Urban Training Or Urban Warfare

| September 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Black Lab with Mallard

Photo by Fotolia

I live in a suburban (urban) area which is a marvelous place to live, but is not at all conducive to training a dog for field work. When I first started doing field work (first for hunt tests and then for field trials), I felt it was very restrictive in reference to land and especially in regard to water. Over the years, it has become even more so. I would love to have the areas available to me now which I originally had!

One of the first rules for training in suburban or urban areas is to follow the dictates of common courtesy. If there are homes nearby, don’t blow whistles early in the morning, especially on a Sunday. I won’t even go into shooting guns, because where I live, I would immediately have the police descending upon me!  Do not let your dogs bark while you are working another dog. Any corrections you feel you must make should be made in such a manner as not to offend anyone.

I use bumpers and never use birds in these areas.

Pick up after your dog. A couple of the parks that I use have doggy pick up mitts available for you to use. I always put a few in my back pocket, hanging out, so anyone watching will know that I plan to pick up after my dog. Try to air your dog(s) thoroughly before even entering a park—-to others, appearance forms their thoughts about reality. If they see your dog relieving itself, they will assume that every pile left lying on the ground comes from your dog(s).

One morning, a Sunday, I went out to the University soccer field about 6 a.m. to run a drill. I had it set up, had just finished running the first dog, when two car loads of young men pulled in wanting to use the field. I went over to them, explained I had two dogs left to run and would be quick, and did they mind waiting? Now, by rights, I was there first, but I have found out that if I take the time to explain what I am doing, how long I will be, etc, that I generally get a much better response. These kids were great, came and watched my dogs work, and when I finished, they went off to play soccer. They had a lot of intelligent questions. Looking back on it, I wonder if I should have asked them to throw for me!

This doesn’t always work. One day a man (I cannot use the term gentleman here) came out to work on his golf game. I had a drill set up at one end of the field. He had another area where he could have easily practiced his swings, but he moved in on where I was working. When I explained to him I would only be a few more minutes, he was rather rude!! At this point, I veered a little away from my use of a smile and common courtesy. I debated whether or not to just pick up and leave since golf balls were flying.

As I had been dodging his golf balls, I felt turnabout was fair play! I waited until he had hit quite a few, put down his clubs, and was walking out to pick up the golf balls. I then sent a large black Lab out to retrieve my remaining bumpers—one by one. This dog was an exceedingly fast, tough looking, FC/AFC Lab, and I could skim him right by the guy as he walked through the middle of my drill layout. I proceeded to do this until all my bumpers were picked up. I assumed, by his response, that the man had great concern for his balls (golf).

I felt I could get away with this as there was a large sign stating that no one could practice hitting golf balls in that area! He was a rather large, uncouth looking, arrogant behaving man and I am a rather small, *sweet* old lady! What policeman could take his side? I must admit I felt somewhat guilty about my behavior, but still did a lot of chuckling on my drive home. I never saw that man there again! Warning: Do not try this with a Golden!

After reading about the above aberrant behavior, you may feel I am more into warfare than peaceful coexistence, but, truly I am not.

(Addendum—the soccer field is now off limits. They built student housing around it, halved the size and now state “no dogs allowed”)

Since I train in many public areas, I do as much public relations work as I can. Persons often stop and watch while I am running a blind or doing a drill. I will explain what I am doing, why, and when the dog comes in will have the dog sit so they will see that even though he is off leash, he is under control. Kids love to pet the “boys”, and I will give my little talk about every dog is not necessarily a nice dog, be sure and ask the owner before approaching and petting a strange dog, and how to interact with a dog. The dogs love it as do the kids.

Many areas in which I train have joggers, hikers, and those walking leisurely going through them. A lot of these persons have seen various dogs of mine grow up, know their names, and are very friendly. There are a few who are obviously not dog lovers, and I immediately call my dog(s) to me, have the dog sit and put on a leash until they go by. When bike riders go by, I have the dog(s) sit until they have passed. I do the same when people come by with strollers, small children, the elderly, etc. so they won’t worry about the possibility of getting knocked over. When walking the dogs back from their work (in many areas I have quite a hike to get there), I will have a dog walk back with a bumper in his mouth. Most persons seeing this smile and comment on what fun the dog is having. I try to be a very good citizen and have my dogs be the same. Also, I try to pick training times when I am less likely to encounter other people.

One of the worst things is the number of loose and/or out of control dogs. Of course, according to the owners, they just want to play with my dog. I have my dog sit, put my leash on if I had it off, and tell them that my dog is working and so is not available for a play date at the moment. I try to smile (sometimes this is hard when a large, male, aggressive appearing dog is approaching), and ask if they would call their dog. At times, I must repeatedly ask them to call their dog. I do not verbalize the thoughts that are going through my head, as tempting as that might be. In some areas I carry pepper spray.

Although on many days much additional time is used “educating” the public, I feel it is time well spent. I have had persons tell me about industrial areas I could use, pocket parks I didn’t know about, helped socialize puppies, etc. I have taken my dogs into nursing/rest homes and schools. Two of my field trial dogs were registered Therapy dogs at the local hospitals. All around me more and more areas are putting up fences and no trespassing signs. There is anti-dog legislation being proposed on a regular basis. Having dogs which interact well with the public and maintaining good relations with people who encounter my dogs, helps mitigate some of the adverse reactions the public may have towards dogs in the community.

 

 

Category : Blog, 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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