Training a Retriever Puppy with Bill Hillman -a New DVD
By Dennis R. Voigt
I already know a couple of folks using this brand new DVD to train their puppy. They are all doing well and are really pleased with their progress. As long-time
subscribers know, I always play hard ball on these reviews so what do I think? Well I
only have two thumbs and this gets "Two Thumbs Up". I like it and will share with you
precisely why in this review.
Bill Hillman has had more Derby Champions than anybody! That alone is enough reason
to pay attention to what he has to offer. If you are serious about these games
(aren't we all?) then why would you not want to gain every advantage that you can?
Can Bill get you thinking about how to train a pup? Can he challenge your current
When I first watched this DVD I thought to myself "Interesting", I do a lot of that - maybe not all but I've seen all these techniques before". BUT, then I began to
analyze and re-think this DVD for our subscribers. I began to look at it as a newbie
might. I realized that this is NOT conventional. More importantly, I realized there
are important merits to this schedule and approach.
In this DVD, Bill shows 28 days of real time training sessions with a puppy over a
time span of 2 ! months The puppy is 11 weeks old at the start. At the end of 28
days of training the puppy is 5 ! months old (a time span of 11 weeks). In other
words, there are many days which the puppy is not formally trained. Most importantly,
the pup during these days gets many sessions of house time and one-on-one walks with
Bill or family members.
Family members include Mary Hillman who played a major role in filming an editing
this DVD. Together, Bill and Mary have created a DVD that has elements of
professional DVDs with assorted nice "mood" introductory scenes and various cutaways
throughout. Most of the footage has had sound over narration by Bill describing what
the pup and what Bill is doing. This has a nice mood to it as Bill details what is
going on and interprets what the puppy is doing. This is done in a quiet and friendly
tone which I suspect is exactly how Bill would want you to approach your puppy
training. On one day (Day 4) you will hear Bill's every word as he trains the puppy.
You get to hear his voice inflection and emphasis as well as how he vocally responds
to the pup behavior. Actually this turns out to be one of my biggest criticisms
this DVD. I would love to hear Bill talking to his pup more often. I want to hear him
when he says "sit" and how he says it. I want to hear more on how he praises. I'd
also like to know when he nicks the puppy with the e-collar - how much - how often.
Sure I gain a sense of it by studying the DVD but I'm often left guessing. On the
other hand I find Bill's post filming narration to be very valuable as he is able to
focus on the key behavior that he wanted to encourage. This gives me insight into
his approach to training.
How does Bill start a Puppy?
Answer: By teaching the pup in a fun and exciting way all the skills that the puppy
needs before he starts more formal Basics training. I don't know what Basic program,
if any, Bill follows. For sure, his puppy at the end of this DVD is not ready to run/
win a Derby but also for sure his is more than prepared to enter any Basics programs
as most of us know it. What does Bill do to foster the superb marking his dogs have
demonstrated? We don't yet know (Bill, give is the next installment now that we know
how to start the pups!!!)
This video will really help newbies to expose their puppy to all the basics that
their puppy should have. We see Bill expose his puppy to leashes, sitting,
distractions, e-collars, bumpers and birds and guns, coming when called, delivering,
dealing with distractions, entering water, watching remote gunners and becoming
OK here's the buried treasure in my view. Bill teaches his puppies to be very steady
and he introduces excitement differently than most conventional training. How do most
do it? Most try to encourage and foster excitement and desire to retrieve. Even
though we have carefully selected the best genetics in the country we try to foster
retrieving desire. Is this really necessary? Don't the pups have that genetically and
automatically? We see those late bloomers but why do we doubt that they have the
So what do we do? We create a high excitement "fireworks" environment every day. The
pup soon learns to come out learning and yearning for the fireworks. What does he
get? The fireworks! No wonder we have creepers!
What does Bill do? The opposite! He teaches sit very early and soon introduces the
pup to steadiness as he throws the bumper himself. He does a routine he calls traffic
cop but it is exactly the same as the Stand Alone Mark that Retrievers ONLINE readers
have heard about for many years. The trainer throws the bumper, while the pup watches
and then the pup is released to get the bumper and eventually delivers to the
trainer. Because the handler is located between the bumper and the handler there is a
lot of trainer presence and it is easy to get the pup to stay at short distances.
Initially, this is done in a rather low key manner until the pup understands the
desired behavior. Gradually the excitement level and the distractions increases.
I have done this for years with all my dogs but only after they have started Basics
and been though Force Fetch and Collar Conditioning. By then the pup has had hundreds
of exciting marks and is absolutely raring to go when he sees a gunner. Bill doesn't
introduce a gunner in the equation until about Day 25 in this DVD. At first even then
it is just a quiet hand throw of a hand thrown bumper. Familiar technique? - Yes similar
approach? No way. To counter all this steadiness Bill does a lot of happy
bumpers to keep the excitement level of the pup high. Thus he is doing a lot of "Yes" go get it and a lot of "No" sit until I say. The pup surely sees the contrast and
develops a lot of patience.
Bill has an almost too small mini manual accompanying this DV. It gives a few
sentences for each day. Many start with the line "After excitement retrieves". For
some pups this may be critical to foster retrieving drive. For our over the top dogs
perhaps not! I wish the booklet was in fact a manual as it is certainly brief. It
does provide a simple summary of the 28 days and I did find that very useful to over
see the method. This also allows you jump directly to the desired day and stage of
training-the joy of DVD's.
There is much more that I could describe but the issue is will this video help you
develop a puppy in a better way? I have heard some comments that this approach (which
is in some ways is free-wheeling but requires you to read your pup) might require a
more experienced trainer who can read his puppy. That might be true if the novice
casually watches the DV but once. I know that is commonplace as I hear people say "I
watched the Rorem DVD on handling once" or "Yeah I saw the Lardy DVD-I know what he
does!". You cannot watch any of these videos once and expect to even begin to reap their benefits. You have to watch then over and over and you will see the subtleties that can help you train like the presenters. If you study Bill and the demo puppy,
you too will learn how to do it even if you are a relative newbie. Bills day by day
process is not a strict formula. I suspect he handles each puppy slightly
differently. Study his philosophy, his attitude and his general sequence. Pay
attention to how he tries to make the puppy think this is fun while he learns.
Observe his patience but persistence when the pup doesn't get it. There are a lot of
lessons buried here.
This DVD will influence how I train my next puppy!!! Enough said after playing with
pups for so many years! I liked the format and the voice over. I would have liked to
hear even more actual voice by Bill. The manual could have been expanded but is quite
useful. I got the feeling mini sessions were missed as suddenly the pup starts
sitting much better. Perhaps, more explanation of the e-collar frequency and
intensity would help newer folks because that is an area that they always struggle
with. If in doubt, less may be best. The video footage is good quality and the sound is certainly good enough. There is a nice mood with background guitar music and some
nice photography including slow motion at the end. Overall, I think the DVD is a
highly stimulating 3 hours that you can go back to and review segments as desired.
It's certainly on the pricey side for a puppy video at $129 but if we put things into
perspective, it's a bargain in the long run (1 weekend's entry for 1 dog!). As I said
Two Thumbs Up!
I can't wait for BIll to produce his next video on "How to Make A Derby Champion!!!
Bill Hillmann: Retrievers ONLINE is invaluable to anyone that's interested in becoming
a better trainer. It doesn't matter if it's a hunting dogs or if you are training a dog at highest level of competition. To learn more or subscribe: www.retrieversonline.com.