FIELD DOGS /
WON News Column by Grady Istre
WON’s canine columnist Grady Istre was born into a family of waterfowl
hunters, but as he grew up so did his passion and appreciation for any
kind of bird hunting.
His knowledge of dog behavior has been gained
through his 30 plus
years of training both competition and hunting dogs. He takes pride in
the fact that he trains the hunter as well as the dog which makes a
very productive team in the field.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Wagon wheel part 11
Here’s how to set up and teach the wagon wheel drill. For the novice dog and trainer, begin with just three bumpers in a 180° semi-circle, placed at 9,12 and 3e o’clock.
In order to make it easier to learn for your trainee, the bumpers should be thrown on a mowed lawn about 15 feet out in front in plain sight. With your dog at your side, line him up on either 9 or 3 o’clock bumper and send him using the “back” command. When your dog returns with the bumper, keep your left foot (I’m assuming your dog heels on the left side) pointing towards that spot and throw the bumper back to its original location.
With your dog lined up on the replaced bumper, put your hand over the center of his head and say “no,” then use the “here” command as you tap your leg to go right and snapping your finger behind your left knee to go left, which will move your dog towards the 12 o’clock bumper.
These are the cues I use, yours may be different. Your goal is to eventually get this in one move once you have many, many lessons under your belt. Then say, dead bird, this cue tells your dog that you’re going after a new blind retrieve. Finally send him on “back,” the final cue that send your dog for the next bumper to be retrieved. Don’t hesitate to simplify if you should happen to get into trouble with one of the bumpers. Once you have reached the point that your dog gives you 100 percent compliance on the three bumper drill, it’s time to gradually add more bumpers.
In order to elevate the difficulty of the drill and better educate your dog on the complexities of the process you need to systematically move up the ladder by adding four, five and six bumpers to the semi-circle, which will elevate his skill level on this drill. Once your dog has mastered the drill using 6 bumpers and you have achieved the level of mental and physical communication that you are striving for, it’s time to test your accomplishments in the field.
Transferring this skill to a practical application is going to take some time but once you and your dog get on the same page with this drill you will eliminate many of the problems you’ve had with distractions on blind retrieve and for the more advanced dogs, poison birds. For the gun dog folks, you will be able to pull your dog off a dead bird to retrieve a fleeing winged bird before it gets away — something not many hunters have the option of doing.
One of the beauties of this drill is that it can be made as simple as you want it to be, or as complicated as any other training technique you have ever taught your dog, it’s your choice. If you are one of those guys/gals who like to train on new difficult skills, the wagon wheel drill should challenge you and your dog for the entire summer before reaping any rewards during the new hunting season.
Have fun training.
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Grady’s column appears in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com
Thursday, February 20, 2014
It’s not cute to watch an eight-week-old puppy snapping and growling at people — or even other puppies. This behavior can be a harbinger of problems to come and should be discouraged as soon as possible. Too many owners think it’s funny when their pup snaps when the food dish is removed or when they try to take a toy away. They believe the pup will just “grow out” of those actions and that it’s amusing to see such a small animal acting like a grownup. But hey, puppy owners, don’t take chances with your pup’s future. Nip any aggressive activity in the bud early.
Sometimes, aggression can be an unpleasant surprise and may be associated with a relationship with an owner. Here’s an example. One day, a new client showed up to work with me and check on the progress of his young dog who had been in training for about a month. When he arrived, his dog was running and playing with other dogs, just romping in the large fenced pasture I have next to the kennels. When the youngster spotted his owner, he immediately turned and attacked one of the other dogs. It was a surprise to me, but not to the owner. The owner had encouraged “protective” instincts in his pup and now the dog was just trying to measure up to the “tough guy” image his owner had encouraged. Of course, we had to stop his normal training and work on obedience and behavior. Both the owner and his dog had to learn that to aggression could no longer be tolerated.
