Dennis Voigt previously published in Retrievers ONLINE

Fundamentals Land/Water:

Bill Hillmann’s latest DVD follows from his widely accepted earlier puppy videos. We have reviewed all three of those including: Training a Retriever Puppy; The Fetch Command and; Traffic Cop. These videos covered the early steps in training a puppy to be a willing and happy retriever that was reliable on basic commands such as sit, here and fetch. The Fetch Command DVD showed a method of reinforcing fetch that was low pressure and unlike the ‘grind them down’ ear-pinching techniques of some trainers. Traffic Cop emphasized reinforcing “sit” and the use of the “soft collar” as Bill refers to it. Basically, e-collar uses involve a lot of low level (1-2) nicks while the dog is in the act of a desired behaviour like sit. [read more]

Puppy Video: 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. [read more]

Fetch Command Video: Working retrievers must fetch without question when commanded. A failure to fetch is a failure to retrieve to hand. Many decades ago trainers developed ways of ensuring that dogs complied. They called this force fetch or force breaking with good reason because “force” was the operative word. Most trainers used an ear pinch to reinforce the fetch behaviour. Some Pointer trainers used a toe hitch which a few later retriever trainers also adopted. Finally, some used the e-collar either at the end of force fetching or in some cases exclusively. [read more]

Traffic Cop: In past issues of Retrievers ONLINE, I have reviewed three of Bill Hillmann’s DVDs including Training a Retriever Pup, Training any Breed of Dog with the Soft Collar and The Fetch Command. In those reviews, I gave some details on Bill’s approach to training and his techniques, especially when they differed from conventional. I have become a solid advocate of his puppy training emphasis on balance between fun/excitement and control, notably with sit and patience. [read more]

Training Your Pet with the Electric Collar – The “Soft Collar Method”: This brand new DVD is a guide to training your pet on three basic commands – Sit, Here and No – using the electric collar as a reinforcement tool. So what are we doing here in Retrievers ONLINE reviewing a DVD on how to train a pet? The answer is that the author is Bill Hillmann is a successful field trial retriever trainer who is worth studying for his methodology. Studying this video not only gives you insight into how Bill approaches training in general but also insight into his techniques and philosophy. On the principle that you can learn something from everything.

Bill & Mary,

I wanted to share a little about my 9 month old puppy that I started with the Training a Retriever Puppy DVD.

Some background… A couple years ago, I had heard so many great things about your puppy DVD that I decided to buy it to help me bring out the “chase” in a 7 1/2 month old lab that I had recently acquired. The pup was a from a very nice breeding, but was washed out by the pro trainer after just a few weeks because she wouldn’t retrieve. She really would not retrieve. I credit your puppy DVD with really helping me to understand the training balance necessary to get the most out of this pup.

Get the chase going first!

It took several months to get this dog to chase anything not wild (she would chase squirrels, chipmunks, and mice but had little interest in bumpers, balls, or even clip-wing pigeons). I’m running that dog this weekend for her MH title. She has also JAMed a very tough Qualifying stake.

Thanks! Glen Guider

Hey Guys,

I wanted to touch base with you regarding the progression of your videos. I bought my folks a puppy by Wing Magic’s Louisiana Roux about 4 months ago. It was strongly suggested by a friend of mine that they get your “Training a Retriever Puppy” video so my folks ordered it. The progression they’ve made, this being the first retriever my dad has trained at 61, has blown my mind. My Dad can’t get enough of that dog and he’s seeing the progress and I’m afraid that it’s turning into an obsession. They’re to the point where they’re in need of moving forward in the progression of videos and with Christmas coming up, I thought it might be a good idea to get them a video or two so they can move forward in training.

Please let me know what you suggest.

Thanks for all you’re doing!

Trent Goree

Hi Mary,

I am so fortunate to have the teachings that Bill has learned over the years. I was watching your blog on Traffic Cop and knew this is the hole in my training of my young dog. I also train competitive obedience and train now with Bridget Carlsen who also thinks like Bill! Wanting the dog to enjoy his work and therefore giving all of his effort to play the game and be a teamplayer with style.

