I received a call from a guy in Northern Kansas this last week. He was a disgruntled dog owner with a pup he had sent to a trainer that promised him a completely trained retriever when it returned home. What he received back was a 26 week old pup with problems, serious problems. Seems he gave the trainer $2,000.00 up front to completely train his dog, and received a yard broke pup at best with no retriever training and on top of that the dog was semi-gun-shy. The pup became nervous at the sound of a gun, (a .22 caliber blank at that). Seems when the trainer returned the pup he told the owner that the pup would probably be a one man dog and he just wasn’t sure the dog was going to turn out. It seems this man’s trainer was handling 10 dogs at the same time, saying he worked each dog one and a half hours each day. The trainer was holding down a full time job while training dogs on the side. Somehow he had to get some sleep in there somewhere. After about an hour of working with the pup and discussing the status of his past training and current issues, we formulated a plan of action to correct the pup.
I had trained upland bird dogs for over 17 years before getting into training retrievers for the last 6 years. There is just not that much difference in the two types of dogs. A lot of trainers would like you to believe it is harder to train retrievers, but I just don’t see it. Gun breaking a dog is pretty universal. The yard training is all the same for either sport. Then you teach the steady point or the water retrieve. An upland game dog takes a little more time to train. You have to teach the dog to honor another dog’s point and get them to understand the fetch and retrieve system. Some people simply see dollar signs in training dogs and don’t worry about the quality of the job, rather the quantity of dogs they can train each year. No matter which way you slice it, there is only 24 hours in a day. The dog owner was told each dog was getting an hour and a half’s worth of training each day. Well, training 10 dogs for an hour and a half each day calculates out to 15 hours of total dog training a day. I think the trainer was stretching the story a bit.
Let’s see, 8 hours on that full time job, along with15 hours of dog training each day leaves the dog trainer with one hour for sleep each night. To me that should have been the first red flag. Time management was way off. I never have more than two dogs at a time to train, and would estimate a training period of 60 days to have the dog field ready. The second red flag to me was the pup’s attention span. It has been proven over and over that a puppy’s attention span will vary from 15 to 30 minutes each day. That puppy is no different than a child. It is immature with some growing up to do. The more fun you make training the more effort you will get out of that pup.
The third red flag was when the trainer told the dog owner, "he just wasn’t sure the dog was going to turn out ". That’s a dog trainer’s code words for, "I don’t know how to handle this dog". That is nothing but a cop out. All dogs that have the proper breeding have the ability to hunt and retrieve. It is up to the skills of the person claiming to be a trainer to bring those skills out in that dog. My best dog is not a papered dog. I bought her at 6 weeks old in Greenwood on the square for $25.00. I found what papered dogs I could in her bloodline and they were good dogs. I started training her at 12 weeks, working at her pace. By 7 months old she was hunting ducks in three different states on a weekly basis. If you are looking for a trainer, then talk to your friends who have had dogs trained. Look up websites of trainers in your area. See who has posted the results of dogs they have trained. I personally would be looking for the trainer that would be willing to give you a money back guarantee for two reasons. One, he believes in himself and his training abilities and two, he will be much more attentive to your dog when he knows failure to do his job will cost him . Ask for references of people who have had their dogs trained by a prospective trainer, call those references. If they would rather not give you a list of references, beware!
Having your dog trained is a big expense for you. You need to make sure you are comfortable with your trainer and his abilities before you turn loose of the cash.