Owning a dog with innate “alpha” tendencies is a choice. Assertive dogs are often appealing and often make great hunting dogs. But “assertive” shouldn’t be confused with “aggressive.” Playing tug-o-war with a puppy, rewarding him with approval when he mock fights, and roughhousing with him — all these actions should be watched carefully. If his behavior crosses the line from assertiveness to aggression, notice that and take steps to correct it right away.
Most hunting clubs won’t tolerate bad dog behavior and will immediately ban any dog that attacks another. No one wants to see their fine working injured by another dog acting like a thug. Owning a dog whose behavior has to be monitored is tiring and risky. It’s also just no fun.
A good day in the field should be a pleasure. Each outing with a well-trained animal should be a treasure. The partnership between man and dog is special. My wish is that every owner can experience that and enjoy his dog in ways that build memories to savor for a lifetime.
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Grady Istre’s column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at reibar.com
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Maintaining the standard
Too many dog owners who have had their dogs trained by a professional don’t hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to making their animal work at his training level while in the field or at home. If a trained dog isn’t made to work at the level of his training, he will begin taking advantage of his handler in all situations.
It’s very difficult for some novice dog owners to shake that initial neophyte mentality that once their dog is trained he will never again put a foot down wrong ever again. Others simply do not like to discipline their dogs. In either case, when a hunter’s dog recognizes this lack of attention to training details by his owner, the animal will begin a gradual process of taking control of their relationship.
This gradual deterioration of a dog’s training level usually begins at home — not in the field as one might think. Over the years, I have noticed that not many dog owners want to be disciplinarians, especially at home in a relaxed family atmosphere. Dogs are much smarter than most of us give them credit for. Once he is trained, it becomes his job to find out just exactly how much misbehavior his owner will tolerate before blowing a gasket and begin correcting his naughtiness. During this process dogs learn to be very observant, patient and subtle in their approach to taking charge. Some hunting dogs are not as difficult, and will live by the guidelines that are set by their owners, but only if these rules the animal has learned are backed up by discipline. Like all animals, dogs live by a set of inborn rules given to them by Mother Nature at birth — these rules are mostly for survival. We humans must teach our dogs to hunt for the team, which means we must instill a new set of rules in order for our dogs to become proficient hunters. Although dogs are quite willing to learn these new rules, the second they recognize any weakness in their handler’s disposition they will revert to the instinctive rules of Mother Nature. Just like kids, they will push to find your limits.
So, as a hunting dog owner, you should strive to maintain as close as possible the standard at which your dog was trained. If you don’t, your well-trained dog can make your hunting life a frustrating hell. It’s more exasperating for a dog owner to have his well-trained dog get out of control than it is if his dog had never had a day of training in his life. The reason is that the owner knows it’s his fault for allowing the misbehavior to have reached such a low point.
Not only does maintaining a high standard of performance gain a trainer/hunter a great deal of respect from his trainee but it’s also a great way to save a low-desire dog’s attitude. That’s because the type of correction sometimes needed to restore a dog’s proper performance rarely becomes necessary.
Just knowing about a dog’s intentions will give impetus to maintaining your dog’s level of training. And that will put you in the upper level of dog handlers.
Have fun training!
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Grady Istre’s column appears every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Start the year off right
“I’m going to make my dog a better hunter this year.” Is this one of your New Year’s resolutions? If so, I commend you. It’s certainly a worthy goal and one I hope to help you with If you’re willing to commit to putting in the time with your dog. I’ll do my part of providing some tips to help you down this path. Then when the 2014 season begins, you’re going to be a happy hunter.
You know the phrase, “first you make a list?” it’s actually a good idea. I have learned that many trainers maintain their motivation longer if they set out specific things they want to accomplish with their dogs. But in order to do that, it’s helpful to also write down all the positive and negative things your dog did, or did not do, during this past season. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. How well did your dog heel to the field? Did he stay in gun range while questing for a bird? Did he hold point until you positioned yourself for the shot? Was your dog well mannered and steady to shot in the duck blind? Did he deliver the bird promptly and in good shape?