I can’t thank you enough for all the time and effort you have spent to bring us the Best Way to train your retriever!!! I will let you know how I progress after I have watched the entire DVD and applied it.

Marcia Johnson

Hi, Mary!

I cannot tell you enough how much I LOVE Bill’s methods. I bought the “Traffic Cop” DVD last summer, spent the last few months implementing it, and am reaping the rewards now from using them. My eight month old flat coat puppy, Bailey, is doing wonderfully in the field, and has better line manners than many of the older dogs in our training group. “Traffic Cop” has most certainly been the key factor in getting there; okay, and consistency and starting early don’t hurt either. One of the other gals in our group was so impressed that she went and bought all four of Bill’s DVDs on my recommendation.

I would recommend “Traffic Cop” to anyone (and I have done that many times) and cannot wait to start with the fetch work. I’ve even thought about buying the puppy DVD and going through that with my girl as well. Couldn’t hurt!

I will let you know how the fetch work goes with Bailey. I have gone through force-fetch training with other dogs of mine, and to be honest, have really struggled with the intense pressure put on the my dog. It doesn’t feel good at all to fry a dog on a three or a four on the collar and to be told that’s not high enough. I’m looking forward to Bill’s calm way of training a dog that gets results without abusing the poor animal.

Thanks so very much for offering this DVD series. It has made a huge difference for me and my dog!

Take care,

Diana Martin-Gruenler

Dear Mary Hillmann,

I found the Hillman puppy retriever training video to be the most inspirational puppy retriever training video that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. Trust me. I’ve seen quite a few. I think Bill’s out of the box approach sets the standard for where puppies can be out 5 1/2 months. I could feel the intense drive that Bill got out of his dog, Nick, through a series of simple repetitive drills, constant praise, and sincere passion. I’ve changed my approach to training my puppies, as a result. I could see the advantages on the first day. My pups are only 10 weeks old at this point. I’ll keep you posted on their progress. I have to take a week off beginning for fishing. While I love fishing, I almost hate to miss the week of training after watching Bill work his magic. I certainly hope I have the pleasure of meeting both of you some day. Thank you both for taking the time to make this outstanding training video. This is clearly the best value for the money puppy training video that I’ve had the pleasure to peruse. It is money justly spent. Both of you should be quite proud.

Regards, John Cole

I first purchased your puppy DVD and thought it was a little costly until I watched it! Mr. Hillmann offers so much more than just dog training. He makes dog training fun again. I’m 69 this year and been training dogs; either Labs or Spanials most of them. “I”, like “You”, was told there always had to be some pain and a rushed timetable in training. And that would take all the fun out of dog training for me and the dog.

Now I Just received the Fetch DVD and have watched it. And back to the price once again. You can’t put a price on quality. Wonderful thoughts and great ideas. The only regret I have is I didn’t have your product earlier in my life. I think your products are fresh and great and I would buy more of them. It’s so nice to see a different way to peel an apple and you are very very good at it.

Thanks Richard Poulsen

I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated and enjoyed your DVD- Training A Retriever Puppy

I’m not new to the Retriever game having trained and handled 4 Master Hunters and with some success in the field Trial Game as a pure amateur.

I picked up my new puppy from Mary Howley-Candlewood Kennels- on September 19, 2009 and followed your DVD Program religiously.

Several times on the DVD you made the comment that the pup is learning all of these things and “he doesn’t even know it”. How true that statement is. My pup is now a little over 4 months old ad I am extremely happy with our progress. I would never have dreamed of introducing so many things at such a young age in the past. From my early perspective YOUR PROGRAM WORKS.

Dick Andrews, LeLand, IL

Bill, I think your legacy in the field trial world and certainly the training and helping of us who may never reach the threshold of talent you possess, can only but surely be enhanced by teaching us what you have indeed experienced in a lifetime journey. The puppy DVD with Nick was and will always be a true asset that will stand the test of time. So, yes, please help us to learn all that we can. You know in the end, the dogs will be the better for it because you have shown us how to treat them and train them in a kind manner.

