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Retriever training good for human and dog

If you don't think of the word "syllabus" when you think of retriever training, you're just not yet familiar with the Duluth Retriever Club's annual training class.

If you don't think of the word "syllabus" when you think of retriever training, you're just not yet familiar with the Duluth Retriever Club's annual training class.

It's a summerlong class, once a week, called T-3. That's short for "Train The Trainer." The club figures it's one thing to teach a retriever, but it's even better to teach the person who owns the dog.

If you have a dog that's ready for the training, and if you're willing to commit to the class, I can say from experience it'll be some of the best money you spend on behalf of your dog.

Mark the date: Sign-up for the course is May 4 at the Duluth Retriever Club's training grounds, five miles north of Superior Street on the Lester River Road. Cost is $70 and includes a training DVD. The course will run for 10 weeks on Tuesday evenings, May 25 through July 27.

And, yes, there's a week-by-week syllabus. The training is low-key and fun, but the instruction is well-planned and well-organized.

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I took the class about five years ago, when my yellow Lab was about a year old and had learned basic obedience. Here's what makes the class so valuable, in my experience:

  • It's a bargain. You'll be learning training techniques and drills from people who have been training dogs successfully for some time. They're regular folks like you and me, not professional trainers, although most of them have run dogs that have performed well in AKC hunt tests and field trials. They've worked through some of the same issues you'll have with your pup, and they can offer you strategies that probably will work with your dog.
  • You're the trainer. Unlike sending your retriever off to a professional trainer, you remain the dog's trainer in this class. You're building your relationship with the dog. You will better understand your dog and its tendencies, which will be beneficial long after this class is completed.
  • You'll learn from other dogs and their owners. In a group setting, you'll profit by watching other owners working with their dogs. Every dog is a bit different. Some are aggressive. Some are reserved. You'll see where your dog fits on the retriever continuum, and that will help you become a better trainer.
  • You'll learn reasonable expectations. I think this was the most valuable part of the class for me. Often, I think we expect too much from our dogs. We all want dogs that will do amazing things in the field. The T-3 class teaches you that big things only happen as a result of mastering lots of small things.
  • You'll find training partners. If you want to continue training beyond this class, you'll know others with dogs at about your dog's level of training. You'll be able to set up small training groups and keep learning together.
  • It's about the birds. The better trained your retriever is, the more game you're likely to recover in the field, and that's an underlying objective of the T-3 class -- conservation. SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune outdoors writer and columnist. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluth news.com. Follow him on Twitter at "samcookoutdoors."

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