| 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 pointing breeds.
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