These are a mishmash of thoughts I have had on dogs, training, etc., which have occurred while walking out to plant a blind, driving and realizing I have driven all day and still have 1500 miles left to drive, or while walking with the dogs.
One of my favorite quotes is “Competition does not build character – It reveals it.” By Ted Shih.
Our dogs do not realize what titles they have; they only know how much we love them and how much they enjoy what they do with us. If you are getting the titles for fame and glory, “sic venti gloria mundi”.
Just as in life, there is always someone not as smart as you and someone a heck of a lot smarter, and it is the same with accomplishments. Don’t let ego take the joy away from what you do with your dogs.
Some of my very best moments with my dogs are when I am working them and we are all alone. We do our drills, we enjoy each other’s company, we delight in finally “getting something”, and we have fun.
There is a saying, “go fast with a slow dog, and slow with a fast dog”.
In my early days of field training, I had a Golden, Trieve, who was extremely fast. He was an exceedingly intelligent dog. I did all his training myself and started running hunt tests with him. When we first entered Senior Hunter, we had completed the first series which was a double and a blind. Some friends came up to me and commented that I had looked like Charlie Chaplin** on the line while running the blind. Since Trieve was so fast, I thought I had to be even faster and was whipping out casts like a fast forward in a video. After I laughed at their description, (though inwardly cringing) it gave me food for thought, and I started to count between having him sit and my giving a cast.
This is something I try to carry forward with all my dogs. By slowing down (I have fast dogs), they had to sit and I had a chance to change their mind about the direction they wanted to go and they were more willing to go in the direction where I wanted them. It stopped them from self-releasing. It helped me to smooth out my casts and (hopefully) be a better handler. With a slow dog, you don’t want to be so fast that you become a Charlie Chaplin, but you want to give casts and directions which will motivate them to move a little more quickly. Enthusiasm on your part might generate some on theirs.
Often at trials and hunt tests, you hear these big, booming “backs” and/or a screaming of the dog’s name when sending. Tones are very important, there have been many discussions about them, and a pro I train with is constantly stressing how vital using the correct tones is. The dogs are right there next to you. They are very aware of your voice and how you use it. I try to use my voice as softly as possible with my dogs. Even on a big push bird, a booming send can often be counterproductive, especially if there is a critical line or a tight line between converging birds—-it can often drive them off the mat but cause a flare from the line you want them to take.
Remember, just because I write (or say) something, doesn’t necessarily make it so—doesn’t necessarily make it not so either! There are many different ways to train a dog but consistency and patience are good virtues to possess. I feel you have to go with what works for you personally as well as for your dogs. Different dogs may need different methods. If you are uncomfortable with something you are doing in training because you have been told “this is the only way to do it”, your dog is going to pick up on the concern that you have. If this occurs, ruminate! Try to come up with a method that teaches your dog while at the same time is one you are comfortable using.
When a dog is reluctant to give you a bird on the line, a common reaction is to tug up on it. This usually gives the dog added incentive to tug back. Put your hand on the bird, tell the dog to drop the bird, and as the dog starts to release, gently pull it down towards the ground. This often works very well. Another thing you can do is to say “sit” then give your drop command as it will often put your dog back into the chain of commands. Stay calm with your commands.
Stay cool!! I have found that whenever I have let frustration turn into anger, I blow it as far as accomplishing what I want while training. When you feel your irritation level mounting, pull back, stop what you are doing, put your dog up or have it lie down beside you while you think about what you are trying to teach the dog. Decide how best to go about this, and why what you are doing doesn’t seem to be working.
It seems I learn the most when things go wrong in training. Often when everything goes smoothly, I am too busy patting myself on the back to analyze my training techniques. When something doesn’t occur the way I had planned, I have to think things over and from these sessions, it seems I make the most advances forward.
**Charlie Chaplin, for those of you who are young, was an actor in early films where everyone looked like a fast forward video—herky,jerky and everything moving quickly.