I had a couple of Labs when I was a kid, and they were natural retrievers. I didn’t train them like I should have, and their natural ability reinforced my bad behavior. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and truthfully, neither did they, but because they kept bringing back birds I shot, I subscribed to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
The problem was, it was broken. Those dogs did fine on the simple retrieves, but when I had to find a cripple or a bird fell in fast-moving water, I wound up doing more work than the dogs did. And in the case of that fast-moving water, I could have gotten my dogs hurt, or even killed, because they didn’t have the training needed to obey my commands that would have kept them out of trouble.
I think that’s why I resisted getting another bird dog for so long. I didn’t think I had the knowledge or the time it would take to properly train one. But while I was the outdoors editor at the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, I got the chance to review a book called The 10-Minute Retriever, by John and Amy Dahl. This book completely changed my perspective. The Dahls explain that you don’t need to devote hours a day to training a bird dog. On the contrary, you don’t want to spend more than five or 10 minutes at a time on training sessions. The dog – and often the trainer – lack the attention span to work longer than this 10-minute limit.
I’m so glad that book came across my desk. It gave me the confidence to get my first real retriever, who is still the best dog I’ve ever had. Now I have another retriever pup, and I’ve started her 10-minute training sessions, too.
If you have a retriever, or if you think you might want one, get a copy of this book. It’ll be the best thing you ever do for your dogs.