Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Balance in training

Indirect pressure
Recently, I had a new client ask me to define indirect pressure. He said he’d heard the term but being a newbie, he had been “too embarrassed to ask.” To me, the simplest definition of indirect pressure” could be defined as the use of pressure administered on a previously taught skill to help solidify a command presently being taught.

This procedure is especially useful when dealing with a soft dog that has a difficult time tolerating the amount of discipline normally required to fully instill an ideal performance.

Indirect pressure can be the answer to achieving a solid training job, especially for this particular type of dog. Through its use, you will be able to preserve a positive training attitude, but the teaching of any command will usually take a bit longer. And, this type of dog really responds to indirect pressure better than direct discipline.

So, when the dog understands the nuts and bolts of a new command but has not completely submitted to performing that command on a consistent basis, you can move on to the next skill to be taught and finish the first job through the pressure you use when teaching the new command. In other words, the dog learns to be generally obedient through general respect for the trainer. The amount of discipline applied to teaching the new skill will also solidify the previously taught command. This is true, of course, for all dogs in training. Not just the sensitive ones.

Here’s an example. Obedience is the first thing we teach any of our gun dogs. Once the dog understands how to perform the heel and sit lessons, but is not performing 100 percent, we can move on to the force-fetch drill and its discipline will carry over to all the other lessons. That’s one of the reasons we continue the heel-and-sit while teaching the force fetch skill here at Reibar, because the entire level of discipline indirectly carries over.

It can be difficult for novice trainers to believe that even though you have completed all lessons including the force fetch process, it does not guarantee that your dog will never again drop a bird or bumper. It just means that you now have the tools to deal with problems as they happen.

It’s likely that once your trainee has flawlessly performed a basic skill 500 times, then you can pretty much consider it solid. But, in the meantime, your trainee will not always sit when commanded, will drop a bird occasionally, will slip a come-in whistle now and then and may even break on a shot bird sometimes. A few mistakes are to be expected. Occasion­ally, mistakes are acceptable until repeated. When they are, it’s time to turn to the yard for a refresher.

It’s not realistic to expect any dog to be flawless in the field at all times. The excitement of a flying bird can cause even experienced dogs to misbehave.

Training a dog has no finale. But the positive side of returning to the yard is that you can get another opportunity to refresh the discipline level and return to the pleasure of a smooth and enjoyable partnership with the dog. Consistency as your dog ages will win out in the long run. Good trainers will never allow their dogs to know that a command can be performed in any manner but in the way they have been taught.

One of the most difficult feats to accomplish as a trainer, no matter your skill level, is to maintain a good training attitude in your dog as you work with him to solidify all the basic and advanced commands. Direct correction is one choice. Indirect pressure is a better, and more long-lasting one.

Your dog training life will become much more enjoyable if you learn how to use both forms of pressure, fellow trainers. Being able to adapt any training method to suit your dog, and the lesson at hand, is ideal.

Have fun training!

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Grady’s columns generally appear every other week in WON and he can be reached at

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