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Land Tune-Up Drill: The Ultimate Guide for Retriever Training Enthusiasts

Updated: May 1, 2023

Hi everyone,

If you're passionate about retriever training, then you know that the success of any training program is all about preparation and fine-tuning. This is where the Land Tune-Up Drill comes in – a must-do training exercise for all retriever enthusiasts. In this blog post, I'll be sharing the details of building the Land Tune-Up drill, how to run it, and the benefits of completing it.

Building the Land Tune-Up Drill: I put a lot of thought into designing a Land Tune-Up. You are going to be investing 4 to 5 sessions to complete this drill. Each session is likely to take 15-20 minutes. I want to make certain that I include key concepts and challenges that I am likely to encounter during my advanced training in the upcoming months. These key concepts are the technical beginnings to blinds that often get you started off on the wrong foot. There will also be valuable handling challenges throughout the course of many of the retrieves that will broaden your handling and communication skills with your dog. A few examples might include obstacles like a log to jump, a side of a mound, a line of cover or a group of decoys. All these natural or artificial challenges are commonly used by judges in effort to divert dogs on blinds. Incorporating these into a comprehensive drill will undoubtedly prepare you and your dog for the complex technical factors you will be faced with during advanced trials and tests. The drill will have 6-8 blinds. I like to repeat the theme of a blind at least 2 times and preferably 3 before moving on to a new concept. An example would be a patch of cover at the beginning of the blind that you are treating as a no-no drill. I will have an early blind line through a cover patch and repeat the line through the same patch from a different angle to a different destination on a succeeding blind.

Using a 2-peat or 3-peat technique in your training is a great way to clarify any complex training lesson. The first consideration when building a Land Tune-Up Drill is picking the location. If possible, I look for a location that I don’t regularly use during normal training. Finding a corner of a piece of property that isn’t conducive for typical training set ups is ideal. More importantly, I want to have multiple unique terrain features like mounds, irregular terrain, trees, roads, ditches and natural cover patches to take advantage of. I will then create additional man-made factors like a line of hay bales, a gunner, a group of decoys and tight lines to previous blinds are all things that I include in this drill. Most of the blinds should be shorter than your typical blinds. This will make it feasible to complete all 7 or 8 blinds in one session. I like to make the last couple of retrieves resemble more typical blinds in their length. This drill is supposed to be challenging! Struggling through some of the concepts during the earlier sessions is exactly what I am looking for.

Running the Land Tune-Up Drill: On day 1 of the Land Tune-Up Drill, I may elect to start up a little closer in effort to simplify some of the early challenges. I teach these concepts through handling. Be prepared to blow a lot of whistles. Do not be in a hurry to use e-collar pressure. I prefer to use attrition to work through some of these sticking points. Practice literal casting whenever possible. Resist the urge to exaggerate a cast in an attempt to get your dog to change direction. I prefer to stop the dog multiple times if necessary as well as calling them in a short distance and repeat the same cast. The goal is to teach your dog to cast as literal as possible in all situations. The same goes for alignment. Do not get in the habit of false lining your dog in effort to achieve the desired start. The only way to teach your dog to cast and line properly is to give them true information and teach them to respond accordingly. Repeat the drill 4 to 5 times over the course of a week to 10 days. Be certain to keep your dog on a precise line, especially in the key concept areas. It won’t make sense to your dog if you have loose line standards in the beginning sessions and change them later. The true value of the Tune-Up Drill is not in the perfection of the blinds. The real value happens during some of those frustrating sessions when the lessons are taught through handling. Conquering the days of uncertainty with patience and perseverance is a life lesson that benefit both dog and handler. Doing that many blinds in succession is something your dog will be unaccustomed to. Maintaining focus for you and your dog will pose a valuable challenge.

Benefits of Completing the Land Tune-Up Drill: The benefits of completing the Land Tune-Up drill are numerous. Here are a few of the most significant benefits:

  1. Fine-Tunes Your Retriever's Blind Skills: The Land Tune-Up drill helps to refine your retriever's lining and handling skills by forcing them to focus on complex tasks on these blinds. This drill is a great way to help your retriever understand the importance of precise lining and casting to reinforce these sophisticated skills.

  2. Improves Your Retriever's Endurance: The Land Tune-Up drill is a physically demanding exercise that requires your retriever to work hard and maintain their focus throughout the drill. This drill is an excellent way to improve your retriever's endurance and help them build their physical and mental stamina.

  3. Increases Your Retriever's Confidence: The Land Tune-Up drill is a challenging exercise that requires your retriever to be confident and focused. By successfully completing the drill, your retriever will build confidence and become more confident in their abilities.

  4. Reinforces the Retriever-Handler Bond: The Land Tune-Up drill requires close communication and teamwork between you and your retriever. By working together and successfully completing the drill, you will reinforce the bond and communication skills between you and your retriever, which is an essential component of any successful retriever training program.

In conclusion, the Land Tune-Up drill is an excellent training exercise for all retriever enthusiasts. It's a simple but effective way to fine-tune your retriever's handling skills, improve their endurance, increase their confidence, and reinforce the retriever-handler bond. So, grab a pile of bumpers and get started with the Land Tune-Up drill today!

As always, remember that the key to successful retriever training is patience and a thoughtful approach. So, stay committed and enjoy the journey with your canine athlete!

Happy Training

Pat Burns

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