Thanks for your concern, interest, and kindness,

Scott Miles

Wow!! Where to start…..I first learned of the DVD’s on RTF, and heard nothing but good reviews and bought the puppy and Fetch. I have trained several gun-dogs over the last 20 years, and struggled at times with FF and steadiness. I bought a very well bred black lab bitch this past summer and wanted to just do the training differently, and your video’s have been the perfect ticket. My pup is 8 months old, and is probably farther along than any dog I have ever trained, and it was so much easier on me and her. I very much appreciate the videos and will be ordering more as they become available.  I believe Bill has a better way……. Thanks, Barry McLain
I am convinced after watching Bill’s video that there would be far fewer washouts in the retriever world if people followed Bills DVD to the letter.

Sounds like a perfect solution for starting a lifetime of success with your pup. I have a new pup coming and I can’t wait to train him with the Hillmann’s methods.

Keep it fun but maintain the standards and build the decide to retrieve A N D the desire to please.

Tim West, Arcadia Retrievers

Dear Bill –

BIG NEWS — your method works. Thank you!

My wife and I watched your video multiple times before our puppy was born. Having trained my own retrievers for 40 years and apprenticed with some of the best out there (Bert Carlson, Paul Shoemaker (briefly), Doug Orr and Roy & Jim Gonia), it was hard to change my ways. My wife was persistent and won out.

Now @ 5 months Maat, out female lab puppy: 1) Automatically sits when we get to a door, gate or fence. 2) Sits while I go out 50 -60 yards and throw a wide double and come back and send her. 3) Sits with her parents while i go out 80-90 yards and throw a duck to a salted area to ensure success. 4) Does the retrieve when I call her and delivers to me in the remote position. 5) She’ll sit by my side and honor her parents when it’s their turn. 6) Retrieving and honoring her parents while my wife shoots and throws ducks. 7) She sits and does puppy overs and backs. 8) She sits while I walk over the chip pile, log or turned over picnic bench. Then she comes on a line after I’ve called her. Then she does the subsequent retrieve over the obstacle. 8) She sits and will grab the bumper when I say fetch….

Maat still has one puppy incisor left to lose, so it will be another 3 or 4 weeks before we start force breaking. She should sail through this quite well.

The point to all this is that she is a very happy puppy whose never had a bad day in her life. She is a very aggressive retriever whose first move, when I let her out of the kennel, is to run around into the kennel room. She sits in front of the shelf where her bucket of puppy bumpers are and barks at it. She sits and stretches her neck out to put on the collar because it’s a preface to getting to retrieve.

She is farther ahead at this stage than any other puppy I have trained. Over the years I’ve trained 3 field champions, including her great-grandmother (Magic’s Black Pearl and her great aunt (Timshal).

Gently and persistently making SIT a way of life for the puppy advances them faster and more easily than what I was doing before.

A possible name for your method of training would be Tao. It’s pronounced (D-eow) with a ‘d’ and the last syllable like meow. Grandmaster Jim Garrison, 9th degree black belt in Hapkido Karate, trains retrievers. He gave me this word when I asked him. It means ‘the gentle way’ and seems to fit.

Sorry to run on this long, but your method works really well with aggressive, hard going dogs. Maat and I really appreciate your insight.

Thanks again,

John Ball

P.S. We recommended your DVD to all of the people who got our puppies.

I am such a Fan of the Bill Hillman methodology of training puppies….

I am on my ninth pup now…that I have trained using methods and sequencing on your DVD.

As a Breeder I only want the best for my pups and my puppy customers and that means SUCCESS.

SUCCESS starts with a Solid Foundation of Training…and that equates to using your DVD.

The Bill Hillmann DVDs are a fantastic step by step method that walks you toward gaining that training success. I recommend your DVD to all my puppy Customers.


