Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Thursday, March 16, 2017
Gundog hand signals
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Male or female

The fine art of training a dog
Dog training is comprised of two things: repetition and correction. Repeti­tion is involved when teaching commands to get a certain desired behavior. Correction involves the discipline part of training and is used when a dog insists on a wrong action after he understands what the right action is.

Understanding the difference between defiance and confusion is something that takes experience working with many dogs. But, there are people who seem to know dog behavior better than others, and those people are just plain lucky. Most dog owners don’t really know whether their dog is faking bad behavior to get attention or when the dog simply doesn’t understand what the right action is.

Over the years, I have observed a big variety of dog owners with both hunting dogs and field trial dogs. In both categories, they have had lots of success. Those owners/trainers who have little natural understanding of the nature of dog have worked harder than the natural trainers but they have arrived at their goals anyway. They have learned how to succeed, through hard work and lots of repetition.

Dogs like to work. They will respond to the trainer regardless of the training method used because they want the feeling of success that comes through praise and proper actions is a huge reward. They are open to communication with their owner or trainer and study that person almost as much as the human seeks to understand them.

That’s the beauty of these animals and what keeps old trainers like me out in the field every day. I tell my clients that most any sensible training method they choose will work if they persist and are consistent. More knowledge is gained through working the dog than through watching videos and reading books. A good dog will try mightily to please his human even when the human goes about training in an unorthodox way.

Here’s an example. In teaching a young dog to heel on leash, one owner may keep his dog on a tight rein and another may allow a loose leash. The first owner won’t know when his dog is actually accepting the “heel” command and walking obediently at his side. The second owner will allow the dog to surge ahead, then give him a jerk on the leash to have him return to his side; now the dog must walk obediently out of his own choice. The latter is a better way to train because it gives the dog options and makes the proper action come from the dog; the dog submits and the lesson is better retained because it was learned from the dog’s own decision. Still, both teams of dog and owner will be successful and reach their goals. Again, dogs want to learn, and that means that repetition of any sort will bring reward.

So, fellow trainers, never worry unnecessarily about your own training expertise. You will be successful no matter how you train, as long as you are fair and persistent. Through work, the team of man and dog will bring rewards. Not only in getting the birds in the field, but also in everyday life. Remember that dogs can’t read books, nor can they watch training videos.

Have fun training!

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Grady’s articles appear in WON every other week and he can be reached at

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