If you think back and re-live each hunt, your training needs will reveal themselves . But don’t forget to acknowledge all the great jobs your dog did because you will want to build on the positive as well. After examining your dogs performance, you can then produce a – do list.
Next, set up a realistic schedule of when you can work your dog each week. Don’t set up more days than you can reasonably manage because if training becomes a chore it will be cast aside after a short while. Often, it’s difficult for most trainers to put anything new into their weekly calendar. So, make the schedule reasonable and make sure the time for each session will be within your comfort range. Dogs thrive on consistency and want to depend on their owners/trainers.
You don’t need to go to the field for every
training session. Yard drills are just as important as bird work because good manners begin at home. Just working on heel and sit is always a good place to begin. Another important drill that can be accomplished in the yard is making your dog steady from both your side and remote sit position — I have found that using a dog blind helps out a bunch.
Getting your dog into an obedient frame of mind is the point and then you can apply that mindset to all the other lessons that follow. Putting pressure on a dog simply by teaching a new skill or advancing his knowledge of a subject already learned, gets a dog to focus on the job at hand and concentrate totally on you.
Steady, confident drill work adds layers of respect that will carry over to the field where your dog is usually at a distance from you. The field is where the respect level really gets tested and why it’s so important to maintain such a high standard while in a hunting situation. Gradual advancement is the key to education and maintaining a good working attitude. Remember, that you’ve got the entire off-season to build a proficient hunting team, and keep in mind that it’s important to maintain a balanced training program between positive and negative scenarios.
Have fun training!
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Grady Istre’s column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at reibar.com
Monday, November 25, 2013
Recently, I had a call from a frustrated dog owner. He asked me this: Should my dog always wear the E-collar while training and even when hunting? This is one of the most asked questions I get from clients and readers of my column; so, it must be an especially confusing issue. That seems to be a confusing issue with many hunters because With all the information in videos and books out there in the hunting world, it seems some trainer/hunters still have a lot of questions on how and when to properly use the electric collar.
Here are two simple rules: the E-collar should be used to promote proper habits while in a training situation, and should then be used to reinforce known commands while hunting. It sounds simple, but some trainer/hunters cannot seem to apply those two rules to specific situations in training but mostly while hunting. The last thing you want to do is confuse or overwhelm your dog while in hunting circumstances.
An untimely correction with the E-collar while hunting with your dog can resolve a disobedient issue immediately; but, it can also create problems that could take a professional to straighten out.
One of the more challenging aspects of using an electric collar in training your dog is finding the proper intensity level. The best intensity level is one that will remind your dog that he must be obedient and work within his training level, and won’t overwhelm him to the point that he no longer wants to work.
The collar should not have a negative effect on your dog’s attitude if used properly. What it should mean to him is; hey, we’re going hunting or training and you’re going to get birds.
Therefore I believe your dog should always wear the E-collar while training or hunting so that it becomes a natural thing. If you want to test my opinion, go hunting without the collar and see what happens. No matter how well trained your dog is, the first few hunts are going to be challenging. All the knowledge your dog has learned in training needs to be transferred to the field. It has to be explained to your trainee that the training rules he learned apply in exciting field conditions as well.
Problems arise when dogs become “collar-wise”. If you don’t always put the collar on every time you train or hunt, you take the risk that the dog may develop an attitude that can manifest itself in one of two ways. Either your dog will learn that he should obey only when he is wearing the collar, or he will refuse to work when you put the collar on his neck.
So, if you have decided that you are going to use the electric collar to train your dog, you are going to have to bite the bullet and put it on him every single time you hunt or train. When I was first introduced to the collar as an integral part of my training method, I too thought it was a pain, especially when training a truck load of dogs. It’s tempting to get lazy but as I explain to some of my annoyed clients, “it’s training for the trainer. You expect your dog to meet a certain standard, and you must do the same.”
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Grady Istre’s column appears in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com