Training is Built One Brick at a Time
For all of you that have been reading (at least) some of my articles, I apologize to you. This article is about nothing more than me venting over an issue that quick-fix dog training books and writers try to sell to the less educated. For the rest of you, and everyone that has been calling for me to train your dog for the month, I do not apologize and I will AGAIN explain how your lack of knowledge is impeding your dog.
Tell me what you think about the following statements.
“Hello Ms. Jordan. This is Johnny’s first day of kindergarten and he is very excited. However, you can only teach him during the month of September so make sure he is ready for first grade by October.”
“Johnny, say hi to Coach Ron. We are very excited about Johnny deciding to play football Coach. Please teach him how to play and we will pick him up before the NFL draft next month.”
“Hello Mr. Kaplan. Johnny is taking the SAT test next week. Please teach him the 2500 or so vocabulary words he may see on the test. He needs to know them for the test next week.”
These requests are of course ridiculous. Now ask yourself why is it any different with your dog? I cannot believe the number of telephone calls that I receive and the owner wants the dog trained in two weeks or a month. TRAINED TO DO WHAT? Most times, the dog has not had many birds, has never had an e-collar and although the owner denies it, the retrieve is terrible.
Why do owners think this is possible? Are other trainers making promises that I know are unrealistic? Is the quality of the training that poor? Or, is the expectation of the owner so low that a trainer can capitalize on it without providing proper training?
HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Except for very specific training on single issues, I cannot, and WILL NOT, take a dog in for training for less than three months. If another trainer will, and indicates that they can get the training done, well good luck and call them. The reason for the three month minimum is pretty simple. It is about the longest that misinformed owners will send their dog away for training! It is also about the minimum time it can take to get the dog to perform regularly for the owner when they take the dog home.
Let me give you two extremes in Client dogs that came to us for training. The first is a very talented English Springer spaniel that is well-bred AND young (7-8 months when it came in for training). The first month, we introduced the dog to quail and pigeons so that it would get out into different cover and hunt for birds. We also began the foundation work for obedience. The second month, we introduced the dog to gunfire and completed e-collar conditioning and obedience in the yard. The third month, we transferred compliance to the field and started the dog with its patterning (proper use of the wind).
Foundation is Built One Month at a Time
At the end of three months, the owner came and got his dog. He now can take the dog out and hunt. He has already gone to the hunt club with his friends and shot birds over the dog. His dog complies with both verbal and whistle commands, hunts within gun range and retrieves. Most important, when the dog needs to be corrected, the foundation is in place and the owner can make a MILD correction with his voice, whistle or e-collar and the dog does not shut down. Trust me, this is as good as it gets! We were able to move the dog along quickly because a) it was a genetically talented dog, b) it came to us at a young age with limited issues, and c) the dog would already retrieve consistently.
At the other end of the spectrum is the dog that comes in for training and it either will not retrieve or it kills birds, meaning the bird is not fit for the dinner table. We are not talking about the dog that will not bring the bird back. We are talking about the dog that will not pick the bird up. I know that he will retrieve at home. But we do not train or hunt at your house.
We cannot do anything with this dog until it will retrieve or stop killing birds. That means we need to complete the “forced-retrieve” and it will take one to two months to complete. Our standard on the retrieve is VERY high. We have had many dogs in for training that have been through the forced-retrieve and still only retrieve some of the time. Well, in our program, that is not acceptable. Do it right the first time and it saves you money and aggravation later. If it is alright with you that the dog damages the birds then send your dog someplace else for training because it is not alright with us. We hunt and we put the game on the dinner table. If you go to the hunt club and shoot your birds and they get thrown away because you do not want them or because your dog destroyed them, then the truth is your are a shooter not a hunter/conversationalist and your hunting privileges should be suspended!
If it is going to take one or two months to get the retrieving fixed, it will obviously take longer to train your dog to an acceptable level. I am done hearing “…I am not looking for a world-class dog, I just want to go out a couple of times and shoot some birds and have Fido retrieve them.” This is a bunch of #$%^$. You ALL want that, but you want the dog to be better than your hunting buddy’s dog and you want people to comment about the quality of your dog. However, you routinely accept something less and will derive many excuses as to why your dog does not do this or that. The fact is, you just do not want to spend the money required, have the dog gone for the time required, have a lack of perspective on what a well-trained dog is capable of doing, or it is not a priority.
Now here is the good news. If it is not a priority to you than I am alright with that because it is YOUR dog. I just will not be training it for you. I do not see any other trainer being as honest with dog owners as I am being with this article. I am in business and I do not expand my business by telling Clients that they need to stop making unrealistic requests, stop buying every flavor of punch that is served to them and to start looking in the mirror. However, I do expand my business by educating dog owners to think about what they ask and what their expectations are. I understand the family does not want the dog to be gone. I understand that there is a fear that the dog may change if it is added to a professional kennel. I understand those things, but I DO KNOW what is best for getting your dog trained and making your time with your dog more enjoyable. If it just will not work for you to send your dog out for training, consider joining a training group. Try to find one that allows you to work under the guidance of a quality professional trainer, as most are coordinated by amateurs that know only a little more than you, if that.