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Teaching the Channel - Part 1- Introduction to going straight on the water

Teaching the Channel Swim

As soon as the puppy is comfortable swimming begin teaching a channel swim.

Video of a young puppy beginning to learn the channel swim.

Step One - Teach the Approved Exit

Start with your puppy working at heel from the kennel platform you puppy knows from his obedience and casting drills.

You need an easy entry. 

Make it easy for the puppy to get in and out where you are sending and receiving from.

It is best if you have the square end of a channel to work with. ( I don't, I have a round end on the channel I usually school on)

Make it easy for the puppy to identify the exit in the middle of the channel.

Have your puppy make a few short retrieves of white bumpers thrown down the center line of the channel. Start with a line on the puppy. Use the line to guide the return if you need it. When you do not need the line to guide her return begin to increase the length of the swim.

Make it easy for the puppy to swim straight to the mark and then straight back to you.

This is a very important step. Make sure your puppy has success swimming straight out to the throw and straight back.  Don't try to go for long swims at first. Repetitions of short swims straight out and back will establish for your puppy a good pattern.   

Step Two - Add the thrower

Working from the kennel platform in the same place you did step One. Place you helper down the side of the channel, a little closer than the length of your longest hand thrown channel swims. 

Change one variable at a time in training, adding the thrower increases the difficulty of this setup in one way so reduce the length of the swim to decrease the difficulty another way.

Have your helper throw a white bumper with a flat throw (the bumper will be no closer or farther from you than the helper is) right to the middle of the channel. Call your puppy back to you. Practice at this distance one or two throws and then have your helper move a few steps farther down the channel for each throw. After a few retrieves and before your puppy is tired end the session with a short retrieve at the distance where you started the lesson.

When stretching your puppy out it is a good idea to end on a shorter retrieve. You want to end the session with your puppy strong and confident. If you end on the longest swim he may go away from the lesson not sure if he can do the work.  

Step Three - Increase the Length of the swim

Video of seven month old puppy doing a full channel swim

Every time you return to the channel start with the short throws from your helper. Throw each mark longer than the one before and end with a short throw. You need to build a foundation of success swimming straight out and back before your puppy tries to run around. 

When your puppy does try to go to a close shore rather than return to you you need to act quickly. If the puppy goes toward the right bank move down the left bank and call the puppy to you. When he is approaching the center line on his return move to the end of the channel and continue to call him. If he bails out try to catch him on his flight and throw the bumper back in the water and then run back to the platform and call him to you again. 

If he cannot succeed in returning by land and he has a foundation of success of returning by water he will finish the retrieve by swimming the center line to the platform.

After a retrieve that results in the puppy trying to get out early return to shorter throws. Get a good retrieve straight out and back and then work your way back out. Success builds success.

Looking Ahead- Part 2

Video using the channel swim to teach advanced water concepts

We will look at beginning to handle to get the straight route and applying some small pressures on the water work.


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