Gundog Retrieving in Water 
By Jeff Griffiths

14 May 2012

How do you train your gundog to successfully retrieve in water?

In Retrieving Trials (RT) there must be at least one retrieve into or through water. For Retrieving Ability Tests for Gundogs (RATG) water retrieves are allowed but don’t have to be used. But your Gundog must be trained to retrieve in water to be assured of success. You don’t want a dog that avoids water or just simply won’t get in.

waterpoloThe first step in getting our gundogs to retrieve in water is to ‘introduce’ them to water. Firstly, get your dog swimming in warm weather when the water and air temperatures make it pleasant for your dog to get in the water, rather than doing it in winter. Once your dog is used to going into the water and they are a confident swimmer, cold weather swimming will be alright for most dogs.
There are a number of ways to get your dog into water and swimming.  However, never ever throw the dog into water, as this will only make your dog dislike water and swimming.  Find a lake, river or dam with a shallow area or easy entry. Get into the water and encourage your dog to come in with you. Have them on a lead if you like. Initially, go in to knee depth, wearing gumboots if you want to. You could even go into deeper water with the dog if you like. Have a retrieving dummy or bumper and throw it for your dog to fetch. If your dog is not a reliable retriever yet, only throw the dummy into shallow water so that you can get to it if necessary. When you have a reliable retriever, throw the retrieve into deeper water and your dog will swim out and retrieve it.

So, at first you are getting the dog comfortable with going into water, and then building up to swimming into deeper water.

Another method that I have used with great success is to have the young dog go out with two or more older, experienced dogs that are good swimmers.   The experienced dogs go into the water to retrieve or just for a swim and the young dog will follow and soon they are swimming with the older dogs. It will be fun for your dog.

The breed of your gundog can make a difference. Some breeds or individuals may need a bit more encouragement at first and you have to make an assessment on how well your dog is accepting being in water and swimming. Most gundogs will take to water easily. Labrador Retrievers love swimming. They are amongst the best water dogs in the world.

In competition your gundog may have to retrieve into a dam or river. They may also be required to swim across a dam or river with the item to be retrieved on land across the other side. So practice both types of retrieves. Initially it is best to send your dog from the waters edge, so that they are less likely to run around the water or along the riverbank to avoid swimming.
It’s a good idea to go and see RT gundogs doing water retrieves. Check this Retrieving Australia website retrieving.org.au for upcoming trials and go and have a look.

Photo by Lara Sedgman

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Dogs NSW magazine.

This page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc. (Affiliated with Dogs NSW)