Fernfall Golden Retrievers  Est 1980  

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All these Articles were written by members of the Golden Retriever Club of Victoria Inc.and originally printed in The Guns and Sashes newsletter.




 Teaching the recall

If you have your dog to a standard where it will sit, heel and stay then you can move on to teach it to "come", initially without a retrieving dummy and then with one.

 You should have taken your young dog to at least basic obedience level at the local obedience club or through the GRCV, in which case it should already be coming to you on recall.  Just in case you haven't, here are some basics; make your dog 'stay' or 'wait', (depending on your command routine), and move in front of it several steps.  Turn to face the dog.  If it moves off the 'stay', gently but firmly take him back to the same spot and reinforce the 'stay' command.  Crouch down and open your arms in an inviting way and call 'come' in a light easy voice.  As the dog runs to you, calmly gather it in, so it sits in front of you.  Don't be too strict or formal with a young dog - the formal structure of recalls can fall in to place later.  Give it lots of pats and praise as you calm it down.

 You use the same routine teaching your dog to 'come' with a retrieving dummy.  You should already have played games with dummies quite separately - in front of the TV, on the patio etc - the game of, 'take', 'hold', 'give'.  Put your dog in a 'stay' with the dummy in its mouth with the 'take' command and make the recall command with voice or whistle.  The dog should come straight in to you.

 Sometimes a dog (particularly Goldens) will not run to you as keenly or strongly with a dummy, as they do for a normal recall.  It is important that they learn to do this from the start and they may need extra encouragement.  In Retrieving Trials style is important.

 Some tips; raise the pitch of voice and level of excitement, run backwards until the dogs breaks in to a run.  Also, only occasionally take the dummy from the dog straight after the recall.  Let it hold it for 10-20 seconds and it will usually just give it up, without it even being aware, as it is lavished with praise for doing a good recall.  Sometimes, step back and repeat the exercise without taking the dummy.  Sometimes after the recall, play the game of give, hold, and take, Don't make it go to the heel position.  This can come later.  Mix up the routine as much as possible.  Apart from making it fun for the dog, if you are too predictable the dog may develop bad habits such as dropping the dummy when it gets to you because it expects that you want it, or not running to you because you will take the dummy.  If the dog does drop the dummy don't scold it.  It may interpret that the reprimand is for doing the retrieve.  Pick up the dummy, place it in the dogís mouth with the 'hold' instruction and encourage it to you.

 Sometimes dogs do not want to come with the dummy.  They may be confused about what is required, so reduce the distance.  Some dogs think itís a game of keepings off and will try to make you chase them.  Try to avoid this at all costs, although with an older or dominant dog it may be necessary to chase and scold it.  Alternatively, tie some light cord around its neck and as you call it in reel in the cord so that the dog comes to you.  If you have problems, which are not solved by the above techniques, it is recommended that you seek advice from a member of the working dog subcommittee.

 Once your dog is doing the 'come' with the dummy, the next move is to have the dog at heel and either you or someone else throws the dummy.  Wait until the dummy comes to a complete stop before you tell the dog to 'fetch'.  As the dog comes to you with the dummy, remember to use all the techniques you used with the 'come' exercise.  If the dog goes before it is sent (breaks), don't scold it.  Once again, it may think you don't want it to retrieve and will become confused, slow or disinterested.  If this occurs kneel down and gently hold the dog around the shoulders and have someone else throw the dummy.  The dog may struggle for a few seconds.  The instant you feel it relax, let it go with the 'fetch' command.  It generally won't take long to correct this fault.  Also, try to vary the time period before you send the dog so it doesn't anticipate your instruction.  Don't worry too much about this fault with a young dog - enthusiasm is a wonderful attribute, which should not be discouraged.  



 The purpose of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs  is to determine the relative merits of purebred retrievers in the field.  The tests are designed to simulate as near as possible the conditions for which the dogs were bred.  Since trials are a simulation, no game is actually shot.  The dogs are tested on both land and water on sighted (marks) and unsighted (blind) retrieves.

 The function of a Retriever is to find and retrieve "fallen" game under all conditions when ordered to do so.  He should walk at heel and sit quietly on command, and when sent, should retrieve briskly and deliver gently to hand. Dogs are judged for their natural abilities, including memory, intelligence, attention, nose, courage, perseverance and style, as well as for the skills acquired through training, including steadiness, control, responses to direction, and delivery, and the ability to retrieve under all conditions.  Game must not be damaged or retrieved without having been ordered to do so.  A dog, which has all of these attributes, is of great value to its handler and a credit to its breed.

 On a marked retrieve the dog is expected to mark the line and depth of the fall of the bird. When instructed by the handler take a straight a line as possible and complete the exercise without instruction from the handler. For a blind retrieve a bird is hidden from view of the dog, however the handler knows the placement.  On a blind retrieve the dog must obey their handler by taking a line to the bird, by stopping to the whistle to take direction to the right or left, back or return.  The handler of the dog is also under judgement and must not touch his dog or exhibit unsportsmanlike conduct.

 A Retrieving Trial is open to all breeds of Gundogs.  Trials consist of four Stakes with graduated degrees of difficulty and eligibility requirements for the dog.  The first level, or Beginners Stake, includes two runs with marks of 50 to 60 metres, one across water and one on land over natural obstacles. The Novice Stake has three runs.  Each is a mark of about 80 metres; one on land, one across water, and another in water, with natural obstacles to test marking ability.  The first time that a dog completes all three retrieves it is eligible for a Qualifying Certificate (QC).  When a dog has won three Novice Stakes it becomes mandatory to compete at the next level of competition.

The next level is the Restricted Stake, which has runs of about 80 metres but may include up to two birds on each run and may include such things as 'double rises' and 'walk-ups'.  Dogs must always pick up each bird in the order directed by the judge.  When a dog has won three of these Stakes it is mandatory to compete in All Age. In the All-Age Stake, a dog must complete three runs with up to three-birds in each run.  Distances. May be up to 150 metres and the runs are more testing and complex than in the more.  A dog is eliminated from competition if it fails to locate the bird in a reasonable time, or picks up any bird out of order.

The winner of an All Age event receives six championship points and when it has earned twelve championship points is entitled to be called a 'Retrieving Trial Champion'.  A dog may trial for a long time to earn those elusive first places, and they are well deserved since they must compete against 'titled' dogs, which can dominate the placings for years.


 Goldens perform well in obedience trials as they have been bred to work with man.  They are high on the list of "trainable breeds" and are one of the most stylish breeds to watch when working.  We have an active breed that are happiest when they are working and obedience is a great way to occupy them whilst also making them even more enjoyable to have around.

 The awards available in Obedience and the names of the exercises are:

             Novice Class            Open Class            Utility Class

            Heel on lead                    Heel Free            Seek back

            Stand for examination            Stand free for examination            Directed Jumping

            Heel Free                        Drop on recall     Scent Discrimination

            Stand Stay                      Retrieve dumbbell on flat       Signal Exercise   

            Recall                              Retrieve dumbbell over high jump            Speak on command,

            1 min Sit Stay                  Broadjump          or Food Refusal,

            3 min Down Stay 3 min Sit Stay handler out of sight            Directed Retrieve

    5 min Down Stay handler out of sight            Group Examination min down stays handler out of Sight

 CD - Companion Dog       CDX - Companion Dog Excellent     UD - Utility Dog

 Note that there is also an Encouragement class, which is as for Novice except there is no heel free and no recall.

Encouragement class does not have an award; its purpose is to give inexperienced trialers and introduction.  Encouragement class is not offered at all trials.

 The exercises to be performed in Obedience Trials can be found in the appropriate rule booklet available from the VCA for a small fee.  It is important to read the miscellaneous sections of this booklet, not just the part applicable to the class you wish to enter.  Much information relating to your conduct in the ring is found in these sections. For each class level there is 200 points available, you must score 170 or more to pass.  You must also get at least 50% of the allocated points for every exercise, so you can't fail one exercise completely and make up the points somewhere else.  You need three passes under at least 2 different judges to obtain each title.

Obedience trials have a single check in time for all entrants.  You must be checked in and have your bitch vetted (some clubs also vet dogs, make sure you check) prior to the close of the allocated check in time.  The check in time normally closes about 30 minutes before the trial starts.

 Prior to the start of the trial determine which ring you are in.  Check with the steward for your ring to see if any dogs have been scratched or handlers are in other rings, these occurrences can dramatically change the expected time for you to be ready with your dog.  Handlers with dogs in more than one ring can be judged out of order.

When in the ring, LISTEN very carefully to the judge and do exactly what you are told...      no more, no less!

And remember... you're out there as a team to have fun.  There'll always be another day to trial, but your relationship with your dog should never suffer due to perceived poor performance in the ring.




