I come from a competitive obedience background so my theories on a breaking dog comes from failure to understand basic commands.
Very rarely is “breaking” really a breaking problem. It is a SIT problem. A dog that knows SIT in its true meaning will not break. Bad habits start as puppies when we pattern train to SIT for a cookie, SIT for the dinner dish to be put down, SIT by the front door or SIT for any behavior. They really don’t learn that SIT is actually a command that means SIT STAY. No other movement until another command is given.
To ensure that your dog understands the command, work on a sequence that ensures compliance. Once your dog is sitting, step forward off right foot, dog should stay without any other command. If you intend for the dog to go with you, you leave off on the left foot so that the dog follows the lead. If you step backward, the dog goes back.
So………..before a dog is sent to retrieve, say SIT, step backwards and then send. Never send when any forward steps are taken by the dog. Once the judge releases you on your number or DOG, say SIT before sending. In this way, you have one more level of defense before the dog is actually sent and they are not so reactive to hearing someone say something and then leave on their own.
You cannot let your dog retrieve every bumper or bird that is thrown. In the real world, there are going to be birds that you miss (hunting). There are going to be other birds that your buddy’s dog retrieves. If you are heading to the AKC Hunt Tests, then your dog will have to honor another dog’s retrieve. Do not let the dog believe they get to retrieve every bird that hits the ground.
Now, if we are having to RE TEACH steadiness because the dog does not understand SIT, we have breaking drills that can be incorporated into your training. These require the use of an eCollar so the dog has to be collar conditioned and we do many things that will stimulate the dog in excess, just like at a test. These drills really need to be demonstrated live versus in writing because a lot goes on using holding blinds, gun fire, duck calls and long lines, etc.