Too many novice trainers become far to eager to test the results of their training long before it’s ready to be tested. This is one of the major traps inexperienced trainers fall into on a regular basis. I used to think, “Well this is simple to fix, just explain that beginner trainers test too soon”. I was, of course, wrong. It seems it’s just human nature to want to see the results of any labor as soon as possible. Only experience can trump that desire to test too soon, and, unfortunately experience is the one thing beginner trainer’s lack.
A common example of an inexperienced trainer’s wanting to test too soon can be seen in the early stages of teaching obedience drills. I’ve seen novice trainer’s get all bent out of shape while attempting to heel their trainee off lead after only a week or so of teaching the heel command. After only a week on the lead, no dog understands the command well enough to be tested without a leash. For a dog to learn to live with a command, he must be given the time needed to understand what this command means to him in everyday life as well as in the field. Repetition teaches good behavior, and can’t be hurried without consequences.
I work on the “heel” and “sit” commands for almost two months before I consider the job thoroughly taught and solid enough to test my trainee off lead. As a professional I need to keep the training moving along at an acceptable rate, so I double up and teach the “force fetch” discipline at the same time as the “heel and sit” drill. Once I feel these commands are pretty reliable I combine the drills in the field.
This is a good test for the dog and shows me where I may need to touch up the dog’s performance. Once in the field I work on having the dog come to a proper heel and sit with a bird or bumper in his mouth. If I get into trouble, such as the dog spitting the bird out, I can always put some pressure on the “heel and sit” commands to regain the animal’s obedient behavior.
I know that it’s very difficult for the novice person who has never trained a dog to drum up the self discipline that is required to give his dog the time needed to make each command solid. So, to help you along I will leave you with a comment made long ago by my Uncle Frank, “So, it’s okay to make the dog meet a strict, disciplined standard on a daily basis, but the rules do not apply to you. “Right”. Those words have stuck with me for over 35 years; hopefully they will straighten out your training path as well.
Grady Istre can be reached at Reibar.com.