 A dominant dog is generally one that thinks it is the leader of the pack.  Sometimes it will accept that it is not the leader, but the second in charge.  So instead of dominating the entire household it might behave for one person (generally the "man of the house" or person who trains it the most), but run riot for other family members and usually visitors as wen.  This type of behaviour is more likely to occur in dogs than bitches and happens less frequently in the breeds that are bred for their desire to work with man (i.e. Golden Retrievers).  However that does not mean to say that bitches in general and goldens in particular do not ever have the problem.  Just that it is seen less often than in other categories of dogs, Dominant dogs behave in a manner that we see as unacceptable, however from the dog's perspective it is only behaving as the pack leader should.  What is required to turn your dog into an acceptable member of the household is for the dog to be relegated to the bottom of the pack and to behave according to it's new status.

 How do 1 know if my dog is dominant?

Have a look at the following list:

The dog will not allow physical handling; i.e. brushing, bathing and veterinary visits are difficult.  The dog will either actively avoid the situation (not allow itself to be caught, or constantly wriggle) or will act aggressively when placed in the situation (baring teeth, growling, staring you down, etc.)

The dog constantly jumps on people

The dog growls when in possession of toys, food bowl or other items it wishes to defend The dog acts aggressively when you approach it's sleeping area

The dog acts aggressively when you approach it when itís sleeping anywhere.

There are times when you are scared of the dog (afraid to approach the dog, or remove a toy)

The dog growls (other than in play), stares you down, and bares its teeth, snaps (with or without contact).  The dog constantly drags you along on the lead (other than a pup that hasn't learnt better).

 You may recognise one or more of these items as applicable to your situation.  It's conceivable that you are prepared to live with the behaviour, for instance if your dog only jumps, or only wriggles at bath time.

However if more than one item from this list is familiar or if you are ever scared to approach the dog, it's a fairly safe bet that you have a domination problem.

 Resolution - Theory

 Resolution revolves around the need to get the dog to accept its placement as bottom of the household pack.  Note that there is generally no need for what are perceived as "violent" measures, it's purely a matter of retraining the dog to behave in a desirable manner once the underlying cause of dominance is understood.

There is no "quick fix" for this problem, the dog will no instantly accept that it has a new, lower, status and behave accordingly. 

Everyone in the household must be prepared to reassess the way they interact with the dog and ensure that any behaviour that is likely to be perceived by the dog as strengthening it's position, is not indulged.  Inconsistent behaviour from different household members will be detrimental to the long-term resolution of the problem.

 Resolution - Practice

The following are some ways to get started with redefining your dogs (bottom of the) pack status:

DO: -

      Always feed the dog after all members of the family have eaten

      Ensure that the dog has a designated area in the house (do not allow it the freedom to roam around all rooms).  Ensure that it stays in the area. 1 recommend that a mat is supplied and the dog is required to stay upon it.  If it won't stay there, isolate it preferably outside.  Eventually it will prefer to stay on the mat than be isolated.

.      Ignore the dog when it solicits attention, give it attention only when you choose to

      Ensure that the dog is fed by the person that is most dominated by it

      Teach the dog to drop and command him into that position whenever he acts aggressively.

      Ensure he drops before being fed.  Break his meal into smaller portions and make him drop before allowing him to cat each portion.  If he won't drop, don't feed him (don't physically force him to drop).  Wait an hour and try again.  A hungry dog is more likely to want to please, and getting the dog to assume the position of its own volition is more effective (and less dangerous!) than forcing him down.

      Reward the dog for allowing its food to be removed by adding something extra nice to the removed bowl and immediately replacing it.  The dog will learn that removing the bowl is not a threatening occurrence.

      Teach the dog "give" and reward it's "giving" with something better than the original item ... a nicer toy, food, a retrieve etc.

.      Leave a collar and long lead (say 12 feet) on the dog when it is supervised.  If it misbehaves you are able to correct it without having to go too close and risking exacerbating the situation.  For instance if the dog won't remain on its mat, you are able to grab the lead and drag the dog to the isolation area (preferably outside).

      Ensure that the dog always waits for people to go through doorways first

.       regularly touch your dog all over or groom it.  Reward any progress    towards compliance.


      Never allow the dog to jump on anyone.

      Do not play "tug of war" games with the dog; the dominant dog sees this as a surreptitious way to gain supremacy.  It's not a game, its warfare.  If the dog wins he moves another rung up the pack hierarchy.

      Do not attempt to physically dominate the dog (i.e. rolling it over, taking it's toy, forcing it to be brushed) unless you are working under the supervision/instruction of an experienced problem dog instructor.  There is every possibility that a dog that previously was content to warn you not to come closer, will decide that you are too much of a threat and launch a full blown attack.  Never take the risk.  If the dog behaves inappropriately, isolate it.  As a pack animal isolation is one of the best tactics with dominant dogs.  Do not allow the dog out of isolation until it is willing to drop on command.


      Do not, under any circumstances, allow the dog in your sleeping area

      Do not avoid it's sleeping area, make an effort to regularly walk through it's bedding even pick it up by day and put it somewhere out of reach

      Do not allow the dog to pull on the lead when walking.  Whenever the dog pulls on the lead, stop.  Do not allow forward progress until the dog decides to walk at your pace.

      Do not allow the dog to "own" property (i.e. toys).  You may give it a toy when you choose, remove it when you consider that the play session has ended.

Many of these actions may seem draconian, however they are necessary for a truly dominant dog.  Use your common sense and know your own dog, such strict measures may not be necessary with a pup that is just "testing the limits".  However always be aware that any dog, even a pup, can be slowly climbing the pack hierarchy without your being aware of it.  It is an easier problem to nip in the bud than resolve afterwards.

Further Information?

Many dog training and behaviour books have advice on dealing with dominant dogs.  If at any time you are overly concerned about your dog's behaviour particularly regarding aggressive behaviour, do not hesitate to contact a professional problem dog trainer.

                                 Training Puppies

Your new pup has arrived and the household is all excited.  It is important before the pup arrives to establish the ground rules with the family.  Obviously house rules and manners for the pup need to be defined i.e. Is the pup allowed in the house, if so which rooms, who will feed and oversee training etc.  You must have uniform rules so that consistency is maintained and the pup does not become confused.  After the pup has the general rules in its mind you can start with the basic retrieving training.

 Most queries I receive are from owners who want to correct problems now the dog is older, so lets get it right first time around.  Then all we have to do is re- enforce it from time to time.

 As a general rule if you want your dog to retrieve.

No tug of war games with the pup.  This will make the pup reluctant to give up the retrieved article.

 No Ball they will soon learn to drop the ball and chase it as it rolls down the path.

 No sticks or foreign objects to retrieve. (However in the early training an article they love to carry is OK.  A dog that has retrieved sticks in their endeavours to please you while retrieving may pick up a stick instead of the required item.

 Keep it short and simple.

 Now the fun begins.  We must not do any formal training with our pup.  All training should be done in a playful manner.  I have found the best place to train a pup is while you are on the floor or ground.  Do not tower over him.  Most pups love to jump on you and bite your ears, take advantage of this time and bond with him and slip a little training in.  By now there will be an object in the house the pup loves to carry.  Using this object, tease him with it, excite him, and let him grab it.  The sit, come, hold and give, fetch command can all be introduced in this playful period.  The object the pup is to retrieve should be a suitable size and weight.  He will become bored quickly so don't over do it, and make sure the pup is not tired before you start.


The building blocks

It is important for puppies to start learning household rules and basic etiquette from the moment they come home.  Having said that, it is even more important that the dog is raised in a positive environment where it obeys out of a desire to please you rather than out of fear.  A fearful dog will not be nearly as pleasant a dog, and will not learn as much or as quickly as one that's treated as a member of the family from the start, that includes a measure of discipline, understanding and love.  There is an awful lot of "teaching" that can be done in the guise of games for the pup, and we all know they love to play!

 Toilet training

Toilet training should not be difficult.  This trick is not in punishing the accidents but preventing them from occurring.  Puppies need to go out after eating and playing and immediately upon waking.  They should be taken out immediately after these events, 5 minutes later is too late.  They should also be taken out every 20 or 30 minutes that they are in the house.  This should ensure that the pup is given plenty of opportunities to perform in the required area and reduce the chances of accidents occurring in the house.  When the pup is in the desired area (try an encourage the dog to stay in the  one area of the garden to make avoiding "the landmines easier") encourage it to perform by using a simple word in a gentle tone.  Make sure it's a word that won't be used in another context (the guide dogs use "quick" which has numerous other applications and can be confusing) and repeat it until the pup performs.  When it performs make sure you tell it what a clever puppy it is... even if you have had to wait 10 minutes in the rain!  Don't just lob the dog outside and hope for the best, it will most probably hang around the back door and wait to be let back in.  Should an accident occur in the house, do NOT "rub the dogs nose in it", hit the dog (with a newspaper or anything else), or reprimand the pup harshly.  Make some disapproving noises along the lines of "Yuck, I'll need to clean that up" as you take the pup outside.  I don't believe in repeating the chosen word as you put it out, it's clearly not going to perform (having just emptied on the carpet) so why give it a command that you know will be ignored?  Putting the dog out with a few quiet disapproving words will help to let it know that the action was unpopular, the isolation (which doesn't have to last long) will reinforce the words.  Remember that if the dog had an accident in the house it means that you didn't take it out often enough.  Be more diligent and the training will take care of itself, pups will naturally prefer to go to the toilet outside.


