Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018
A matter of control
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Dove season 2018

'Heel and sit'
Every drill or technique you teach your hunting dog should lay down a path for the future, as well as the dog learning how to perform the particulars of the drill you’re teaching.

I’m going to take a simple drill such as “heel and sit,” and show you how this basic command can be made more solid when properly taught and enforced.

All of the basic drills should be a stepping stone to the next level of discipline and education. In many cases, an amateur trainer will do a much better job than a professional trainer in the teaching aspect of each drill or skill. Novice trainers make up for their lack of experience by the enormous amount of work and repetition they put into each technique/drill they teach, whereas professionals tend to use discipline in order to move ahead. My opinion is that repetition is not quite as good as expertly applied discipline to solidify each command or technique your animal is required to learn and perform.

The way to determine when any basic skill you are teaching is solid in your trainee’s mind is when his attitude changes from worried when he sees the leash come out, to confident and looking forward to the work. When you see your trainee with that, “I got this” attitude, then it’s time to move ahead to the next skill level to be taught.

When a particular drill or skill is properly taught and also enforced, it also makes the previous drill and skill more solid as well.

For instance, the discipline that is required to do a proper “force fetch” job on your dog will make the previous “heel and sit” drill more solid in the dog’s mind.

The reason for that is because the overall higher discipline level your dog has reached makes all previous drills and techniques more solid. As the working discipline level rises, your trainee develops a more submissive attitude towards his work.

I know it’s unfair of me to expect a novice trainer to read the attitude of his dog when discipline is involved, but my fellow trainers — you’ve got to strive to be better, and reading your dog’s attitude is one of the important keys to becoming a better trainer. That’s why professional trainers can use discipline instead of repetition to quickly advance their trainees.

Dogs will often do things like look away, sniff the ground, or use any distraction such as a sparrow flying by to disrupt the teaching of a new drill. These are normal avoidance ploys. They go away on their own after a dog becomes comfortable with the new skill.

Puppies will also tend to “heel” a bit of a distance away from you in the beginning. It’s not a good idea to try to correct this problem in one or two lessons. A few small jerks on the lead on a daily basis will help your dog submit and he will “heel” by your side before long.

Basic yard drills teach your puppy about discipline and submission, which are the two most important ingredients in turning your puppy into a worthwhile hunting dog.

Don’t take any of these drills lightly, fellow trainers — they set the tone for all future obedience and learning.

Have fun training!

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Grady’s articles usually appear every two weeks and he can be reached at

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