|In your experience, what is the most common mistake made by novice trainers? This question was asked by a young client with a new puppy and I thought it was a damn good one. Upon reflection I guess I must say that overworking a young dog is probably the biggest fault I see on a daily basis. Of course enthusiasm is an excellent quality in a novice trainer, but it can be a double edge sword as well.
Willingness to work and a gung-ho disposition is a plus. I like to see that kind of motivation instead of that ho-hum-been-there-done-that attitude that I sometimes see from more experienced owner/trainers, especially when I encourage them to repeat some drill or technique that they have previously been taught. But, that spirited I’ m-willing-to-do-anything attitude has a downside as it can create its own set of problems for beginner trainers. Often, new inexperienced trainers have a difficult time containing the joy and excitement that schooling their first hunting dog brings to their lives.
I find that it still inspires me to witness that kind of enthusiasm from a new client working with his first puppy. Enthusiasm is contagious, and it affects everyone in the training group in a positive way. Old pros like me sometimes need to be reminded of what the overwhelming, joy training a young dog can bring.
I had one client with a six month old pup say, “I‘ve thrown the ball 100 times and have never had him refuse to retrieve.” That’s an example of overwork, big time. No dog, not even an adult should be asked to retrieve any object, ball or bird in a training situation that many times. This kind of repetition can create problems later. In fact, this particular pup could not complete my basic training course. He would retrieve alright, but only on his terms; the little bugger was just not a team player and I had to send him home to a very distraught owner.
In a joking way, I have told many new, clients that what they need to begin their dog training careers is a field champion. Only a battle proven dog that is already mentally and physically tough would be able to survive the rigors of their overactive training regimen. Many of these guys seem to forget that they own a youngster, and young dogs have physical and mental limitations until they mature. These novice trainers in their eagerness to teach everything there is to know about hunting to their pups sometimes forget about advancing their own education. Puppies learn fast and every beginner trainer should stay at least two steps ahead of their trainee.
So, to all of you young enthusiastic trainers who want to advance your pup beyond his capabilities, you need to take Archie Bunker’s advice, “stifle yourself.” You can only progress as fast as your young trainee can not only absorb, but also learn to live with, his new-found knowledge. A slow and steady approach will end up getting you to your goals faster.
Grady Istre can be reached at reiber.com and his dog training column appears every other week.