top of page
  • Pat


Updated: May 1, 2023

Hi everyone! I am still on a high from last weeks “Retrieving For Love” Seminar that I helped with in Giddings, Texas. After spending 3 days watching wonderful dogs and listening to Mike Lardy, Dave Rorem, Kenny Trott and Ray Voigt I came home inspired. One of my key take a-ways is the importance of keeping the fundamentals from basics alive. A pet peeve of mine is, asking for a swim-by with an advanced dog and not being able to enforce it. The erosion of many of the basic’s lessons is inevitable. However, it doesn’t have to be the case. In my January blog I talked about preparing for a national. I spoke of the things to tend to 6 months prior to your big event. Swim-by is one of those things. In this blog I will tell you how I like to review swim-by with an older dog.

I know y’all are looking forward to some spring training. When the water is warm enough to start training, one of the first things I like to do is a swim-by review.

This photo shows a long channel that I like to use for the initial lesson. I start out by throwing a bumper into the middle of the channel and I walk to the end to receive the dog. I want to identify the exit point for my swim-by. The next time I throw the bumper into the center of the channel, I will coax them down to the end of the channel. Now here is where it gets a little tricky. Assuming that goes reasonably well, on the 3rd time I will stay stationary and require the dog to complete the swim-by. It may take multiple casts to execute the procedure. At first, I will blow the whistle prior to giving the swim-by cast. After that I simply throw my arm out and say “over”. Each time the dog gives up on the cast, I throw my arm out and say “over” with a nick on the e-collar. I do that the instant the dog turns and looks at me during the attempted swim-by. If the dog insists on coming in, I meet them at the bank. I take the bumper from them and throw it back into the channel and force them with the collar on “back”. The minute they pick up the bumper I re-initiate swim-by with an over cast. Typically, after a few of these corrections, the dog starts to offer a better swim-by effort. Then I move further down the channel and extend the length of the desired swim-by. Eventually, I throw the bumper across the corner of the channel and expect a full swim-by to the opposite end.

Here are a few things to note:

  • I do not blow the whistle prior to every “over” cast. I don’t want to break up the momentum of the swim-by by stopping them with a whistle on every cast.

  • I only blow the initial whistle to gain the dog’s attention. After that I simply throw my arm out. It shouldn’t even be necessary to say the word “over” when you’re done. The sit whistle is only used if “the ship is sinking” as a final resort.

  • It is common for dogs to favor the back shore after being corrected for coming in. I use a soft come-in whistle and then a silent over to manage that. If they are insistent on getting out on the back shore, I will give them a nick along with the come-in whistle. Again, I do not blow a sit whistle. I want to keep the swim-by fluid.

After doing the initial review, I like to do a swim-by tune-up drill. This drill really cements the swim-by procedure and makes it a useable tool during normal training.

The above photo is a of a swim-by tune-up drill that I like to do in Tennessee. Like other tune-up drills, you will want to repeat this for 4-5 days. On day 1, I start from relatively close to the pond. I run blind #1 and then hustle over to end of the second pond to identify the proposed swim-by destination. Just like I did on the initial review; I coax them down to the exit point on the succeeding blinds. Over the course of the next few days, I move further off the water. I will insist on a full swim-by and reinforce refusals with e-collar pressure. The most important thing is a clear understanding of a swim-by along with a good response to an e-collar correction for failing to comply. I want to repeat that the most important lesson is a proper response to an e-collar correction for failing to swim-by. After completing 5 days of this swim-by review, you now have the tools execute swim-by during a normal setup. You will find it very rewarding when you give a swim-by cast and are able to properly implement it. I am a big believer in never giving a command that you don’t intend to enforce. Swim-by is one of those commands that many people attempt but aren’t able to complete.

In my early season preparation, I have talked about reviewing pile work in effort to sure up a conviction to go and solid stopping mechanics. I also discussed the value and procedure for doing some No-No Drills. I said that I always spend some time on 2 and 3 tier Wagon Wheel Drills. I shared with you my January ritual of a Land Tune-up. And now I talked about the value of reviewing Swim-by and how I go about doing that. These early season reviews will get your training season started in the right direction. They will make sure that all the training tools in your toolbox are in working order. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my thoughts on how to properly prepare for the upcoming season and maybe even a National.

Until next time…


2,544 views3 comments

3 commentaires

Thanks PAT, I HAVE FINISHED my tune up drills and heading into my water training . come on in the water is just fine now in the northwest now ......


01 avr. 2023

Pat, thank you for sharing. Very timely as the weather here in South Carolina is just getting warm enough for the girls to spend extended periods in the water.

08 mars 2023

I always bring my retrievers back to basics in the spring. I can see their eyes rolling "uhhggghhh, this again!' But after hunting season and time off due to winter weather they really need the tune up. Thanks for this illustration and article.

bottom of page