Karen Gilbert, Redstar Kennels, Hemlock, MI.

Dear Mr. Hillman,

Training a Retriever Puppy video was, and still is, my Labrador Bible for guidance.

September 9th we came into possession of a beautiful 7 week old black lab whom we named Gunner.

Your knowledge shared through easy to understand step by step training techniques opened a door into a world previously considered most intimidating to me. Your soft spoken plain talk allowed me to think I too could succeed in guiding Gunner into becoming a great retriever companion.

Long before September 9th your video was listened to over and over while writing page after page of notes outlining

important points you stressed. My loving wife Cyndy listened for hours from the kitchen somewhat a doubting Thomas I could muster the loving patience you profess throughout your video.

I will not lie I was afraid of failing my new pup in his training.

With a doubt filled mind and fear tugging at the heart I placed faith in God first with your video running a very close second, it was at that point we began training.

Well, I’m here to say your words rang true as to what would happen if followed. The training your video taught me won those following days, months and year.

Mr. Hillman, please know Gunner is now a joy to watch and work in concert with in the field. Thank you from the bottom of both our hearts.

All the compliments he and I get belong to you sir. If not for Training a Retriever Puppy video none of that would be happening today.

I owe it all to your willingness to share years of professional training producing world champion dogs and a much deserved reputation as the best of the best.

May God richly bless you and your family with health and happiness now and in the days to come.

Sincerely and respectfully yours, Steven R. Higgins

Jennifer Broome at Quinebaug Kennel in Connecticut wrote:

Bill Hillmann’s video “Training your Pet with the Electronic Collar” is a wonderful video. Many dog owners are intimidated by remote electronic training collars simply because they do not know how to properly use them, or they have seen them misused. Bill’s “soft collar” method uniquely combines play time, teaching, and reinforcing in a clear step by step program that all dogs can not only grasp quickly, but most importantly they readily and happily enjoy the methods. A dog that has been trained fairly and properly to the remote electronic training collar not only enjoys more free off leash time, their owners equally feel at ease knowing that they can safely control their pets and reinforce the all important recall command. Another great video Bill!

Dear Bill and Mary,

Just a short note to tell you how much I appreciate your work. I have three of the four videos you have produced.

They have been very educational and frankly, I believe they have opened my eyes and a lot of others to a new, better way of training our beloved retrievers.

One of the biggest changes to the more traditional ways of training that I see in your work is looking for and teaching “Contrasts in behavior”. That is, rewarding the good behavior, and extinguishing the bad behavior by removing the reward. A far cry from punishment training! Far too often, we as trainers can let emotion dictate the lesson, and you do a remarkable job of not letting emotion enter into the picture. As they say, “Teach the lesson, don’t lessen the teach!”

One of my favorite quotes..”The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being. The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be” –Konrad Lorenz, 1903-1989.

Keep up the great work, you and Mary are influential in the way we approach training our beloved animals.

With Kind Regards,

Don Wildes

Tim Harris at Rugged Retrievers in CO wrote:

I feel personally this is the best retriever training video I’ve ever seen. Most videos show either the finished product being run on a set-up, which, don’t get me wrong, is good. They show the trainer’s finished product. Others show the start of training and then 3 weeks later here is where the dog is etc, etc. What I like about your video is the fact there is no off camera training. Absolutely perfect! This is what so many people need, but haven’t been able to find.

Over the years, I’ve had several clients tell me they wish there was a video that showed each day of training vs just showing the beginning and the end. Well now they have it. Your DVD is head & heels above the rest. You and Bill have done a great job! I encourage my clients with puppies and older dogs to buy a copy. There is such a wealth of information in this video.

Hi Mary-

The DVD was absolutely terrific, just the tool we needed to get our new pup off to a good start. My husband and I have had Flat-Coats for over 25 years and run primarily in hunt tests (very occasionally Qualifying if we have one that’s good enough.) We’ve just started a 16 week old male and are following your DVD “by the book.” We’re thrilled with the results. Our little guy comes out happy, wanting to chase and find his bumpers and birds. He’s getting steadier every session and is showing excellent focus all of which I attribute to Bill’s wisdom and good daily lessons.