This need not be taught in the formal obedience competition sense of making the dog come in, sit and then be sent to heel.  For the household dog all that matters is that the dog reliably returns close enough to be put on lead whenever called.  Like everything else we do with the pup, we take this in nice small steps and try to build on success rather than push to the point of failure.  Have another member of the family hold the puppy while you show it the food bowl (complete with food!) and walk away a short distance.  You call the dog while the other person lets it go, praise the pup and allow it to have the food when it arrives.  You can use a favourite toy or small food treats to encourage the dog to come to you throughout the day.  Always try to do it with young pup when he is already paying attention, this increases the chance that he will come.  Make sure you call him in an encouraging tone and bend down to make yourself a less dominating shape.  Always praise the dog when he comes.  Never call the dog to you to reprimand it for something else, coming to you should always be a pleasant experience for the dog (if you must the, go and get it).  Increase the degree of difficulty of the recall slowly.  At first do it only in the house or yard when you have food or a toy and the dog is paying attention.  Then try it when the dog is wandering vaguely around but not absorbed in another activity, then graduate to having the toy or food available intermittently (vary the availability of it to keep the dog on it's toes).  Then start calling the dog when it is busy with something else, then move to the local park and go back to no distractions and regular reward etc.  Take it slowly, the dog should be praised for success rather than berated for failure.  Be sure to build good foundations for future behaviour.

 Sitting for food

Whenever you are feeding the pup, make sure that it sits before eating.  This is just a quick way to teach the dog a little self-restraint and respect for people.  With very young pups 1 raise a piece of food quickly up past their noses above the level they can reach (of it's too close they'll jump at it) as 1 say "sit" in a commanding but not threatening tone.  This will tend to raise their head, and the bottom will hopefully fall to the floor.  As soon as this occurs (don't make pups wait) praise the dog, release it with a command like "OK" and put the bowl down.  As the pup gets older start to wait a bit before praising and eventually get the dog to stay while the bowl is placed on the floor.

 Lead training

It is important that the pup not associate any nasty experiences with you, so we don't want to get involved in the old "hooked fish" dragging of the petrified pup routine.  The simplest way to lead train the puppy is to let the pup do the work.  Attach a very light lead to the pups fixed collar and let it drag it around for a while under supervision, never leave the lead on when the pup is left alone in case it gets caught and he chokes.  Pup will probably chew on it for a while and step on it and trip over a few times.  But after a couple of sessions of about an hour he will pretty much ignore it.  This works really well if you have another dog, they will play and get the lead tangled and the pup will learn that the lead is just part of life without having anything nasty happen.  Do 1 or 2 sessions a day of this for about 3 days before you try to lead the pup anywhere.  Initially make sure the pup is going in the direction you want.  Maybe have another family member put the food down as you approach with the pup on lead.  He'll be less concerned about the lead than his dinner!  Have the pup on his lead and use a toy in your free hand to get his attention to stop him trying to move away and hence dragging against the lead.  Again, it's easier to avoid the problem than fix it, associate his early lead experiences with pleasant things and all should go well.

 Leave it!

This is essential as an early puppy lesson.  How many times has the puppy picked up something he shouldn't have?  After all, they are Golden Retrievers!  It's much easier to teach the dog to "leave it" than chase him and make it a game in his eyes, and most probably damage the item as well.  Once again we go for the "softly, softly" approach.  There is no need to be excessively harsh with your treatment of the pup to teach "leave it", or grab things roughly from him. Goldens should have a tender mouth and as such it should be treated gently.  Ensure that the pup always has a number of his playthings available to reduce the chances of. His looking upon forbidden items as toys, these items should be as varied as possible. I.e. things that roll, squeak, are soft or hard, rattle etc.  If the pup should grab something that is not his do NOT reprimand him, or grab it from his mouth.  Quickly pick up one of his own toys and try to make a swap.  Make the item you are holding seem really inviting, make it move while saying "Ohhhhhhh, looky what I've got.  This is Muuuuch more fun!" in a really endearing tone.  Most times the pup will drop what he's got to grab your item. The pup will eventually learn which are his items and which he should leave alone.  As he seems to get the hang of the swapping. game, introduce the "leave it" command.  Tell him to "leave it" whilst initiating the swap routine.  Remember that pups need to learn and explore, if you have items of value around... keep them away from the puppy.  Young pups can't be expected to learn all the rules of etiquette instantly, any more than young children can.  There is a period when they are learning the rules, and you must be patient and vigilant during that time.  It's no more his fault for picking up something you left lying around than it is when he has an accident because you forgot to take him outside.

 Don't jump

The pup should be encouraged to keep all four feet on the ground, not only to protect people (remember pups grow up ... big!) but also to protect the growing bone structure from too much stress.  This is easily achieved by crouching down when greeting the pup so there is no need for him to jump.  Keep you hands low to encourage the pup to remain at that level. If the pup jumps, there is no need to reprimand it ... remembers we want all of p

Pups experiences with us to be positive.  We need to find a physical way for the pup to be discouraged from jumping, without being too rough.  The old "knee the dog in the chest", "pinch his front feet" and "stand on his back toes" routines are out.  The trick is for the pup to learn that one of the facts of life is that people are a funny shape and if they jump up they will encounter discomfort, just as they learn not to walk off the edge of the veranda because that big drop hurts.  If we reprimand the dog at the same time as giving the physical discomfort, the dog will think we meant to harm it.  So if the dog jumps, put your knee or arm out in such a way that you are not moving it towards the dog, but he runs into it.  If you hold the limb still and keep quiet, the pup will accept it as one of natureís peculiar ways and learn to avoid the situation, by staying at floor level.

ďRecallĒ Coming when called


Many of us, especially those involved in obedience, think of a recall as a specific exercise where the dog must stay, then come when called and sit in front, then move around behind the handler and sit at the left side.  However for most dog owners a recall is the action of the dog stopping whatever it's doing and returning to the owner.

This applies whether you are walking the dog at the park, participating in a retrieving or field trial, out shooting on a swamp, or calling your dog for his dinner.

It is important that the dog should learn to come immediately when it is called for a number of reasons:

*     To stop it from harassing other people/dogs in suburbia

*     To ensure it doesn't interfere with another dog that is working in competition (Field Trials)

*     To stop it from getting into miscellaneous trouble (e.g. running on the road)

*     To make sure it doesn't get shot in rural areas for chasing stock etc.

*     So that it comes back to you after retrieving an item, be it game at a Field/Retrieving/Obedience trial, or it's frisbee at the park

*     as a compulsory exercise in Obedience Trials

The bottom line is that the dog comes when called is not going to be a public nuisance or a danger to itself or others.

 The usual scenario

The owner takes the dog for a walk and lets it off the lead at the local park.  The dog happily runs around and has a sniff until it sees another person (or dog).  The dog then shoots off to the other person to see what they're up to.  The owner calls the dog, which has suddenly gone completely deaf and can't hear the call!  The dog is now jumping all over the other person who is, justifiably, unimpressed.  The dogís owner is completely embarrassed by the dogís behaviour and gets more threatening with the commands.  Finally the owner catches the dog, puts it on lead and proceeds to correct it both verbally and physically to punish it for it's performance.

Does this sound all too familiar?

 The dogs train of thought

Lets look at the above scenario from the dogís point of view:

He's having his sniff, the only bit of freedom in his daily walk, when he sees someone new.  We all know that someone new in Golden Retriever language means "Someone who hasn't had the pleasure of playing with me yet!Ē  So the dog goes zooming over to get acquainted with this new playmate.  He hears the owner calling and thinks, "I have two options. 1 can go and play with this exciting new person, or 1 can go back and be put on lead (by my boring owner that 1 see all the time) to be taken back home".  Naturally, the dog takes the first option and keeps going.  While he's "playing" his owner is getting angrier and the dog is starting to get worried about the consequences of returning.  "Oh boy, she sounds really mad now.  If I go back I'm going to cop it".  Eventually when he's caught and gets corrected he's thinking, "I knew this going back on lead business was trouble.  As soon as the lead goes on I'm in strife.  Next time 1 won't be caught".


