~ WELCOME REX ~ Retriever Boot Camp


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Nov 1, 2018
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Aye Mates,

I recently welcomed REX to retriever boot camp and I will be working with him for a minimum of three months. As is my standard operating procedure, I conducted an assessment of REX prior to my acceptance of him as a trainee. I had previously worked with the owners of REX and knew from that prior experience that we would be on the same page with regard to my approach to training and in my encouragement for them to participate regularly so that they could learn how to handle him proficiently. I look forward to training with REX and his owners. I will include regular updates here on his progress as we move through the training process and toward meeting our well identified training objectives.

~ REX ~ This chocolate Labrador Retriever pup recently arrived for an extended training stay and will be with me for a minimum of three months. This photo was taken by one of his owners at an AKC hunt test we were all in attendance at last year in Maine. REX really impressed me that weekend with regard to his extremely focused and calm demeanor relative to his age. Observing in REX many of the traits I like to see in a potential retriever trainee, I welcome the opportunity to work with REX and his owners.

~ Introduction To Birds ~ Seen here as a gangly pup of about 12 weeks old, REX was introduced to both birds, water, and gunfire last year under my guidance. REX exhibited great prey drive during his introduction on live pigeons whilst on a check cord and in fact demonstrated a nice natural retrieve during those early exercises. We also conducted an intro to water last May once our New England waters warmed sufficiently for conducting water intro for a young pup without any negative effects. Water intro was an exercise in fun as we extended our early bird intro into the aquatic environment. What true Labrador pup would turn his or her nose up at an opportunity to chase birds about in the water?

I had invited REX and his owners to participate in several group training sessions that I was conducting over the last several months and they eagerly took me up on that offer. REX is no stranger to me, nor am I to him. The dynamic has now shifted as REX is now in my sole care during the duration of his training for the next few months. Our time spent together will be intensive with initial work focused on bringing his obedience up to my expected standard. His owners have conducted some good preliminary work with regard to early basic obedience under my guidance and in my absence. I will now take the reins and form the foundational obedience that is critical to all of the gun dog skills development that will follow.

~ Let The Journey Begin ~ So we begin the forging of REX into what will be his life as a Labrador Retriever gun dog. A strategic training plan in place, that based on well identified objectives, we will seek to impart all of the necessary elements required in the making of REX as a fundamentally competent gun dog. REX will be cross-trained to hunt both upland birds and waterfowl. We may likely enter REX in some hunt tests when his skill level development warrants doing so and when hunt tests are hopefully once again being conducted given the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and its far reaching effects, those including the dog games. REX is seen in this photograph as we conduct a "bolding walk" that served as a chance for him to get some well needed exercise after spending his first evening away from his family at the training kennel. REX exhibited good RECALL skills throughout our time spent together during this initial session.

~ The Bolding Walk ~ TRAD joined REX and myself for his first "bolding walk" on the training grounds yesterday. Most all training sessions that I conduct with REX will typically begin with a "bolding walk". Such walks give me an opportunity to observe the trainee while letting them expend some pent up energy from time spent in the kennel run, that prior to our start of more focused skills work. I find that such walks make for a more focused K9 trainee once we get down to conducting intensive obedience work. I use these walks to form my position of leadership in relation to the gun dog trainee, and to make my time spent with the prospect to be the highlight of his or her day. I also use these walks as an opportunity to reinforce the communication domains I seek to develop during obedience training, those being; (1) VERBAL COMMANDS, (2) WHISTLE SIGNALS, and (3) GESTURAL CUES. Essentially, these domains of communication are the "language" I put in place betwixt myself and the gun dog trainee, that making the avenue to learning the many complex tasks that will be required readily achievable in a much more effective approach. Additionally, the bolding walk serves as a practical exercise in development of the trainees ability to move about and penetrate through various cover types while learning to maintain their focus on me as their trainer. This eventually is carried over to the field when hunting over the dog.

I opted to take one of my older dogs, TRAD, along on the first bolding walk for REX yesterday. I knew that TRAD would interact well with REX and would provide our new K9 trainee with some welcoming and important K9 socialization. TRAD and REX quickly became reacquainted and seemingly enjoyed interacting together throughout the bolding walk. I will utilize future bolding walks to acquaint REX with other dogs that he will be regularly in the presence of during certain phases of training. Most often, bolding walks for REX will be conducted in a one on one (trainer and trainee) approach so that I can focus on needed skills development with minimal distraction for the trainee. Of course, this approach will shift subsequently when training under distraction becomes a necessary facet in the entrenchment of solid obedience under those variable conditions.

~ Fun Is ~ During our initial "bolding walk", I brought TRAD and REX to one of the nine training ponds on the property at the training kennel during yesterday's session. Of course, Labradors and water go together like cookies and milk, t'was not the blink of an eye before both dogs were in the water for a swim, that despite it being a day plagued with lasting rains and chilly temperatures, both of those factors overridden by their love for water.

Our first day together yesterday was by design kept relatively pressure free, keeping things light and fun. T'was a welcoming day that was both motivational and a gradual easing of REX into what will become a positive trainer / trainee relationship betwixt he and I. From this point forward, REX will gradually be subjected to increasing levels of training pressure, but at a rate of progression so as to be imperceptible whilst conditioning acceptance and his learning to deal with training pressure.

On the immediate horizon, REX will undergo focused obedience training both on-lead and off-lead, that once understood, will subsequently lead to his becoming conditioned to the E-collar. Progressing forward, REX will be worked on HOLD conditioning and that will be followed with FORCE FETCH conditioning. Once the previously noted objectives have been achieved, we will move toward teaching the proper mechanics of the retrieve on both land and water, that to include classic delivery to hand. During actual retrieval work, REX will undergo training to develop his marking ability on both remotely thrown bumpers and live flyers. My training approach is designed to simultaneously build drive whilst conditioning the steadiness that is so important to the forging of a classic retriever gun dog.

Throughout all phases of training, my approach will teach REX to love learning just for the sake of learning itself. REX will be motivated via a success based training model that will be stimulating to him both physically and mentally. Through this focused training, I seek to make the act of the retrieve itself, the ultimate high value reward for REX, and his desire to do so will in fact become his life's work.

I hope you will follow us as REX makes his transformation into a proficient gun dog.


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