You begin the training as soon as you get your puppy home. From day one you start to build the relationship that will carry you both through the dog’s working life.
Obedience can be started very early, and primarily consists of reward-based training without compulsion. If you’ve selected a high-drive puppy, he or she may exhibit behavior that isn’t entirely suited to life in a house. Your pup may be more active and inquisitive than you expected. Finding the balance between encouraging the dog’s natural abilities and the limits of your patience can sometimes be difficult – but you must always bear in mind your ultimate goal. This doesn’t mean your pup should be out of control. Teaching him/her limits and rules is as important to your relationship as building and encouraging his/her drives.
Teach your puppy the basics of obedience by using treats or toys as rewards. Make it fun for your dog and avoid using force. In addition to basic control of your dog, this obedience training will later be used to teach your dog a trained indication that he/she will use to show you when he/she finds certain items on a search, so you want your dog to be happy to sit or lie down on command.
Taking the time to teach them what you want them to do will lessen the amount of time you have to deal with teaching them what you DON’T want them to do! There may come a time when compulsion in some form will be necessary, but while your pup is young, keep it simple, fun and rewarding. Your dog will remember this early training for his entire life – so you’ll be ahead of the game by having good things associated with your commands.
In the home, a little puppy-proofing is helpful. Make sure items that the pup shouldn’t play with are all safely stored away. Eventually your pup will be asked to search for and indicate (or possibly retrieve) clothing, shoes, gloves or other items normally carried or worn by people. You don’t necessarily want to reprimand your pup for bringing you a sock he/she found in a bedroom, but you don’t want to let him/her learn to destroy your clothes either…so you should keep everything put away where the puppy can’t get at them. In short, try not to allow your puppy the opportunity to make a mistake – by organizing and controlling the environment, you can avoid mistakes that may be difficult to fix later.
Crate train your puppy. Search dogs sometimes travel in crates and it’s good to get them used to it early on. Make it rewarding by feeding your pup in his/her crate, or supplying him/her with a special toy such as a kong. Crates are also a good idea for temporarily keeping your pup out of trouble when you can’t supervise him/her. Your pup can sleep in a crate at night too.
The dog in the kennel barks at his fleas; the dog that hunts does not feel them
– Chinese Proverb
Exercise and fun will help build your working relationship with your pup. High drive puppies are busy puppies, so don’t expect them to always be calm. Get them out for regular exercise. A tired puppy is more well-mannered. Play retrieve games every day – throw things for your puppy to go fetch and encourage him/her always to bring it back by offering a reward for doing so. Treats or another toy work well. You can put a long, light line on him for a little control until he/she becomes reliable at bringing things back to you.
Socialization is more than introducing your pup to other people. Its also exposing him/her to new environments, sounds, sights and smells. As your obedience progresses, you can practice your obedience and retrieving skills in new places. Expose your puppy carefully to new environments. Make sure he/she is under control and ready for the new experience. Gradually you also teach them to work around other dogs without getting distracted. Your pup will go through various phases and his/her apparent ability may increase and decrease slightly throughout his training. If you are consistent in your training and how you handle your pup, you should see the drives and abilities even out as he/she matures.
When all is said and done, your maturing pup should be friendly toward people, be reasonably controllable, be a consistent retriever, and enjoy the time spent working and playing with you. The bond with your dog should be strong. Ready to go searching?