The secret to recalls

There is only one reason that the dog does not return to its owner promptly.  Pay attention here, it's the most important point in the whole article:

                 The dog has to want to come to you more than

Anything else in the world

 Read that point again please, it's really important.  The reason dogs don't come back when you call them is that you are not interesting enough to them.  Doesn't the truth hurt?  You are boring to your dog and he'd rather be doing something else (anything else) than being with you.  OK, we're done with the nasty bits now.  Take a deep breath and find out how we're going to fix the problem.

 Training for beautiful recalls

The bottom line is that we have to make coming to us the most enjoyable thing the dog can do.  Obviously this will mean different things to each dog and owner.  However we can make some generalisations and also offer some Doís and Doníts for all dogs.  Note that there is no "quick fix" when you come to recalls it's a matter of completely retraining the dog.  The more bad habits he started with, the longer it will take to fix them.

 One of the reasons that dogs don't come when called is that they are only ever called when one of two events occur: It's time to go home, or something exciting happens (a dog, or person arrives) that they then miss out on.  They make a negative association with the recall.  You need to break this cycle by calling the dog when only pleasant things will occur.  Try taking the dog to a safe area (a fenced, footy oval is perfect) and letting it off lead.  Plan to spend an hour at the designated area.  Bring a whole variety of doggy bribes, these can be food or toys.  Whatever your dog likes best is what we're after, if that's his big fluffy Humphrey B Bear toy ... then so be it! The idea is to let the dog run off some steam for a while, so just let him run free for 5 or 1 0 minutes.  Then call him in, be prepared that he will act as usual and probably ignore you.  Do not reprimand the dog for failure to obey.  At this point we're trying to make it fun for him, so find a way to encourage him in.  Raise the pitch (not the tone!) of your voice, do some star jumps, throw yourself to the ground suddenly, throw his toy in the air.  Whatever it takes to get him to come in, even if you have to make a complete fool of yourself Remember that a dog is always more likely to come in if you are not so tall, kneel down and encourage him with open arms.  When he eventually arrives, reward him big time.  Make out that he's just won CRUFTS and the National Retrieving Trial Championships in the last 5 minutes!  Use your food or toy and make out that he's the cleverest dog on the planet.  Yes, even if it took 15 minutes to get him to come to you.  To start with we take ANY progress as an earth-shattering win.  This should be less painful with a puppy as they are naturally more inquisitive and also have not learned the negative associations to start with.  Having made a big fuss of the dog, allow him to run free again and keep repeating the whole procedure at regular intervals.  He should be more responsive as time goes on, as he's teaming to make new, positive, associations with the whole business.  It might help to change the command if he seems to droop whenever you use the old one.  Try "Here" instead of "Come".  As he comes in more regularly, praise him verbally and get him to sit before using your other reward.  Occasionally snap the lead on him when he's sitting, praise him and then take the lead off again and release the dog.  Obviously sometimes when you snap the lead on, it's time to go home.  But make sure that's not the only time the lead goes on, or again the dog will come to associate the lead with the end of his freedom and rebel against it.


*     Praise your dog and make a fuss of him when he comes.

*   Remember that you must build up slowly.  Take slow steps to success.  A dog that comes to you today for the first time on a vacant footy oval is not going to come to you tomorrow in a park full of other dogs.

*     Write down a list of the steps you need to undertake and the order in which you will tackle them. I.e. come in the back yard, come at the park with no distractions, come at the park with another dog in the far distance etc. This serves two purposes: it gives you a clear direction, and gives you something to tick off when you're happy with the item (thereby allowing you to 'see' your progress).

*     Use an extendible lead when you are ready to start training amongst distractions.  Don't use it to correct the dog, just to stop him from nicking off.  Keep calling whilst allowing the dog to only move in your direction.  He still needs to make the decision to come in so don't reel him in like a fish.

*   Sometimes let the dog know you've got his reward and have someone else hold him (or get him to stay if he's reliable).  Walk a reasonable distance (start with 30 feet) and clearly display the reward whilst calling the dog.  Let him leap up and grab it from your hand when he arrives.  This exercise should speed him up.  Increase the distance to increase the speed.  Don't do this too often from a "stay" or he will start to break all his stays.


      Don't ever reprimand the dog when it comes to you.

      Don't ever call the dog to you for punishment for any deed (go and catch him if you must punish).

      Don't think the problem is "fixed".  You must continually train the dog to expect positive things from you, to ensure he does not revert to old habits.  Vary when he gets the reward so he never knows whether to expect it or not.  Dogs are optimistic, if in doubt they'll hope you've got the reward!  Also vary the reward to keep him guessing!


 Like most of dog training, teaching your dog to "Hold" and "Give" an item is purely repetition. However some dogs will make harder work of it than others.

 ∑      You will need a training dummy (described in previous newsletters) which should be used for nothing other than training, i.e. no playing tug-of-war etc.

       You will need to use clear and distinctly different voice tones for correction and praise.

       You must be consistent with your commands.

       You must ensure the dog carries out your commands, always followed by enormous amounts of praise.

 Below are some of the more common problems, together with some training methods you may like to try?

 1 .  Q:    My dog refuses to pick up a dummy I've thrown for him.

 A:     There are a number of ways to get your dog to pick up a dummy.

First of all try to entice the dog into picking it up by exciting it.  Playfully run up to the dummy with the dog, gently kicking the dummy along several times, all the time telling the dog to fetch it.  Try to refrain from picking it up yourself.  Should the dog. pick up the dummy, immediately turn to the dog, crouching down, pouring on the praise, open arms, saying come.  You can build on the actual retrieve by taking a few steps back after the dog has the dummy, then crouching down to take delivery.

 If your dog refuses to pick up the dummy, find an article you know your dog will pick up, e.g. an old sock that you can put over your dummy, or perhaps an old sock over a tennis ball.  Run through the same procedure.  If you have success, end the training session there (on a good note) and continue the same later.  Once competent with this you can gradually go back to the dummy.

 2.    Q:     My dog will retrieve a dummy, but drops it in front of me.

 A:    We must teach our dog the command to "Hold'.

Training the dog for this exercise does not need to be a formal trip to the park or favourite training spot.  It is best carried out with short regular training sessions in or around the home with the dog right in front of you.  First, place the dummy in the dogs mouth, whilst telling the dog to "Hold".

 If the dog refuses to open its mouth you can encourage it by gripping the lower jaw with one hand, working the forefinger and thumb into the dogs mouth, the only objective being to get the dog to open its mouth.  Once the mouth opens, with the other hand place the dummy in the dogís mouth.  Immediately begin to praise the dog and gently stroke under the jaw and neck, whilst commanding to hold.  Stroking the dog in this way, will tend to make the dog lift its head, thus reducing the risk if the dog dropping the dummy.  You may then command the dog to "Give" and proceed to take the dummy from the dog.  If the dog tries to drop the dummy before the "Give" command, you must immediately change the tone of your voice to a harsher corrective tone and place the dummy back in the dogís mouth, again commanding the dog to "Hold".  Repeat this exercise several times and try to finish on a happy note.

 3.    Q:    My dog will pick up and return with a dummy, but refuses to release it.

 A:     Again, this can be resolved at home.

With the dog in front of you (preferably sitting), command the dog to "Hold" whilst giving it the dummy.  Pause, and if necessary stroke the dog under the jaw 1 neck, then command the dog to "Give".  Should the dog refuse to release the dummy, you will need to encourage the dog to open its mouth.

 Some options are:

        To offer the dog another item such as its favourite toy.

        To offer the dog food.

  To place the hand over the dogs muzzle gently squeezing the jowls.  This will not harm the dog, only discomfort the dog enough to release the dummy.

 This method is extremely effective as:

 a. It doesn't focus the dog's attention on what's in your pocket or behind your back.

 b.            When the dog is praised straight away, it will quickly forget about any discomfort.  It knows exactly what it is being praised for, and will quickly associate releasing the dummy with the command give.

 You will no doubt encounter other problems along the way.  The key is persistence.  When you finally succeed, the rewards far exceed the effort.

 Basic Obedience Training

The single most important point.

     Most training 'faults ď are caused by the handler, not the dog.

 The more you are involved in training dogs for any type of activity, the more this quote is proven to be correct.  If you accept the validity of this statement, you are well on the way to resolving the problem.  If you do not accept it, you will probably not address the actual root cause of the problem and are unlikely to successfully resolve it.

 The building blocks

It is always easier to tone down an over-exuberant dog in the long run than it is to try and re-invigorate a dog that has learnt that training is dull and boring.  To this end, it is important that all training sessions be performed when both dog and handler are enthusiastic.  With a dog that is really over the top you might want to wear him/her out a bit (with a walk) before you start as it is difficult for a dog that's leaping out of it's skin to pay attention for any useful amount of time.

Ensure that you are working with the dog to try to achieve a common goal, if something is not working look at it objectively to work out why.  Don't just punish the dog on the presumption that it's only doing it to upset you.

