couple of yards from you.

Remember, when you tell your dog to “SIT”, they need to put the brakes on, spin around completely with their entire body, plant their butt quickly and look at you. Address any substandard behavior with appropriate well timed corrections.

Step 12
Begin stopping your dog a little further away from you and closer to the pile. Start at the one-third point, followed by the halfway point, then twice en-route at the one-third and two-thirds points, and finally close to the pile. Don’t jump to the next stopping point until they demonstrate an urgency to stop at the current level of difficulty.

Move to the next step when your dog is able to stop crisply and consistently right next to the pile when you say “SIT”.

Step 13
Repeat the entire procedure from start to finish with the sit-whistle. Start the process with your handling position half between your dog and the pile.

Continue to assess your dog’s reaction to whistle commands and make corrections every time you see a substandard performance. If you make a correction, simultaneously say the word “SIT” as opposed to blowing another whistle.

© 2023 Kevin Cheff -The Retriever Coach