Eukanuba Sporting Dog Logo


Last Minute Training Tips for Your Retriever

Written by Jake Terry

Dogs get just as excited as handlers, and we can’t blame them for being a little rusty. Here are some last-minute training tactics handlers can utilize to make sure that the season opener is successful.

Handler sends his black Lab on a preseason training drill

Summer is over, and the anticipation of Opening Day is here. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any better, reality reminds you how unsafe it can be to have an untrained retriever in the blind.

Every “bird” that falls is not yours

Running denial drills is a great way to teach dogs patience and obedience. Not everything that falls from the sky is theirs to retrieve. This concept applies not only when dogs owned by different hunters are put together in a blind, but is also part of proper blind manners. Start denial drills as soon as basic obedience is accomplished and formal training starts. These drills should begin at a young age.

To start these drills, have your dog sit at heel as if waiting for a retrieve. Launch or throw a bumper or dummy as you would a standard retrieve. While reinforcing the “sit” command, walk out and retrieve the bumper yourself. Another way is to place yourself in between the dog and the thrown bumper. Have your dog sit, walk away from him, and then toss the bumper farther away. Reinforce the “sit” command if he begins to break.

Once your dog sits patiently during a few denial retrieves, let him pick up a retrieve as a reward. Work denials in with retrieves during normal training sessions. Reward your dog with retrieves only after he’s been steady on a few denials. Once your dog understands that not every retrieve is his, a good ratio would be one denial for every six to eight standard retrieves.

Group Training

Training in groups is equally as beneficial for young dogs as it is for veterans, and is particularly important in the months leading up to the season. Group sessions help socialize all dogs, just as they reinforce obedience taught in the past. The excitement created in these sessions helps handlers discover any holes that did not appear in one-on-one training. Group training provides a more accurate evaluation on how ready your dog is for the season opener.

Exercise & Conditioning

Without proper exercise and conditioning, sporting dogs are unable to perform at a high level. Exercising a dog for a short 10 to 15 minutes per day helps him develop and maintain his muscle tone. As the season approaches, increase workloads every week, and your dog will be good to go when the season begins.

Proper Feeding

Consult your veterinarian to determine your dog’s body condition score and activity level. That information will indicate how much food to feed in the off season. Amounts vary depending on breed as well as by individual dog, but a good rule of thumb is that your dog should eat less food during the inactive months than during the season. Dogs burn significantly more calories from running and swimming and also from the cold weather. Set your dog up to perform at his best by keeping him in condition and at his ideal weight.

Our Dogs are Our Most Valuable Partners

Having confidence in a dog’s obedience and physical conditioning goes a long way when excitement levels are high on Opening Day. These tips should help set up your dog for success. That way, you’ll both enjoy your time in the blind.


Explore the Eukanuba™ range of performance diets formulated to fuel different activity levels, support post-exercise recovery and optimize nutrient delivery.