In order to start the New Year off
in the right direction, I thought a discussion about my training philosophy
would be a good beginning for the first column. Too many novice trainers
believe that simply teaching their hunting dogs all of their necessary, skills
is sufficient to produce a competent gun dog . While there is no doubt that
teaching is an important part of the learning process, just teaching a skill
does not ensure that your dog will comply by performing that skill in an
exciting hunting situation.
Dogs get amped up during a hunt, which in many cases brings
forth their primitive instincts, this usually means they begin hunting for
themselves. To prevent this from happening, we as trainers must build respect
through proper training to the extent that the dog remains attentive and
respectful under any conditions.
Forcing commands after teaching them is the key. But that’s
not the whole answer. After a
command has been forced, a dog must repeat that command over and over again
until it becomes an ingrained habit. Your dog must have a reason to do things
your way, that’s why establishing proper habits and repeating them over and
over again are so important. Then, when your dog gets into a situation where he
thinks he has options, chances are he will choose to perform the command that
is now familiar, and habitual.
Even when your dog is just a young
pup, you can begin gentle teaching to get him used to listening and enjoying
the feeling of behaving. I recommend an organized format for pups too young to
go into formal training such as, introducing your puppy to the leash and choke
chain by taking him on long walks, also, teach him to sit by pressing down on
his rear end.
Allowing him grow up in a
disciplined regimen (but without any harsh discipline) will make his formal
training much easier later on down the road. the younger you begin teach your
dog a command the better he will retain the knowledge; of course good judgment
is essential, a dog must be mentally and
physically ready to go into formal training before any forcing can be
effective---usually six months of age for retrievers and a bit older for most
The idea behind teaching all vital
skills at an early age is to never allow your trainee to know there is another
way to react other than your way. Teaching these skills to your young pupil
before he has any pre-determined ideas on how they should be performed is the
way to prepare him for formal training.
I know It’s sometimes difficult for a novice trainer to
understand why commands must be forced. But, for example, delivering bumpers to
hand in a training situation and delivering birds to hand in a hunting
situation is different to a dog. Shot, bloody birds are what dogs love to
retrieve, and if you’re going to
override a dog’s primitive, prey drive to hang onto that bird, you’d better
have a bunch of training instilled in that animal. The ideal is to have the
solid training in the yard transition smoothly to the excitement of the field.
If given the choice, most dog owners prefer not to
discipline their dogs for fear the dog will no longer love them. But here’s
what I believe, dog’s love through respect; if your dog respects you, he’s
going to love you.
Have fun training!
Grady Istre can be reached at reibar.com