Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Maintaining training skills
No matter how well trained a hunting dog you have, his learned skills must be maintained throughout his entire life, otherwise it’s unlikely he will perform to his training level when taken to the field for a hunt. If you expect your dog to perform to his training level in the field, maintaining his skills is a never-ending job.
When a young dog goes home from my kennel after he has competently completed the basic training course here at Reibar, his schooling is not yet done. His owner must now learn how to maintain and /or advance the animal’s level of expertise, and that’s best done by working the dog as much as possible on different hunting scenarios, while maintaining his discipline level in the field.
Although dogs learn a great deal of their bird hunting knowledge during basic training, these skills are taught while the animal’s basic commands are being forced. Dogs tend to develop their bird hunting skills later in a more relaxed atmosphere where they can concentrate on finding or retrieving birds only. So, at some point your hunting dog must learn to obey his commands under exciting hunting conditions in the field. Then, a good trainer will instill the philosophy that a dog should learn to hunt for the team and not him self.
When a dog graduates from his basic training course, the only field experience he has is what was gained as he was learning to take his new commands from the yard to the field. By no standard is he considered a finished dog. It’s the owner’s job to give his dog field experiences by taking him hunting, and making him perform to his training level under exciting field conditions.
Dogs don’t forget their learned skills, but they sometimes choose to fall back on the innate instincts given to them by Mother Nature instead. Given the opportunity, many hunting dogs will revert to these natural survival tendencies instead of using their skills needed to hunt for the team.
If you’ve trained the dog yourself, you may rely a great deal on your personal relationship with the animal to make him perform his learned commands in the field. In contrast, a professional dog trainer applies force to each command so that it is solid enough in the dogs mind to transfer that obedience to the dog’s owner at the completion of the training course. This is one of the advantages of having your hunting dog trained by a competent professional, because there’s more of a chance that your dog will perform a forced command than one learned through relationship.
As your dog matures and gains hunting experience season after season, he will require a getting-into-shape routine in addition to maintaining his training skills. However, just working him will both re-establish a disciplined level of hunting skills and get him into shape all at the same time.
We have no method of communicating with a dog other than to show him what is expected, and it’s up to you to do what you can to uphold your dog’s skill level.
We all have different life schedules to maintain, but developing the habit of putting in the time with your dog on your calendar is desirable. It’s best to work your dog for five minutes a day than five hours on the weekend. The function of a basic training course is to give you the tools to maintain or advance your dog, so use them to your advantage.
Have fun training.
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Grady Istre’s column appears in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com