Try to lean towards praising the good rather than punishing the 'bad'.  This will produce a dog that is not scared (through fear of punishment) to try different ways to approach a problem.  Such a dog will eventually hit upon success and be rewarded with your praise, and hence know the appropriate action next time.  The attempts prior to the successful one are not 'failures', merely experiments.

Use the minimum of force to teach your dog a new task.  It will learn quicker if it 'chooses' to perform a particular action than if you physically manipulate it into the same position.

Always praise your dog for the successful performance of a task, even if the performance is fleeting. Eg if you have had trouble getting the dog to sit and it finally does sit for half a second before leaping up; you must be ready to praise during the half second!  There is no incentive for the dog to perform other than your praise/reward.

 Voice control and training sequence

There are three main ways to verbally communicate with your dog when training, and each has it's own tone.  Always command the dog first; if it responds correctly then praise it.  If it does not respond correctly (you must be sure he/she knows the exercise) then correct the dog.  Always finish with praise when the exercise is performed satisfactorily.


When commanding the dog to perform an action, use a tone that carries authority but not threat, or request.  You are telling the dog which action you would like performed, nothing else.


Should the trained dog fail to respond, you should use a sterner tone that leaves the dog in no doubt that you are displeased.  This does not need to be any louder than your command; volume is not the issue

(Louder never makes you more right!).


When praising the dog, your tone should be much brighter and fun-filled.  The dog must know that he's performed correctly and that this makes you very happy.  Hopefully he will try to reproduce this reaction in you by performing correctly every time you give the command!

 Command Timing

Note that in the following exercises 1 generally recommend that you get the dog performing the action before introducing the word for it.  There are a few reasons for this: We really want the dog to concentrate on learning the exercise, excess stimulation (including verbal commands) can detract from this ability to focus.  Also if the dog should not perform the exercise, or perform it differently to what we would like, he is learning to either ignore the command or associate it with the wrong activity.  If we wait until the action is correct we resolve both problems. After the initial learning is complete, the dog can afford to be less focussed on the actual action and listen to our command.  Also we associate the correct action with the command.


Have the dog standing in front of you and get its attention with a "lure" (toy, snack).  Make a motion with your hand starting near the dogs nose (so he knows the lure is there) and going up over and partly behind his head.  The dog will spin his muzzle upward in an attempt to grab the lure.  Experiment with the best hand movement to get your dog to sit rather than just jump at the lure.  It is important to move the lure not only straight up (you only need to be a couple of inches above his head) but also back in the direction of the dogs tail this should stop them from jumping up.  As soon as the dog sits, praise it profusely and allow it to have the lure as reward.  Do not add the verbal command "sit" until your hand movement produces the required action from the dog on a regular basis.


This can be taught from either the standing or sitting position, sitting is generally easier as the dog is under a bit more control to stair with.  This is almost the opposite to teaching the dog to sit.  Have the dog in front of you and, with the lure in your hand, sweep your hand down to floor level and 'm towards the dogs chest.  At first praise/reward getting the front end down, but eventually the aim is to get the whole dog down.  When the front end of the dog goes down, leave your hand (containing the lure) on the floor for a few seconds.  The dog will tire of this position and the back end will also go down.  When this happens, heap the praise and give the lure reward.  Again, don't bother with the command until the dog will perform the action.


Stand can be a little difficult to teach, as the dog often doesn't understand what it did that is right. Itís just standing there and you praise it!  Repetition is the key.  Quietly command the dog to stand, and immediately praise it in this position.  The dog needn't be beside you; it can stand anywhere at first.  We're more concerned with teaching the action than the best position for it at this stage.  Gradually extend the length of time that you expect the dog to stand, and praise it when this time has expired.


As with all other exercises Stay need not initially be taught relative to a particular handler stance. le the dog can stay at any distance, in any direction from the handler, not necessarily in front or beside.  The easiest way to do this is to have the dog sit and gradually increase the amount of time it has to sit before you praise and release it from the exercise.  Introduce the word stay when the dog seems to have the idea that it should not move until you tell it.  Make sure you say the stay command quietly, too much enthusiasm will cause the dog to get up.  Use a gentle command to receive a steady response.


Use the lure to encourage the dog to the correct position by your side as you are walking, praise/reward the dog.  The dog should learn to vary it's pace to keep up with you, and perform the other exercises in the heel position.  If they were introduced already this should not be difficult.


Over the years it has been said obedience has no place at Non Slip Retrieving Trials.  Perhaps it is true of the confined restricted obedience work seen at obedience trials but on viewing the All Age Section at Retrieving Trials, no one could doubt obedience is the foundation of the partnership between the handler and the dog.Obedience clubs recommend that you allow your dog to 'run free' by removing the correction chain but all gun dogs should be taught to stay in working mode even without the chain.  At the starting peg at Retrieving Trials you are asked to remove the lead but as this means the lead, correction chain and any leather collars your dog must be trained to work without them.  It is dangerous to run a dog in the bush or to swim while wearing anything that could be snagged.

Your dog must be quiet in 'the hide'.  Teach him at an early age to be tethered up out of sight and build up the period of time you leave him.  You may watch other competitors complete their runs but your dog must be completely out of sight.  To see a marked bird from 'the hide' rather than the firing peg will totally confuse your dog and you could be accused of trying to cheat!

Plan your heeling pattern from the starting peg to the firing pegs.  Allow your dog to walk on the flat straight area while you walk through the tussocks and over the rocks because your dog won't walk through; he will walk around and you will lose points for him wandering all over the place.  On steep slopes or through fences etc, leave the dog on a sit stay.  Navigate the awkward area and then call him to heel.

A dog taught to walk neatly beside the left leg will have the benefit of being in the correct position to be nicelv set up at the firing pegs. Any dog lunging lead Will be well past the firing pegs before the handler even gets there.  During training try to overcome this by walking up on lead or doing a quick right about turn and walking away.  The dog is left out there all by himself with nothing happening.  A dog walking wide could end up outside the firing peg, so try stepping to the right and calling him to heel during training.

If a dog is not in the correct position at the pegs, bring him to heel without touching the dog and remember, the judge will not wait forever.  It is not mandatory for the dog to be in the sit position but it is recommended.  In the drop position the dog won't see much and it is easier for the dog to break from the standing position.  Should he break before your command of 'fetch', stop him by whistle or a very loud voice and then send him only when you are sure you have gained control.  Points are lost for a dog breaking but less are deducted if you can stop him. Sit the dog's whole body in the direction of the mark; not just his nose.  Use the word 'wait' or 'stay' and teach him that 'watch' means look out ahead in the direction the gun is pointing.  When the dog returns with the bird encourage him to sit (or stand) close in front of you.  Never lean out over him or he will stay further away.  Any bird dropped should be picked up by him.  Do a right about turn while the dog is still in front of you and the call him to follow you at heel.  Again he sits (or stands) at your left side when you halt at the starting peg to hand over the gun and birds.  You are still in competition until you have placed the lead on the dog.  A loop type slip lead is the easiest to use in Retrieving Trials.

Any obedience is taught to the dog at close range and when you attempt to put some distance between you and the dog, maintain control of every command , even if it means running across a field to do a correction. Retrieving Trials have been won or lost on one point and that one point could have been gained or lost in obedience.  Remember, in all stages of Retrieving Trialing from Beginners to All Age - maintain control!

 Praise and Punishment

The building blocks

Most animals and humans respond better to positive situations than negative ones.  Golden Retrievers being a breed that live to please their owners are more likely to flourish under a training program that is geared towards positive reinforcement than punishment.


When we are training our dog to perform a particular new task, we are effectively asking it to have a go at the unknown.  For example: the very first time we ask a dog to sit, it has absolutely no idea what we require of it.  It has two options: do nothing, or do something.  The secret to dog training is for the dog never to be afraid of doing "something".  As long as the dog makes an attempt to do "something", we can be assured that sooner or later it will hit on the first step towards the correct behaviour.... which we then have the opportunity to praise/reward.  But if the dog is afraid to do "something" and opts for "nothing" the job is almost impossible.

 The pleasures positive reinforcement

Using the positive reinforcement approach, the dog comes to believe that every action is a valid one, but at times some are more rewarding than others.  Assume that I have taught my dog to sit and drop (lie down).  If I tell him to drop he can perform either of these actions. However he knows that only one of them will bring the reward that he's after, the other action is not wrong as such.... But it doesn't bring reward at this time (it might later under different circumstances).  So the dog chooses to perform the action that is most rewarding to him, which also happens to be the one I want! The dog that has had this sort of upbringing/training is not the sort that collapses under pressure.  Dogs (and people!) that have trouble performing under pressure generally are scared of making a mistake.  Dogs trained with positive reinforcement have nothing to fear from making a mistake.... They just don't get rewarded.  So they are striving to achieve well for their own benefit (which you have groomed to match your goals), not to try and avoid punishment.

