TEAM TRAD recently participated in the first group training our club has held this year. Still plagued by heavy snow cover, we held the session in an indoor equestrian riding rink which minimized exposure to high winds and snow showers.

The session was primarily composed of advanced dogs and handler / trainers so I knew it would be largely glitch free. To add to it, most of us were focused on working on the same skills / concepts so the time spent was nearly all productive. Off lead manners, holding blind manners, lining, blind retrieves, "honoring", and marking were the focus of the day. Most of the dogs were worked "off lead" and within close proximity of each other.

Within the dymanics of a group training session comes a fair amount of distraction, often times that being an integral factor we seek in bringing dogs to work reliably under such circumstances. I have long been an advocate of early training for pups with regard to maintaining their visual focus on me as their trainer / handler. Time taken to develop such focus early in the pup's life pays great dividends in having a retriever that is more fully engaged and motivated in the learning process as they mature.

Note TRAD'S visual focus on me as his trainer / handler as we are about to start some drills.

Here as I am about to cast TRAD in a handling drill, I make certain his focal gaze is directly on me before casting him. He wants to make the retrieve and soon learns through association that he will not be cast until I have the visual focus I seek from him. The cast for the retrieve then becomes a reward.

TRAD is commanded to DOWN / STAY while "off lead". NOTE, my whistle stays in my mouth so that in the unlikely event he breaks I can halt him before he goes far. He honored perfectly throughout this session.

Group training offers a lot in the way of benefits to your dog provided they are well organized and you have clearly defined objectives for your dog and his ability to fit into a specific level grouping.

Good training to ye and enjoy ye dogs.

Irishwhistler & TRAD