Mike Lardy's Total Retriever Training 2 Review

Written by: Dennis Voigt - July 01, 2009


Review by Dennis R. Voigt


The original Total Retriever Training (TRT) video by Mike Lardy has had a huge impact on modern retriever training. It was the first comprehensive video documentation of a complete training program. Perhaps more importantly, it was coupled with an approach that emphasized respect for the dog through fairness in training, care for its well-being and a huge emphasis on teamwork with a mentor relationship. Mike’s National success was well known but perhaps more significant was that he proved you could have high-flying dogs under control and willing team players without the more typical high level training pressure.

        The first video arose directly from a landmark seminar by Mike at Dick Johnston’s Mallard Hill Farms near Tallahassee, Florida in 1995. Teamed with Jerry Younglove of YBS media, this seminar was turned into the most popular retriever training video of all time with sections on Basics, Transition and Advanced work. Subsequently, Mike and YBS produced Total Retriever Marking and Total E-Collar Conditioning to fill out gaps in the original. At the same time, footage was filmed for enhancing this video including much on blind retrieves and advanced work.

        In the past decade plus, there has been an explosion of educational material on retriever training. We’ve now got the Rex Carr/Rorem tapes, the Dave Rorem Handling videos, the Danny Farmer/Judy Aycock series on Basics and Problem solving, the puppy videos by Jackie Mertens and another by Bill Hillman, the Transition video by Andy Attar, the Fowl Dawg series by Rick Stawski and the entire Smartworks series by Evan Graham. All of these, except the latter, have been reviewed in depth here. All have unique content to make you a better trainer.

        Now I’ve had a chance to study the new TRT, 2nd edition. By the time you read this, it will be available on the market and if you haven’t already bought it, here’s my review.

        First, this really is a very new product. It must have been a tough editing job to smoothly incorporate material from video shot over a 13 year period. The very best from the original seminar has been carved out and retained. Mike’s earliest description of his program at the 1995 seminar is still present. Remarkably, the principles, the fundamentals and the approach have not changed despite many refinements to keep up with the times. It is a testimony to the soundness of his program.

        The Basics section has been completely re-done. It now includes footage of Mike working a variety of dogs on basic obedience, force fetch, collar conditioning, three-handed casting, introduction to indirect pressure, pile work, double-t and swim-by. I really like its clarity. Mike shows that simple fundamentals, taught with a high standard, are the basis of his approach. There are no new fancy drills or totally different procedures. Instead, there is a clear illustration of what level of performance is necessary and how to achieve it in the young dog. I suspect that in some cases, some of you will say, “Is that all there is to it?” And others will say, “Oh, I skipped that step; I didn’t think it was important!”

        For those of you that have already put several dogs though the basics it would be easy to fast forward through the two DVD’s that deal with Basics. Mistake! Even if you aren’t currently putting a dog through this level, if you carefully study this section you will learn a ton about teaching dogs. Watch the body English, the use of praise and pressure and the dog’s responses. If you are training your first few dogs, force yourself to be a student and watch this section over and over. This section is a very clean presentation of the Basics steps without being over-bearing.

        By DVD 3, you will dig into Transition. This is almost entirely new and includes a lot of footage addressing the transition to blind work. A lot of this was filmed quite a few years ago. I know that because I was there was there with Carey Hunkel of Wisconsin. It was our challenge to stand by Mike as he went though the transition work and teaching blinds. Our job was to ask the kind of questions that you might ask while the dogs were working. I hope it will help you understand the content as if you were working with Mike at your side. In this section, you will see all of the steps, exercises and drills required for the transition dog. They are critical to developing a confident and hard running handling dog – a trademark of the Lardy truck.

        In DVD 4, you get introduced to Advanced training. I say introduced because no Advanced tape will ever be more than a start. The challenge of advanced work seems never-ending, thus the proliferation of advanced training and handling workshops. In fact, in this DVD, Mike mentions how much tests have changed since TRT 1. The big question is, “have the fundamentals of training changed much?” This is answered indirectly in this new product. You will see Mike in four distinct periods. The first is the original seminar and shootings for TRT1. Then you see him several years later as he, Carey and I work though handling and blind refinement levels. Next, if you pay attention, you will find a series of introductory comments in various sections made by Mike several years ago when much of the Basics footage was re-shot. Finally, you will see Mike in the last few years, providing a new introduction and perspective to most sections. Your only clue to those periods will be the location, whether Mike has a moustache or not, or whether his hair is thick and black or not. Heck, even my moustache has re-appeared! But seriously, I was personally amazed at the longevity and robustness of the earliest sermon. It is a testament to the solidarity of his teachings. It is also extremely valuable to hear Mike’s summation of various steps and procedures some 15-20 years after his original refinement. At the end of DVD 4, the original “Epilogue” by Mike delivered at Mallard Hill is included. Here Mike talks about a few of the great dogs that he has been privileged to stand beside. If this section does not stir your inner emotion or inspire you to go out and become a mentor to your dog, then I’m not sure what will. A must view.

        Included is a Bonus Disk 5, which includes Fireside chats with Mike, Carey and I. Here we try to ask the questions that you might have after viewing this DVD. Carey focuses on some of the common hunt test issues and I try to draw out of Mike details for field trial trainers. Topics are wide-ranging but deal with important details.

        As a further bonus, DVD 5 has a unique section on Bird-Boy (BB) Blinds. BB Blinds are a Rex Carr procedure that has many uses. Mike illustrates how to use BB Blinds to solve problems. He defines problems as weaknesses that prevent a dog from progressing. This can be an extremely challenging process but one that can work wonders when done properly. I have personally seen dozens of serious problems solved with this technique. Never before has it been so effectively illustrated. I’ve written about it several times but I suspect until you see this section you will not appreciate the subtleties. A true bonus DVD!

        If all this isn’t enough, Mike has completely re-written the manual. The new one is concise and precise. It is loaded with diagrams and very good for quick reference. Again, classic Lardy — simple but focused. It is a true companion to the DVD as it parallels its content but at the same time embellishes lessons. I know that different folks learn best from visual versus oral versus written versus schematic material. Whatever your strong point, make an effort and study both the written manual and the visual DVD. You and your dog will be the better for it.

        This 7-hour DVD package is priced around $150 US. That’s a real bargain, even if you already have TRT 1. Go to www.ybsmedia.com or www.totalretrievers.com for details.


Tip about Mike Lardy training 

The Art of Simplifying

One of my earliest observations about Mike Lardy’s field setups for his advanced dogs was how clean and straight forward they seemed. As I studied them, I realized that they had very clean lessons. Decisions by the dog were easy to read and corrections were easy to understand by the dog. Sometimes, one or two seemingly innocent marks were used. But they set up the lesson, making it easier to teach the lesson. Mike’s approach to yard work is similar. There are no complicated procedures here. It is just a systematic progression of skills that are reviewed in each subsequent step. Furthermore, throughout the program there is a minimum of lessons and drills. Keep it simple folks!

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Written by: Dennis Voigt| July 01, 2009
Categories:  DVD / Book Review

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