 The problem with punishment

Punishment often gets out of proportion to the crime.  People tend to get emotional with a dog that doesn't perform as expected, especially if there is an audience to exacerbate their embarrassment.  The tendency to "tell the dog off' is used more as a vent for the owners frustration than for any benefit of the dog and we've all done it.  The dog that is persistently punished is learning through fear and a fearful environment is not conducive to learning.  Such dogs might learn not to perform specific actions (ie not to steal rubbish from a bin), but it is very difficult to teach such dogs to perform actions where they need to use some initiative and creativity.  For instance the Utility Obedience exercise of running out to the box and sitting in it is harder to teach such a dog.  They don't have the confidence to try "something" and see what happens, they are always expecting that nasty punishment to fall from above.

 The reward

The reward can be anything that tickles the dogs fancy: verbal praise, a pat, food, a toy, the opportunity to fetch something (Goldens love that one!).  Use your imagination and try a number of items to find what the dog likes best.  You can also vary the reward to help keep the dog interested.

 So how do you get the message across that you don't want "that' 'action?

The key point is that we need to let the dog know that a particular action is not the desired one (at this point in time) and encourage him to try a different one.  Behaviours are not "bad" they are just unwanted at this time.

 See each "failure" as an experiment, each one brings you closer to success.  So we need to find a way to tell the dog that this action at this time is not the one we want.

 The "try again '.'Word

Now that we have a whole new perspective on "bad" behaviour we should use a different word to make sure we don't fall back into our old habits.  The problem with "no" is that it has so many decidedly negative applications in life that we tend to over-emotionalise its use.  It's hard to keep your tone neutral and say "no" when the dog has performed an action that we aren't after.  It tends to become "Nooooooooooooooooo" and becomes a word that causes fear in the dog.  Remember we don't want to scare the dog, just make it aware that we're after a different behaviour. The word you choose isn't really important, as long as it isn't a word you use very often (or the dog will hear it all the time when it doesn't relate to him), and it Isn't "no"! I use "wrong".  It's an easy word to use in a neutral tone, and is not in common use. I know someone who says "that's nice, but what else can you do?".  Note that it's almost impossible say that with a harsh tone, or even a slightly disappointing one.

 Putting it together

With the dog paying attention and the reward handy just watch the dog and see what behaviours it offers.  If it just stops dead and won't do anything, walk around a bit and try to get it moving.  If, for example, you want the dog to lie down you are waiting for any sort of knee-bend or head lowering action.  When it occurs, praise the dog and offer the reward.  Note that the first few times the dog gets rewarded it probably has no idea what it did to "score".  Be patient, you need to get the first step happening regularly before you increase the criteria.  For instance you might be happy with a head lowering at first, but when it happens regularly you might want a head lowering and a knee bend.  When that's regular, maybe you want a definite bow etc.  "That's fine as far as praise/reward goes, but what about the "wrong" part?" I can hear you ask.  Let's assume the dog barks to get the reward and we want it to be quiet.  You'd probably temporarily suspend the original activity (getting the dog to drop) and concentrate on teaching "quiet".  Whenever the dog barks, you say "Wrong....... Quiet" in a quiet tone (no point getting the dog all fired up with an enthusiastic command, he needs to settle a bit) and otherwise ignore him.  If he's quiet for a second, reward him as you repeat "Quiet, good quiet".  Tell him "Quiet" again and try to extend the time the dog will remain quiet.  Each time the dog barks repeat "Wrong... quiet", this lets him know that what he did last is not required right now (although it might be later) what you want now is "Quiet".  Remember not to get all worked up about giving the command, you should sound almost detached, as if reading the shopping list!

 The end result

If you are able to raise a pup under the principles listed above, you should have a responsive dog that is not afraid to try new things.  It will learn quickly and be eager to please.  Remember that no dog is perfect.... As no person is perfect.  If the dog should misbehave the important thing is to teach the dog not to repeat the behaviour, not to "punish" the dog for the offence.  Punishment teaches nothing, except to fear the punisher.  Remember also that a pup trained with these techniques may also seem generally more "naughty" than those trained under more standard "punishment type" methods.  This is because he's not afraid to try new activities, whereas the other dog may be too inhibited to do much at all.  Don't be annoyed or frustrated with your puppy if this is the case, rejoice in the fact that he has an outgoing personality and is easy to train.

 What about my older dog?

The above techniques can be used on older dogs that have been trained in a different manner, or not trained at all.  Results will not be as effective (or as quick) as they are with a pup, but any improvement is worthwhile.  An older dog will be less likely to offer a variety of responses due to inhibition caused be previous training methods.  A dog that dislikes the whole process will be difficult to convert ... but not impossible.  Be patient with an older dog, they need more time and understanding.

 Further lnformation?

The techniques outlined above are extended by the use of a "clicker" as a secondary reinforcer.  There is not a great deal available at the moment in the way of clubs or books utilising such methods.

Sherbrooke Obedience Dog Club runs classes using food/clickers.

A book called "Don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor discusses the theory of the techniques and the principles that they are based on.

David Westonís' book "Dog Training: The Gentle Modem Method" shows how to teach a number of exercises using positive principles.


 Training to run lines to 'blinds'

Once your dog has its Novice Retrieving Dog ( NRD) qualification it must compete at Restricted level which requires them running a line to a blind or unsighted bird and to obey directions from the handler.

 Training to run lines can commence at puppy stage and should not be left until the dog is ready to graduate from Novice.  However it is most important that this training should be done quite separately from directional training for left, right, and back.  All of these things can be taught when the dog is the same age, but they should not be taught in the same sessions - regardless of how tempting it might be to show off and have your dog run out, stop on whistle and turn - otherwise you might finish with a dog which stops or 'pops' consistently looking for instruction.

 The objective is to have a dog, which runs stylishly and confidently off the handlerís hand up to about I50 metres over various types of terrain, and in all types of cover, including water.

 Some handlers like to use a different instruction for this retrieve than for a mark.  For instance if a dog is sent to a mark with the instruction 'fetch', then the word for a blind might be 'back' or 'go on'.  Also the instruction might be preceded with the words 'dead bird'.  The objective is that in a trial, when a dog has seen a mark but is being sent instead for a blind, then (apart from being pointed in a different direction) it also receives a totally different command.

 Here's how to start.  In the passageway at home, or down the side of the house, or on a laneway, place a number of retrieving dummies on the ground.  The dog must have seen you place the dummies in position.  Take the dog (say) I0 to 50 feet away - use commonsense, this is not a test, and the distance will depend on the age and tenacity of the dog.  Have the dog sitting at heel, (or with a puppy, kneel down to steady it).  Hold your left hand fully open in front of the dog's nose lined up in the direction of the blind.  Go through your routine; calmly say "stay", "dead bird" and then "go on" in an urging tone.  Initially the dog may not have a clue what you want- why should it- so you should cajole, run with it, say 'fetch' etc whatever is needed to encourage it to pick up a dummy and run back with it. The narrow restricted area that you have chosen should help to keep the dog focussed.  It shouldn't be more than a few sessions before the dog has the idea.  The younger the dog the shorter the sessions should be.  Always stop before your dog tells you itís had enough!  And always finish on a good note.

 When your dog is doing this well find a quiet area in a park (a track is a good spot) which has short grass and start the routine again.  Once again start with short distances and as the dog catches on, move progressively further away from the dummies.  Next move is to an area where the grass is longer.  Let the dog see where you put the dummies but it can not see the dummies from the position it is sent because of the grass.  Try to always send your dog to the same spot, and progressively increase the distance by moving back.

 After you have been working to the same spot a few sessions, peg the dog out of sight and place a couple of dummies in the usual position.  Bring the dog up and send him for dummies from one of the shorter positions.  It should confidently complete its first 'blind'!

 Here are some training tips;

Move away from the blind, rather than moving the blind away from you.  Otherwise the dog may potter where the previous blind was.

When you have mastered the exercise in one location move to another.  Sometimes a dog identifies with a particular location rather than the instruction.

Don't put a blind in a location where your dog will confuse it with one it has already done.

Go back to short distances when you first introduce obstacles like undulations, rushes, creeks, logs etc.  Start double blinds I80 degrees apart and progressively bring the angles to about 90 degrees, so there is no chance of swapping game.

When giving a line to a dog, always make sure its backbone and head are lined up with the blind.


A strong tendency to carry things around in his mouth is your first indication that you have a retriever puppy.  Here are some dos and don'ts to encourage this tendency, and to fully develop his ability to work as a gundog and perform the duties your dog was bred for.