This definitely will make training progressions so much easier for all of us.

I also want to compliment you on both the quality and the format of the DVD. It’s easy to watch and very listener friendly-the voice over was a great idea. The pace and the daily repetitions are wonderful examples in and of themselves, making it really easy to understand how puppies learn and why they can’t be rushed or pushed. (I’m an obedience trainer by profession-wish I’d had a dime for every time I’ve said “slow down, take it easy, do it again and again” to the puppy classes!)

Sorry to be so long-winded, but I just wanted to let you know how much we liked it. Any more in the future??

Good luck with your dogs, although I’m pretty sure that luck has nothing to do with all the success you’ve had.

Your DVD definitely proves that!

Thanks again, take care, Martha McCluskey

Hi Bill & Mary,

I just finished watching the video entirely. I appreciated Bill’s thorough explanations & demonstrations. This is the best video I’ve seen for training basic obedience commands. It allows you to see the dog make mistakes then learn from them. Bill demonstrates in detail from day one (placing the dog in position & teaching the commands) to increasing distance and reinforcement with the soft collar. I feel good for the dogs whose owners use this video. Bill obviously understands dogs, training & how to use the electronic collar properly. It’s a video that not only dog owners will appreciate but also the dogs! I highly recommend this video to anyone that wants to train their own dog. I didn’t intend for the above paragraph to be a review but it could be (smile). I was just putting my feelings in writing to you.

Susan Pilkerton

Waller, TX

Owner: Sunsplash Competition Obedience ( currently in Waller, TX ) & A Better Companion Dog Training (previously in Houston, TX) 30 years experience teaching puppy, basic & competition obedience along with teaching advanced tracking. Breeder of Obedience and Agility Champion Golden Retrievers.

Trained 9 Golden Retrievers to the highest level in obedience competition. All are in the Obedience Hall of Fame and were/are nationally ranked, (5-OTCH, 5-TDX, 5-Perfect Scores, numerous agility, hunting titles and more).

Hi Mary, I don’t know if I can properly articulate the excitement I have towards starting to train now. This DVD finally cracked the mystery that was totally eluding me about “retriever training”. I had no idea where to begin and it was very frustrating for me.

My feedback on the DVD is based on my being a person with “0” Field or retrieving background…

I have went out to see people train for sure… Every year I sign up for lessons and get board with the instructions and assignment… as everyone is so far advanced, I ended up just watching in awe as my dogs eyes glazed over. Everyone there already knew what they were doing, I felt defeated ..maybe more overwhelmed, before I even started.

I do train my dogs for CD level obedience and Rally Obedience and we do get perfect scores and high in trials so training with goals is what I’m used to…

I have to say, this is the FIRST DVD (and I have bought a few) that makes “sense” to me. day by day training… wow so common sense now. Just simple things to build on.

It is just like how I train for obedience… bits at a time until they all come together. Only this time it is a slightly different skill set… and simplified so that I could follow it and do so knowing there was going to be long term gains.

I love that the puppy was not anxious or stressed as I have seen at classes and a trial I went to. The puppy was eager to please and confident. really enjoyed watching the puppy grow and the instructions build, on every success the puppy had. (Although I have to admit seemed a bit unreal how fast that puppy was advancing… LOL )

Thanks for basically putting a DVD video together that a lay person can watch, understand and get excited about using it to train their puppy. I can’t wait to get started…

One question though… how old was the puppy at the week one start ?? I hope I didn’t miss that as I thought I heard 8 weeks…but … no … really ??? – Laura

Mary thank you so much for getting the video sent off so quickly! I have really enjoyed your puppy training video and cant wait to get my hands on the Fetch Video! The puppy training video has put my dog so far ahead of the other dogs that I have seen. I have people come to my house that are just amazed at how behaved she is. She knows sit means sit!! Thank you so much and I really cant wait to start the fetch portion. I have pasted some links in the bottom of this email of my puppy at a couple different stages in his development. Super happy with the puppy training video and cant wait to purchase the basic training land version!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! –Brady Crane

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Hillmans program will transition well to any advanced program. His program instills a rock solid foundation to work from. I bought my first Lab in 1983 and have trained and worked with many over the years. I can honestly say the $130.00 bucks for that DVD was the best $130 I ever spent on dog training. It not only teaches a good foundation but more importantly PREVENTS so many undesirable traits.

