The Importance of Obedience Training: A Perspective from a Retriever Trainer

The Importance of Obedience Training: A Perspective from a Retriever Trainer
May 20, 2024
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There are many different types of dog sports that exist. Some of them center around a dog’s natural ability without much interference from a human handler, and others take a dog’s natural ability and build it into a very specific set of skills. Police and personal protection dogs are a good example of the latter. A dog that must work alongside a handler in any capacity, is going to need solid obedience as a foundation for its particular skill set.

One of the most common misconceptions about “retriever trainers” is that we do not do obedience training. This could not be further from the truth. Essentially, the highest level of competition in the retriever world is testing your dog’s obedience out in the field. Trials are designed specifically to test what your dog has been taught, not what he knows naturally. Dogs will be put in situations that test their obedience to the highest degree possible, and no forms of pressure or influence can be used on the dogs to make up their mind at these events. This is just further proof that proper E-collar conditioning in training absolutely works. Not only do dogs have to exhibit obedience at their side at these events, but they must show extreme levels of control at very long distances as well. The farther a dog gets from your side, the more tempting it is to succumb to distractions. Just like a kid as they wander farther away from their parents at the park.


The retriever game is centered around a solid foundation of obedience. Dogs that participate in this sport, whether it be duck hunting, trials, or hunt tests, must be able to sit on a dime at our side and out in the field. This task becomes increasingly harder the closer they get to their destination, which is the bird. When it comes to obedience dogs and pets, what we are asking the dog to do remains the same. The distraction is the only thing that changes. Rather than asking them to sit patiently in a duck blind, we may be asking that they wait patiently at the vet or walk alongside us on the street as other people and unruly (untrained) dogs pass by. If they are in a group of dogs playing mindlessly and you notice a car or some sort of danger, they must recall quickly without hesitation.


Dogs that cannot perform “sit” and “here” reliably with distractions off lead, should not be considered obedient. Many obedience trainers today do not effectively teach these commands. A trainer’s goal when teaching obedience could actually save the dog’s life by teaching them to perform commands as quickly as possible. Isn’t our goal the same with our children? If they didn’t have rules surrounding their new and exciting world, they would be at risk of getting hurt quite a lot. As kids progress into adulthood, the goal is that those rules should carry with them. If they aren’t taught how to behave and what the expectations are, they are likely to not do very well in society as an adult. The same is true with dogs, and as their owners, we have an obligation to keep them safe.

Just as some doctors are better than others, it is important to know that all dog trainers are not created equal. A good retriever trainer is as good as it gets when it comes to doing obedience. After all, that is the center of the work they do while training retrievers. If you have a dog, I urge you to find a reputable retriever trainer in your area to do your obedience. Starting them young is best, at around 6 months of age, but we have had major success with older obedience dogs as well. With solid obedience, we have fixed aggression issues and have even found that dogs weren’t truly “aggressive”, they just didn’t know the rules yet. We have had owners who were on the brink of getting rid of their pets, who can now enjoy them and live alongside them daily, and even take them out in public regularly. A reputable obedience program should be no less than a month long and E-Collar conditioning should be a part of the program. E-collar conditioning gives you a much higher form of control and safety with your pet.


At One Shot Retrievers, we take all breeds for obedience, except for dogs under about 20 lbs. We have had everything from French Bulldogs to Great Danes, all of whom have done exceedingly well in our obedience program. Our course is 6 weeks long and we introduce the dogs to as many distractions as possible. The commands we teach are “Here”, “Heel”, “Sit”, “Down”, and “Kennel”. By the end of the program, we can 100% guarantee a quick recall. What we do with our retrievers is extremely rewarding, but seeing the smiles on an owner’s face when their previously out-of-control pet can now mind reliably, is just as rewarding to us here at OSR! At the end of the day, our retrievers are our pets as well, and the obedience we train in them is just as much for their safety as it is for the games we play with them throughout their lifetime with us. With rules and structure, we can ensure that all of our beloved pets live a long, healthy life with us while they are here!

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