Murph Training, Part XVIII: Water, Water Everywhere

murph leaps
Murph makes the leap
photo by Tim Bronson

Now that the heat of summer is upon us, I’ve transferred some of Murph’s simple retrieve drills on land to the water. As one might expect, there is no shortage of love for the water in Murph.

The cool thing about working here at Orvis is we have a pond right outside the door, complete with an island in the middle, which offers a number of opportunities to give Murph different looks. Obviously at this stage, I’m not trying to get too tricky here, just offer him easy, focused retrieves where he gets to do a little swimming.


murph pond
Murph makes his way

photo by Tim Bronson


As with all the other retrieve drills we’re doing, I’m not just throwing a dummy and sending him. I throw the dummy, let him mark it, and then we walk away to various points and retrieve from different angles. This forces him to first mark the retrieve and remember it, and it forces him to be calm, as he doesn’t get to go immediately. When I do position him for the retrieve, he has to sit there quietly with no excessive movement or flinching.

In regard to this, one of the best things I ever did and am still doing with him is making him sit calmly next to me while I’m holding his food dish and then walk at heel quietly over to his feeding spot and sit quietly and not eat until I release him. I’ve been doing this with him since the first day I got him, and it has paid off very well in his patience and calm nature prior to being sent on a retrieve. It’s amazing how quickly he settles down when he knows that’s the only way he’s going to get the reward, be it food or fun.

murph swims
Murph makes his way back with the dummy
photo by Tim Bronson

As for the water retrieves, I am sending him on a short swim, a long swim, and then a swim to the island–where he has to swim over, go up on the land and then come back across the water. It’s a short distance, but it’s forcing him to put a couple of things together: swim, into the woods, find the dummy, swim, and back to me. Just a note: One thing to avoid is sending a young dog on a swim that brings him past land on the return. Invariably, they will head for the land so they can run back to you. One great way to ensure his coming straight back is to attach a 50-foot check cord and pull him straight back to you if he begins to veer. He will get the idea very quickly.


murph shakes
A good shake spells success
photo by Tim Bronson

Once again, not getting too tricky here, but I’m always looking to add just another small dimension to challenge him while constantly reinforcing the simple basics.



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