Before your puppy comes of age for formal training (usually 6 months old), his life is generally filled full of fun and games. When you’re ready to begin formal training it’s unrealistic to expect him to become totally focused and committed to learning his hunting skills just because he is now running with the big dogs, so be patient at first.
Puppies, like children just want to play until they reach a certain age of maturity and doing exactly what their little heart’s desire is foremost in their minds and lives. So, if we are going to train these little fellows to become proficient hunting dogs, we as trainers must learn how to use their playful habits to encourage desired responses right from the beginning. One of your responsibilities as a trainer is to learn how and when to add the fun to your training session. For instance: do not try to hold your puppy while beginning marking. This is not the time to work on his steadiness, especially with a pup that has low desire. Just let him go get the bird/bumper on his own without any restraints. If you want to depress the hell out of your young trainee, simply make your training sessions all work and no play and watch his positive attitude disappear.
The use of treats can be a motivating factor for a young pup, but should be gradually lessened as more formal training progresses. By then, you hope your dog will be crazy for birds and the treats can be used to reward your dog for a job well done instead of bolstering attitude. Adult dogs should be trained so that the reward becomes his good work and treats would just detract from his pride of performance.
Of course there are a few dogs that have an extremely high level of desire that will continue working without the trainer throwing in some kind of fun in once in a while, but these high rollers usually come with other built-in problems that create their own challenges.
Fun means different things to different dogs. Some are happy with a freebee bumper or ball thrown for them, which can be used to bolster attitude and others respond more to shot birds. If you find that your trainee has a depressed attitude when you take him out of the truck to work, the proper thing to do is pick up his spirits before training begins. Not only is working a depressed dog no fun for you, but rarely does your dog learn the lesson you are teaching. Dogs start off in a down or depressed state if the training session begins with discipline or strict adherence to obedience. If this is the case with your dog, you should begin by throwing the animal a bumper, if it works, great, do it every time before training, if not, shoot him a flyer, if that does not work, you really have a problem that should be further explored by a professional.
Taking the proper steps to insure your trainee is in the proper frame of mind for training will not only make him more receptive to learning, but you’ll have much more fun as well.Have fun training!Grady Istre can be reached at Reibar.com.