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called. Walk around the yard and let pup wander. Continue to call pup in and correct him if he doesn't listen. Now add bumpers and birds, starting with short throws (the length of the check cord) - so that you can reel pup in if he wants to bolt with the bird.

"Each pup is different.
If your pup is a reluctant retriever, you don't want to steady him too soon."

Pup is walking quietly on lead and coming when called. Teach pup to sit when he comes in. Then, teach him that "Sit" means Sit - until you say otherwise. Tell pup to sit and while holding the rope, walk away backwards so that you can keep an eye on him. If he twitches a muscle, say, "Aach!", then, "Sit!" Keep watching pup and every time that he moves a muscle, stop him and keep him in place. If he gets up and moves, pick him up and put him back in place. If you have taught pup the Place command (see the Spaniel Journal Archives) this will be much easier.

Okay, pup is sitting and staying - at least for a few seconds. Gradually increase the time and distance until you can drop the check cord and walk circles around pup without him breaking. Good. Now, start steadying him. Wear gloves to prevent rope burn. Use your check cord and, at first, hold pup in place. Tell pup to "Sit" and toss a bumper a few feet away. Be prepared to stop pup if he takes off.

When pup will sit quietly - and not yank your arm off - give pup some slack in the rope. Brace yourself and when pup reaches the end of the rope let his forward motion cause the correction. This is much easier with a forty-pound Boykin than it is with an eighty-pound Lab! That's why you want to start this training while the pup is still manageable. If pup breaks, don't let him get the bumper, put him back in a sit. Make him sit before you release him. When pup is steady for the bumper, use a dead bird. Next, use a live bird, if possible. Pigeons work great for this part. Let the bird fly away. Have a dead bird ready for pup to retrieve as a reward for staying in place.

Last of all, combine the gun with the bird. Make sure that pup has already been properly introduced to gunfire. You will need help here. Get an assistant to shoot and throw the birds while you maintain control over pup. Have your helper yell, "Hey, hey!" or blow a duck call, then throw the bird and shoot at the arc of the bird. If pup breaks, be ready to stop him and let the assistant pick up the bird. Only when pup stays in place will you release him to retrieve.

As pup learns to be steady and weeks have gone by without pup breaking, you can shorten the check cord.

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