The Balance Beam

| July 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
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What do you think of when you refer to balance in your Golden?  Are you thinking of structurally being in balance?  Possibly being in balance means to you the dog is mentally and physically in balance with an excellent temperament?  Do you think of it in reference to field work you are doing with your Golden?

One problem which can exist while doing field work, is keeping your dog balanced.  What is meant by that?  In addition to having a dog who can do that big punch bird, you have to have a dog able to check down for the short retired gun.  He has to feel comfortable running on land close to water or swimming near the shoreline as well as swimming out in big water.  Your dog needs to be relaxed enough to go in on that middle bird of an inline triple across water yet have the discipline to stay in the water all the way to the long bird.

Maintaining this balance can be difficult, especially with some dogs.  Often you see someone who went out on one type of test during the past weekend, focus on nothing but doing that test in the following week or weeks.

I had a friend who was a very demanding perfectionist!  His dogs (who happened to be definitely talented and extremely good dogs) did poorly one weekend on a set of tight converging marks.  He was extremely upset and felt “That is just nonsense!   They know better!” He spent a considerable amount of time setting up and working only on tight converging marks. Luckily, in the next trial he ran, they had some tight converging marks and his dogs did very well.  Unfortunately, in the trial after that, they had some wide open marks, and his dogs ran them as though they were tight converging marks!  He left the grounds rather abruptly when through with that series.

It is easy to point your finger at one problem, focus solely on that, and not maintain a balance in your training thereby putting your dog out of balance.

When I first was starting, I wanted to teach Luke to handle bushes on line so found some safe bushes that I could work him through.  I hunted out a variety of bushes.  I then went to a trial and in the first series, after picking up the flyer, I sent him for the second bird and much to my dismay saw him take an almost 90 degree turn to go through some bushes which were totally off line. He knew where he was going and did recover and pick up that bird.  Luckily, on the third bird, there were no bushes even remotely close!

When I went home, I ruminated!  I got out my obedience jumps, brushed them in and had him go over them and then beside them until he felt comfortable only going over a bush when he was pointed directly at it and it was on line.  I then took this out in areas where there were bushes safe enough for him to go through and worked him through and beside them until he was relaxed enough not to think that any bush meant he must go through it or jump it.  Since I was doing obedience at the time, I used the cue “hup it” to jump or go through the bush—-this cue may well have been more for my benefit than Luke’s.

One reason you see young dogs often entering the water fat (taking more water than is indicated by the line to the mark or blind) is they have just finished up with water forcing, swim-by and decheating, so water represents safety.  It can often take a considerable amount of time and effort to teach them those long angle entries into water where they have to run towards the water at an angle and then hold that angle for a distance before entering the water.  This is an area where one has to be very patient so as to not create a bad water attitude through using too much pressure.  It is where a lot of show and tell can be extremely beneficial.   It is one area where you can tell how balanced a dog truly is.

When training with your dogs, plan what you wish to accomplish and work out or follow a good program.  Vary the distance of your marks.  Don’t always run the same set ups. Work on different concepts, in different terrain, under different conditions.  If your dog has difficulty with a certain concept, don’t panic, but plan how you can work that into your routine in such a manner that your dog can learn to do it comfortably without losing balance in relationship to other concepts.

Again, with many of these dogs, especially young ones, this means show and tell.  Start with a simplified version and gradually increase the difficulty.  It doesn’t have to be accomplished in one day.  Think how you feel when pressured into learning something new immediately—and surely you are a creature of outstanding reasoning ability.  Build good habits and be aware if you think your dog is getting out of balance.  The sooner you can correct this, the better.  If your dog falls off the balance beam, be there to catch him or pick him up off the floor and help him to start his routine again.


Category : Blog, Hunt Test, Hunt Training

About the Author ()

Glenda Brown owns both Goldens and Labradors. She is on the Board of the LRC and is the field liaison to the Golden Retriever News. She is a Founding Member of the CRTA, has judged a Master National Hunt Test and the National Amateur. She has competed in conformation, obedience, tracking and hunt tests but her primary venue is field trials. Her husband competed in agility---with some of the field dogs. She has and has had Field Champions with both her Goldens and her Labs.

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