 Incidentally, the Golden Retriever is much more that a pretty show dog and can demonstrate those characteristics for which the breed was developed.  When you remember just how much dedication and effort it took to establish and stabilise the breed so that we can enjoy them so much, it seems dreadful to just allow it all to fade away through lack of interest.  A dual-purpose dog should be our aim.

 Carrying socks, shoes, rolled newspaper, etc, etc, is natural.  It's in his nature - he's a retriever.  If you discourage him from doing this now, how will you be able to make a retriever out of him when he grows up? If you don't want special possessions carried about and (sometimes) eventually chewed, don't put them within reach.  Shoes in cupboards are safe from sharp puppy teeth!

 As you go about your daily routine, in and about the house, or walks in the park, your puppy will find all sorts of things to pick up for you.  The way you receive these "gifts" is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps you will ever take.  When my pup first went out into the big wide world he found a million things for me.

 For instance, the four worst "ghastlies" that I have been "pleased" to accept from my dog were;

     - three quarters of a dead bird (presented with two yellow feet protruding from the side of his mouth)

     -      a rotting chicken rib cage (he really didn't want to part with that one)

     -      a possum tail - (eeeeek!)

    -      a snapper head - (no comment)

 It got to the stage when I seriously considered wearing rubber gloves when we went for a walk!  The point is though; that he was happily retrieving to hand what in his mind were priceless gifts that I was anxiously awaiting. (Wasnít I?)

 Dogs are nor revolted by such things and if I had reacted with screeches of horror, he would have been reluctant to share his treasure a second time and there probably wouldn't have been a third time.  The message is loud and clear for you the handler.  Accept with enthusiasm whatever your pup retrieves for you, gently remove it from his mouth with the command "Give" and lavish praise an your clever enterprising pup.

 Don't teach your pup to drop the item on the ground at your feet - you'll have a real ordeal on your hands when you later want him to deliver to hand.

 If your puppy won't "Give", place the index finger of each hand where the jawbones meet and press don't be too rough.  Repeat the command "Give" and remove the object.  Give your pup heaps of praise.  Don't, whatever you do, have a tug of war with him.  You'll finish up with an enormous problem that you might never be able to correct later.

 If your puppy won't come to you when called, squat down, with your arms spread wide and call your puppy in a bright happy voice.  Don't give chase, it will turn into a game a tag that will become a problem.  If your puppy still won't come, call him and run as fast as you can away from him, you'll find him galloping along beside you in a very short space of time.

 A working retriever is a joy to behold, please encourage and foster his instincts - don't do anything to suppress his natural retrieving ability.


Over the past few months I have had a few enquires on the best way to train a dog to gunshot. I will try to describe a few methods that have worked for me and proved successful. Before I start there are a few things to consider.  When you fire a gun, you are behind it and firing forward.  The dog is normally in front of you or at your side, and consequently he is in the noise cone.  The noise he hears is about five times louder than you hear it.  Your dog may also be interested in what is going on around him, and may not realise that you are going to discharge the gun.  Put yourself in his position - how would you react?

Initially, when introducing the dog to the gun, consider the dog at all times.  Forget about shooting that duck or rabbit in front of him.  Training must concentrate on him and him alone.

Begin with the dog in the backyard.  The most common time is at mealtime.  One of the better methods is to make him sit and stay.  Step backward about ten feet from him with his food bowl and drop a steel rubbish tin lid on the ground.  Call his name and offer his food with plenty of encouragement and fuss.

Never drop the lid behind the dog when he is eating - always attract his attention before making any sudden noise.

If you have a cap gun, you can try the same method.  The next step is to get him to sit at a distance, with you in front of the dog but t ' o his left.  Try throwing a dummy and calling to him to watch.  Fire the cap gun and send him for the retrieve.  When he picks it up and returns to you give him plenty of praise.  Let him smell the cap gun - once again with plenty of encouragement,

Take him down to the nearest gun club and ask permission to bring him in.  If permission is granted, start off in the car park and check his reaction.  If he is taking no notice, slowly bring him up into the shooting area so that he can watch the clays being thrown.  After a short while he will probably curl up and go to sleep wondering what all the fuss is about!

The next stage is out in the field.  Remember that you are training - not out shooting rabbits.  It would be best to go with another person.  You can then handle the dog while your friend out in front fires the gun.  When he reaches the stage of being unfussed by the noise, you can relax and in future it should be enjoyable hunting.

Another method is to attend our Retrieving Trials.  At these trials the gallery (spectators) are normally in close proximity to the competitor working his dog.  Bring your dog to the Trial.  He will see the bird being cast, the competitor firing the gun and his dog being sent for the retrieve.  With all this action taking place, your dog will be that hyped up, he will wait and watch for the gun to go off.  He will be shaking with excitement at your side.

By encouraging your dog, he will know the gun shot means a retrieve of an item of game.  He then associates the noise with pleasure.

Basic rules for introducing your dog to the gun;

Always attract his attention before firing.

Associate the noise with something pleasurable.

Make out you are excited when the gun goes off.

If he flinches don't console him, but sound inquisitive - "What was that?" The dog will realise that if it is pleasurable for you, it must be okay.

Take your time and don't force your dog - it will come.

Age?  This depends on you.  If done slowly you won't have problems at any age.

Introduction to Tracking


The purpose of tracking is for the dog to follow a human scent trail and find the "missing person at the end.  Tracking is an activity that can not really be taught to a dog by a human. People have little understanding of how scent works, whereas dogs (with their much more sensitive scenting apparatus) use scent as a major sense.  It is important that it is understood that the best a handler can hope for is to direct a dogís natural scenting ability in the desired direction.  The dog must use it's initiative to achieve at tracking, as such the handler should refrain from correcting the dog.  The tracking handlerís motto is "Trust your dog", if there is any doubt you MUST believe that the dog is doing the right thing: - don't forget you can't track, you don't understand the circumstances the dog is working under.


Tracking trials are held from approx May through until September each year in Victoria, due to the snake bite danger in summer.  Your dog must have at least one Novice obedience pass to be eligible to enter a tracking test.  The first test is called a Preliminary Test, then you move onto Test I, Test 2 (Test 2 gives you your TD (Tracking Dog) title), Test 3, Test 4 and Test 5 which gives you Tracking Dog excellent (TDX).  TDX is one of the two titles you must currently achieve to obtain your Obedience Champion title (the other one is the Obedience Utility Dog title).

 The first test is over 300 metres, it will contain one angle turn and is left to age for between 10 and 30 minutes prior to the dog handler working the track.  An article (usually a sock) with the track layers scent on it is left at the start flag so the dog knows which scent it is to follow. Track 5 is over I200 metres, it has a least 5 angle turns and is left to age for I - 3 hours prior to the doghandler working the track. It has an article at the start flag and 3 more over the course of the track, of which at least 2 must be found to obtain a pass.

 Trials generally cost between $I5 and $30 dollars to enter and due to the amount of land required are generally held outside the Melbourne Metropolitan area.  Gippsland, Ballarat and the Mornington Peninsula are regularly used areas.  Check-in times are usually around 7am and trials are often held over two days to ensure as many entrants as possible actually get a track.  You may request a particular day, but note that the trial secretary is not obliged to juggle the entries and it is almost impossible to accommodate such requests.  Be prepared to accept either day and you'll be a popular competitor!  Note that there are often more entrants than tracks available in which case a ballot is held prior to the trial.  When attending a tracking trial, it is considered poor form to not be prepared to lay tracks for other people. Always take at least 4 articles and keep them on your body from 30 minutes prior to the start of the trial until all tracks are complete.  Remember that you will require unknown people to lay your tracks as time goes on, be prepared to help others as required.

 Your tracking entry should be filled out on the standard obedience entry form. The test number you are entering should be stated, and your known tracklayer should be nominated. Also include a copy of your most recent pass (or your Novice pass if your are entering a preliminary lest).  Include a stamped self-address envelope to ensure that the trial secretary send you a receipt and, or map of the venue.

    Training Method

The basic idea when beginning to track with a dog is to get the dog interested enough in someone to want to follow, and try to encourage the dog to use its nose instead of eye/ears to find the person. The same process can be used to find an object rather than a person, but it's generally easier to get the dog focussed on finding a person than an object.

