When you’re training your gun dog, there are few better methods to use than the Tri-Tronic Collar. A book called them Tri-Tronics Retriever Training Book by Jim and Phyllis Dobbs with Alice Woodyard could best be described as the bible when it comes to using this device. The company has been so kind as to allow us to reprint this comprehensive piece.
We’ve broken it down to three parts. And once again, many thanks to the maker of the Tri-Tronics Inc. collar for giving us the opportunity to share this series with you. While this is a condensed primer, we urge you to purchase this essential book as you begin to get your gun dog ready to become an indispensable partner when you take to the wild.
The three-action introduction lays the foundation for your dog’s future training with the Tri-Tronics collar. The three-action introduction teaches the dog that it can turn off mildly unpleasant electrical stimulation by performing three already familiar commands. The commands represent three distinctly different actions: come to the handler, go away from the handler, and become stationary.
The dog’s understanding of this concept is the foundation for all future collar training, because most commands you will reinforce with the collar are an extension of one of these actions. The three-action introduction also teaches the dog in a controlled setting that it can prevent electrical stimulation through its own prompt compliance. A dog with this understanding maintains a positive attitude about training.
The dog is ready to start the three-action introduction as soon as it is responsive to the commands “Here” and “Sit.” The dog should also know a command that means “get in your dog crate.” (We will use “Kennel” for this command.) The dog does not need to be reliable off leash on these or any other commands. In fact, the ideal time to begin the three-action introduction is before the dog is reliable off leash.
Teach the dog to bend; or change direction, by pressing the low button and using a command, which tells the dog to turn. Release the button the moment the dog changes direction and starts toward you. When you begin the three-action introduction, follow the steps described here. You should spend about a week on each of the three actions. Each week’s work should include at least five sessions in at least five different locations before you begin work on the next action. After the first week, most sessions should include a few repetitions of the preceding lessons to keep the dog in balance.
Spend the first week working on the action of coming toward you. This week includes bending the dog toward you and the “Here” and “Heel” commands. Spend the second week working on the action of going away from you. This includes “Kennel,” casting the dog into a crate and the “Place” command. Spend the third week on the action of becoming stationary, which includes “Sit,” the “Sit Whistle” and steadying. If you are training your dog as a hunting retriever, this is also the time to start teaching it to sit to flush.
When you start the three-action introduction, also begin working on the trained retrieve program. That way, your dog will have the skills it needs before you start to steady it and to teach it to sit to flush at the end of the third week.
The three-week time frame is an estimate, of course. Your dog’s own learning speed and the amount of time you can devote to training may dictate lengthening the schedule.
Make sure your dog really understands the three-action introduction even if it takes longer than three weeks.
While you are training the three-action introduction, use the Tri-Tronics collar to reinforce only the commands that you have already covered in that program. If you need to reinforce other commands during this stage of training, use methods other than the Tri-Tronics collar.
Week One – The First Action (Moving Toward the Handler) – AKA Training the Dog to Bend with the Collar
Go for a walk with the dog in a large field, away from traffic. Let the dog move off freely on its own. After a little while, and when the dog is about thirty feet away, change your direction. Say nothing to the dog. Watch to see if the dog changes direction to follow you. If it doesn’t, press the low button and give whatever command you will use to indicate to the dog that it is to turn. (If your dog does not know a separate command for this action, use your command “Here”).
Release the button the moment the dog changes direction and starts toward you.
Let the dog overtake you as you continue to walk along in the new direction. Do not stop walking or give the dog any verbal encouragement as it runs past you. Praising the dog will attract it to you and you want it to continue running past you across the field.
Follow the dog for a short distance. Following the dog’s direction keeps it freed-up and prevents it from just sticking to your side.
Change your direction when you see that the dog has become distracted and has begun to investigate something other than bird scent. After you change direction, watch to see if the dog will adjust to your direction without use of stimulation. Any time the dog does not bend on its own, press the low button as you give it the command to turn. Keep walking and release the button as soon as the dog turns toward you. After a while you will see the dog begin to pay attention to your location as the two of you walk through the field. Now the dog will begin to hunt with you instead of running independently.
“Here” means come all the way to you and don’t run past you. So stand still as you call your dog. Release the button the moment the dog heads toward you.
Training the Dog to Come With the Collar
Start this exercise in an enclosed training yard, not in the field. With the dog off leash, let it wander about in the yard. When the dog is headed away from you, press the low button and command ” Here!” Remain stationary and release the button the moment the dog starts toward you. The first few times you do this, bend over and praise the dog to entice it to come all the way to you.
Watch the dog. If it should veer off or fail to come all the way, or if it should immediately wander off again after coming to you, press the button and repeat the command, “Here!” Release the button the moment the dog heads toward you.
In the next chapter, we’ll get into such actions as moving away from the handler and becoming stationary. We cannot thank the makers of the Tri-Tronic Collar enough for allowing us to share this with you!