Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Has learning gone too far
|As I predicted, the new technology available nowadays makes the job of educating wannabe dog trainers much easier, but it has also created new challenges for those of us who strive to educate the willing.
For almost two decades, through my articles, I have attempted to emphasis the importance of proper basic training as an essential foundation for hunting dogs. It wasn’t until recently when information on dog training became widely available that the average trainer finally got the message. This has turned out to be a double-edged sword — because too much information can be dangerous.
I follow some of the dog training chat lines on the Internet and have noticed what I consider a disturbing trend in the posts by inexperienced trainers. I, like many other professional trainers, have always emphasized the importance of getting each new command solid before moving on to the next. And it the past few years many inexperienced trainers got the message and started to turn out well-schooled dogs.
But sometimes a little knowledge based on limited experience can be a dangerous thing. Some of these misguided trainers are recommending to online posters that when their dogs exhibit a problem, they just go back and redo some of the basic training. I disagree, I find that once a dog has successfully completed his basic training regiment, it’s a bad idea to go back and redo any part of the program just because a problem pops up in the field.
For example, even if your dog has been force fetched, this doesn’t mean that he will never again drop a bumper or bird. it just means that if he does, you have the tools to deal with the problem on the spot. It does not mean you should go back to the basic training program and re-force fetch your dog all over again. Believe me, your dog will resent being dragged back through boot camp and his attitude may suffer. When inexperienced trainers recommend putting a soft dog through a tough program the results may be permanently damaging. Not all dogs are created equal and you should adjust your training to suit each dog; that includes the level of discipline you use.
I recently read a post by a novice trainer asking when he should go to the collar fetch with his very trainable, mellow dog. He got replies from other novice trainers telling him that he needed to go through the stick-fetch before the collar fetch. I doubt that this very trainable, but apparently low desire dog could handle going back through basic force fetch without damaging his birdiness in a big way.
What these overzealous trainers often ignore is the character and talent level of the particular dog. Books and videos are written for an ideal world. The dogs they select as subjects are dogs who exhibit perfect reactions to the training techniques they are demonstrating. In the real world rarely does the basic training go this smoothly, fellow trainers.
Many novice trainers have stepped up to the challenge of smarter and better-organized training. They possess a much better understanding of the nuts and bolts of disciplined training for their dogs, which is good. Studying dogs requires a willingness to observe a dog’s reactions and body language. Reading your own dog’s behavior helps you adjust your training program to fit your particular dog. It’s important to remember that no dog training program is written in stone. Instead, it’s a guideline that should be tailored to fit the dog’s levels of desire, his levels trainability and his intelligence.
Advice is cheap, so make sure the person whose advice you consult knows what the hell he’s talking about. As my Uncle Frank used to tell me, “if you want to learn how to wrestle an alligator, it’s probably not a good idea to take advice from a man with one arm.”
Have fun training
Grady Istre’s dog training column appears every other week and he can be reached at reinbar.com.