I'm trying to work with Breaker a little each day though it's tough to do all this with just the knowledge I've gotten from Joe, Brian and yourself. I'm trying as best I can! I hope to see you again soon!!
Hi Sarah -
For Breaker, just keep working on the basics. Work on obedience - heel, sit, come and down. You can do this at home.
Throw marks in different areas and different lengths (watch out for snakes). If he has any trouble with longer marks, see if you can get someone to help by throwing.
Pick out a nice place with fairly short cover and at least 100-150 yards of open area. Have your thrower stay at the same place while you move back with each throw. Start at a distance a little shorter than his best comfort zone - maybe 30 yards - have him sit while the thrower tosses the bumper.
As Breaker picks it up, you back up about 5-10 yards while encouraging him to come to you. Throw the same mark again and run him from this longer position. If he's doing well, back up another 5-10 yards as he's coming to you.
Do 3-4 of these at every opportunity and gradually increase the distance. When he's comfortable out to 150 yards or so on short cover, go back to the shorter distance (30 yards +/-) but this time in higher cover and start increasing the distance again. Probably best to increase by a shorter amount each time because finding bumpers in cover is much more challenging.
Also work on his steadiness. Hold his collar, but require him to sit still and quiet until you release him.
When he's doing really well and you think he won't break, slip a short (~ 2') length of cord like clothesline through his collar and hold both ends with slack in it so he doesn't feel you holding him. If he breaks, stop him with the cord and have the thrower pick up the bumper. Try again. Only release him for the retrieve if he stays steady. Also vary the amount of time he has to sit after the bumper lands (1 or 2 seconds up to 6 or 7 seconds on occasion).
Also vary the type of ground and cover you work him on. For example, use a ballfield for increasing distance with short cover. Then try to find some place with plenty of cover.
Look for a small ditch - but make sure it's very visible to him. Look for a creek or pond. Look for a hillside and throw marks up, down and across (not in the same session tho).
Try throwing downwind and crosswind marks (not into the wind because he will smell the bumper early and could start quartering). Basically give him experience picking up bumpers and birds in as many situations as you can find.
When he's doing well and has all his teeth in - he should by now - you can start on force fetch. Some dogs will need to stop picking up marks until force fetch is completed just because they get pissy over HAVING to pick up something. Other dogs don't care.
Just make sure once you start force fetch you see it through to the end, otherwise the dogs wind up learning they don't have to fetch and won't fetch unless they feel like it. Tough to correct!
Hope to see you soon!