Disclaimer: I don’t’ know the Hillmans and don’t make anything from them. – Randy

Hello Mary, I am new to retriever training, starting to get really involved last September. I have been doing agility with my Labs and decided it was time to get a young dog for that purpose. I ended up getting an almost two year old yellow Lab. She was a kennel dog intended for breeding but languished in the kennel with no training or socializing. She was incredibly timid and supposedly had no retrieving drive. I discovered she wanted to retrieve but was almost afraid to. Soon as I gave her permission and made it fun she was amazing. A friend doing retriever training invited me to a club training day and I was hooked. Kaiya is really an amazing marker and has fantastic style on land and in the water. Our greatest setback has been my lack of direction and real understanding of how to train the basics/yard work/obedience etc.etc. My training friends have been helpful with recommending lots of reading material, lending me various videos and of course offering advice. Training hold and fetch was really a struggle. I had my stool and roller on the front porch and we did nothing but get frustrated. Finally one of my training partners lent me The “Fetch Command” by Bill Hillman. It worked immediately, and was fun and easy. When I saw the “Fundamentals part 1 land” video I decided this was what I needed to give me the direction and wear with all to work with to catch up and advance. We had been doing most of the fundamentals as shown on your you tube video’s but now with Fundamentals, Bill outlines the steps and clarifies the processes with more information. What I needed too was reassurance and reminders it takes time and patience and lots of practice. Right now our biggest challenge is the whistle sit once she has momentum.

Bill, I really appreciate your philosophy and methods. Thanks, Lynne Johnson

Mary, What an outstanding video! Ingenious approach for a puppy and I picked up on many different techniques to use on my new pup! I just love the happy attatude of that puppy.I have to admit that the purchase price caused me to hesitate but the information in this video is Priceless! Thanx again from Tom Pritchard & ” Gauge”!

I cant say enough good things about the puppy video that Bill put together. I have watched it at least seven times and keep going back through it to make sure that Im doing this right!This is my fifth dog and every one leads me to be a little more refined in my training aspects. But watching Bill and seeing the difference with a Happy puppy is making a world of difference to my pup!And the balance is another key element to being successful. So far this puppy is coming along great. He turned 11 weeks today and he is one happy little guy and getting smarter by the day. Thanks for putting together such an informative video for us rookie traines. It truly makes a great difference! – Tom Pritchard

Mary & Bill,just wanted to thank and congratulate you on the training videos. Your material is great. Started with puppy then fetch and just into fundamentals on FTP. Just happened to visit your site and see water fund.,just in time for summer. I feel very lucky to have gotten my puppy at the right time to coincide with the release of these new videos. Please,keep up the great work your doing for us and our dogs. – Karl Workman Georgetown, Delaware
My God, what a totally awesome teaching tool. Mr Hillmann must be Job or Yota! This template should be considered as the lab training standard. I only hope to be able to duplicate half of his instruction. I’m on my third viewing before I get started. My pup is 17 weeks old Is he too old for this initial training. Please advise. Many thanks and warm regards. – Troy Davis
Are you just the sweetest!! I was delighted and very surprised to receive my package today at work. That is so nice of you!! Not only did I and my husband Casey get “some holes” filled the weekend of the seminar but we were both very entertained, encouraged, and most importantly enthused by the end of the weekend. It is also very nice to know your friends appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. I hope that little yellow dog is all he looks like he can be for you! Thanks again we are already sharing the information we learned!! – Tanja Frye