Once our 8-10 week old pups are retrieving in the yard with bumpers or feathers without running off or quitting, we introduce them to water. What I mean by that is, we are looking for pups that will not stop no matter how many times you throw a bumper. We are constantly looking for pups with a high drive. Pups that stop after 4-6 retrieves and just lay there or wonder off smelling around are usually sold as simply a family pet.
When a pup is nonstop and shows great interest in the retrieve, we up the excitement by taking them down to the pond. Because water is brand new to them, we are very calm, and will stand still for 5-10 minutes simply watching them sniff or run the bank. They usually begin to venture out into the water on their own and this is when we step in. We will stand in the water tossing the bumper within inches of the bank, letting them come out just far enough to get their stomach’s wet. Once they show no shyness to the bumper we will turn, still standing in the water and toss the bumper 5-10 feet off the bank, encouraging the pup to fetch it up.