So You Bought A Puppy...


When I traveled down south this past month, I was lucky enough to train retrievers every day with some talented guys. Joe Overby of Candler Creek Retrievers and Dakota Mealer of Folsom Kennels have some extremely talented puppies. I was amazed at Dakota’s latest pup. I witnessed this 14-week old lab run a HUGE 75-yard mark to a full-sized mallard and retrieve it to hand. So I asked the guys, “How do you do it?” Here was Joe’s response:

 So you bought a puppy…Congratulations! Now, what do you do with it? Here are a few tips to get you and your new gun dog started down the right path.

 The first couple months are supposed to be fun.  Your puppy is learning new things every day.  Introduce them to as much as you can. It will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Water, water, water.  Get your pup in the water as much as possible.  You want the pup as comfortable in the water as he is in your lap.  Simple, little fun retrieves, every day go a long way to developing a good water attitude.  Just remember, set him up for success.  DO NOT FORCE IT.  Throwing the dog off the boat may teach the dog to swim…out of fear of drowning…but it won’t teach the dog to LOVE swimming.  Use common sense.
Quit with the formal obedience.  You can only teach a pup one thing at a time, sit or go.  Which is it gonna be?? I am not saying to not teach your pup obedience at all but, I am advocating holding off formalizing it until it’s time for Force Fetch.  Teach the pup what “Sit” means and what “Here” means but more importantly, teach the dog that retrieving birds is the greatest thing on the face of the planet!
One live pigeon a day EVERY DAY for 60 days. That’s right. EVERY DAY FOR 60 DAYS.  And I didn’t say “try” either…by doing this; it allows your puppy’s prey drive to blossom. I don’t care if he kills them; just don’t let him eat them!
Bird Boy marks 2-3 times a week.  If the pup breaks down short of the bird simply have the Bird Boy help out by throwing another one…Puppy will figure this out pretty quick.
I play lots of games on the couch every night with my puppies.  Honestly, this is where I teach my dogs what “Fetch” means with chew toys and such.  I’ve had people tell me that it’s a horrible idea to let the dog chew on something you’re using for training but to them, I say, “it works for me.”  I’m simply pairing a puppy’s natural tendency to put a toy in his mouth with a command at the height of puppy’s excitement level to avoid refusals.  I’ll use rawhide chews, toys, kongs…just anything the pup has shown a true interest in having in his mouth.
Love. You brought him to be your best friend…let him know he’s doing his job, a lot. I am a huge advocate for dogs in the house, especially puppies.  The bond is just different between dogs raised in the house and their owners and those raised in a pen.  That said, show him you love him. When you become HIS best friend and the entirety of his existence, he will do things for you beyond your imagination.

I was shocked at the confidence and excitement that this little 14-week old pup had! When I asked my question to the guys, they both boldly and simultaneously said, “It’s what we do!” Their smiles told the story! Build excitement, love your new dog, and enjoy the journey! Nothing beats it!


Joe Overby at

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