Review of Hillmann's Training a Retriever Puppy Revised

Written by: Dennis Voigt - April 01, 2013


A Review of Bill Hillmann’s Newest Puppy Video

Review by Dennis R. Voigt


Bill Hillmann’s first Puppy Training video has been very popular. It has helped a lot of first time retriever owners to get their puppy started in an easy and friendly way that was fun for both them and the puppy. Many people that used to train their puppies in a more conventional way have tried it and liked it. I am amongst those, having trained my last three puppies à la Hillmann-style. It emphasizes balance between excitement and obedience with the result that you end up with a puppy that can “sit” very solidly and still have a lot of go and good attitude. Puppies develop patience and, while they are never restrained from going, they learn to be steady and sit and watch marks at a very young age.

        In the first video, Bill showed 28 days of training one puppy named Nick. This wasn’t 28 days in a row but over a period from 11 weeks to 5 months or so. A lot of people liked this approach and were able to “copy” it by going out and trying to do similar things in sequence. Since then, Bill has done quite a few workshops, four other videos and received a lot of feedback. He has also done a lot of thinking about the process of training a puppy and how best to teach it. I am sure that Bill had barely finished his video when he began to wish he had said this or done that and to think about ways to improve it. I suspect this is true of every trainer who has made an instructional video (including myself!)

        The result of this is that Bill and Mary Hillmann have released a revised edition that is dramatically different in presentation, although the fundamental program is very similar. In the new edition, Bill presents far more explanation about how and why he does various things in the puppies’ development. There is a great deal of philosophy throughout which can be extended to older dogs beyond the puppy Basics. Thus, the new edition will appeal to experienced trainers even if they don’t currently have a puppy to train.

        One of the biggest differences is that in this video we see several different dogs being taught the same lesson. While the original Nick is included, there are others that show different things. This will be invaluable to viewers. The sequence of lessons is similar but they are not presented as a set of training days. Instead, Bill discusses each lesson, shows it with several dogs and discusses what you are looking for, what to avoid, what NOT to be concerned about and when to move on.

        Perhaps the biggest difference is that Bill is showing you how to develop the puppy rather than present a “how-to” set of steps. In his own words, he says:

“This is a training method dedicated to how you want your puppy to be, more than what you want your puppy to do.”

        There are quite a few sections that cover things not included in the original. For example, Bill shows his wishbone drill, walking marks, the fire drill, the Y-drill and home plate (what I call “send backs”). His introduction of gunners is at the very end but it has more detail and explanation of what you are trying to achieve.

        I really like that Bill has included a small 8 page booklet that lists his 20 chapters with a paragraph for each on contents. This is great for getting an overview or for jumping to a section for a review. The following is a list of the chapter headers.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Building Slightly on the First Lesson
  3. Balance – Introduction to Water
  4. Making the Training Session the Highlight of the Day
  5. Reinforcing Sit vs. Correction on Sit
  6. Introducing Here – Starting to Wear the Collar
  7. Continuing to Build
  8. Starting Traffic Cop
  9. Introduction to the Whistle – Early Stages of Traffic Cop – Feeding
  10. More Early Stages of Traffic Cop
  11. Introduction to Birds
  12. Starting Collar Conditioning on Sit
  13. Starting Hold – Starting Fetch as Excitement
  14. More Collar Conditioning – Practicing Hold
  15. Two Kinds of Puppy Marks
  16. An Indoor Session – Here Command from Sit Position
  17. Introducing Hold on the Return
  18. Sit Command Reinforced Using Collar, Line, Whistle
  19. Extending Distance on Traffic Cop – Intro to a Double
  20. Marks – With throwers – Walking marks – Fire Drill – Y-Drill – Home Plate

        The DVD comes on two disks and is just over 5 hours long in total. It is available at for $149USD including shipping and handling.  

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Written by: Dennis Voigt| April 01, 2013
Categories:  DVD / Book Review
Keywords:  DVD/Book Reviews

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