 Have the handler put the dog in harness and attach the long lead.  Give a favourite toy to someone the dog knows well.  Stand near an obstacle that the dogs can't see around or through something like a car or brick wall).  Have the track layer "make a big fuss of both dog and toy and walk of .f towards an obstacle they can hide behind (a tree or brick BBQ) about I5 metres distant.  Let the dog see the person leave and the general direction they are going in, then move it behind the car.  Make a big fuss, "Where is he?  Who's got your toys Whereís he gone?" etc to get the dogs interest level up.  Leave about a 2-minute gap qfter the tracklayer has left before moving the dog out to find him.  Be consistent with the use of a word for the tracking act (seek). Use this word now and encourage the dog to find the tracklayer. "Seek.  Where is he?  Seek him then".  The dog should move in roughly the right direction having seen the tracklayer leave.  Allow the dog to travel a short distance in the right direction on 4 or 5feet of lead.  Don't allow it to run steady tension on the lead is the best.  If the dogs nose goes down towards ground level, praise and repeat the word in an enthusiastic but non-distracting tone "Seek, good boy".  While the dogs nose is down, or he is clearly sniffing the air allow forward movement, if the dogs is just wandering at random, or trying to run in the direction he saw the person leave, gently restrain him and allow no forward movement.  DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES correct the dog

 Slowly progress towards the tracklayers hiding place and regardless of the dogís performance to get there, PRAISE madly.  The tracklayer should make a big fuss of the dog and play with the toy.  The tracklayer and toy are the dogís reward and should be used profusely to encourage the dog to remain enthusiastic next time.  Do only one or two tracks per training session.  Don't be surprised if your dog seems to have little idea of what is required for the first few sessions.  Like many activities it can take lime for the dog to get the idea, repetition is the key.  As the dog improves, increase the distance, don't allow the dog to see the tracklayer leave, and start to use articles on the ground.  The articles can be used to help keep the dogs nose down.  Outside of your tracking training, get the dog enthusiastic about picking up socks.  Make a game out of it.  Then use socks on the track and praise when they are found.  Don't fall into the trap of placing them so closely that the dog can see each one and just runs to them.  Place them at least I 0 metres apart and let the dog scent to them.

 Further Information

 Further information on Tracking can be obtained by reading the VCA rulebook (Obedience and Tracking are in the same book).  The Tracking Club of Victoria also conducts beginnerís days and other activities.  



 The initial use of the dumbbell occurs in Open Class trialing in two exercises. - Retrieve dumbbell on the flat

- Retrieve dumbbell over the high jump

 The specification for both exercises can be found in the booklet "Rules for the Conduct of Obedience Trials - Open Class.  It is in your interest that you study these Trial requirements.  Be fully aware of the listed deductions, all of which in turn will greatly assist you in your basic training in dumbbell work and encourage you to achieve the highest standard possible in the ultimate tests.

 The following comments should be noted:

I .    This is a complicated, precision exercise for your dog to learn and it would seem to invite confusion to sometimes allow the dog to fetch" as a game with no restrictions and at other times expect prompt, straight retrieves with no "mouthing", straight precision sits in front and delivery on command only, which is your ultimate aim.

 2.    Each stage should be taught as an exercise in itself - look for confident, perfect performances before moving on to the next stage.  Lay your basic foundations firmly.  These are the basics for many of your Utility Class exercises.

 3.    This exercise has nothing to do with playing with balls and sticks.  To prevent confusion, it is recommended that the handler (or anyone else) does not throw toys for the dog to fetch as a game, until the dog is performing "retrieve the dumbbell" in the trial ring with good scores.


I .    Obtain a dumbbell to suit your dogís size.  If you are unsure ask an instructor at your obedience club to select a dumbbell for you.

 2.    If you wish to "scent' your dumbbell, have clean hands.  Cigarette odour, insect repellent and some hand lotions may be repellent to your dog.  Also, whether you scent the dumbbell yourself or not do not allow anyone else (stewards, etc) to handle the shaft of your dog's dumbbell.

 3.    When teaching, always use a check chain and lead, as your dog must be under physical control.  It is recommended to do some "Heel on Lead" work immediately before commencing each lesson.  This helps to indicate to the dog that you require his concentration and obedience to commands.

 4.    Use gentle hands, a firm pleasant voice and a happy confident attitude when teaching these basics.

 5.    Do not advance your dog to the next stage until your obedience instructor has evaluated your dog's performance.

 6.    Do not let an eager dog grab the dumbbell until you have given the command to TAKE.  Use STAY or similar commands and keep it out of reach at first until the dog understands to wait. Do not use reprimands for this at the moment.  It is up to you to manage this training properly.


The dog should be in the sitting position and on lead.

 I .    Teach TAKE by opening the dog's mouth and gently placing the dumbbell in his mouth.  Your left hand is over the top of the dog's muzzle, thumb one side, fingers the other.  Pressing the dog's lips against the teeth will cause him to open his mouth.  His dumbbell (held in your right hand) is immediately placed behind his upper canine teeth and the dog is praised.  As soon as the dumbbell is in position, release the pressure on his teeth.

 2.    Teach HOLD by gently tilting the dog's head up with your right hand under his chin and praise him.

Note the similarity between the two words HOLD and NO.  Differentiate between them with your tone.

 3.    Teach GIVE by carefully taking the dumbbell from the dog's mouth.  At first it may be spat out at you.  Later, if the dog refuses to give on command, use your left hand over the dog's muzzle as described in teaching TAKE above, gently press part of the lip against the teeth until the dog releases the dumbbell.  Immediately remove your left hand and praise.

 Use praise after each of these steps to indicate to the dog that he has done what you commanded.  Do not be afraid to keep doing every one of these steps even after you think he understands what you want.  This will lesson later confusion and disobedience.  You are teaching - training comes later.

   Search & Rescue Dog Australia Inc. -A003705OF

 We are a group of individuals with highly trained dogs dedicated to finding lost people.  It is in this activity that a dog gets recognition and respect and also shows his worthiness as a wonderful helper and companion for the human race.

 Through his success internationally over decades in searches for people lost in earthquakes, landslides, avalanches and mainly lost wanderers the I RO (international Rescue Organisation) was formed.

 In I993, at the IRO Symposium in Stockholm, members agreed to a common testing standard in anticipation to search in serious disasters side by side.

 This test has to be repeated yearly to qualify as operational.

Tests are as follows:

Tracking over 2,000Metre- the age of the track has to be 3 hours, seven articles to be recovered, time allotted is 60 minutes.

 There is a land test of 20,000 square metres in undulated wooded land.  Three people have to be recovered, time allowed is 30 minutes.

 Then there is a buried victim test or commonly called - rubble test, over 200 square metres.  Three people are buried which have to be recovered.  There has to be a distraction with machinery noise, smoke distraction or engine.  The time allowed for this is 20 minutes.

 Under the watchful and impressed eye of the State Emergency Service Controller of Mr. Brian McMannis, SARDA Peninsula tested and passed 4 dogs with honours this April.

 Australia has several SARDA groups attached to the S.E.S. - Western Australia and South Australia is well known.

The Peninsula Group started in the early I980's.  We were very fortunate to have ex-army dog handlers and avalanche search experienced people on hand.  We all had an open and curious mind.  This led to lots of discussions and valuable experiments in nose work.  Time after time we were surprised with the ability of the animals.  We came to the unanimous conclusion and agreed with Jack London- "The last words of the dogs ability are not yet written".

Through the I980's and until now we have helped many green beginners from Preliminary Tracking Test right through to Track 5. Unfortunately too many handlers see this as their only goal.  For us, Search and Rescue is more of a challenge.  From here we go on to use the skill and keenness the dog has developed in finding people.  For dogs with keen retrieving drives, the search technique is easy to learn.  On the training ground they learn this in one weekend, to perfection.

 The challenge of training comes into play when the dog is sent out of sight and may be distracted by rabbits, kangaroos, sheep or a bushwalker or maybe even a search party.

 The dogs are trained to select the human scent out of a light air movement or a breeze.  This, he follows to the source.  Upon finding the immobile unconscious person the dog will pick up the leather strip he carries on his collar.  The dog is not to bark or otherwise frighten the person.  Immediately he will return to his handler by bringing him the leather, the handier then knows the dog has been successful in finding the lost person.  All the handier now has to do is to clip the dog on a long lead and follow the dog to the person.

 Dogs with strong human attachment are taught this very easily.  They will only indicate an immobile or unconscious person.  The longer a person is lost in the field, the more their scent is distributed into the environment.  You can compare this with a smouldering fire, polluting a large area.  There is no reason for people being lost in the wilderness for more than 24 hours.  Certainly we have to consider animals are not machines, we don't over-work or exhaust them especially in warm, dry weather, care must be taken.

   It stands to reason that 8 search Dogs can only cover a limited area and we need a lot more people active in this field with their dogs. We need many more people to act as supporters and logistical personnel.  The dogs must be of Track 5 standard and we also help the handlers to get this far.  We would like to see in many corners of the country a SARDA Group form and eventually search and train together.

 The training and outings are a lot of fun.  We are not required that often in searches.  Should a trained dog only once in his lifetime be successful, then this is a very worthwhile achievement.  Recently, two SARDA dogs assisted the Police in locating the remains of a cadaver that had been buried for over 4 years.

 For any participation and information please telephone:

SARDAPeninsula on0I9-938857 -Rudi Klemm-97835I37

 Julie Cowan - 5977702I