Sunday, 31 July 2011
It's a fact of life that as a dog trainer you are going to spend more time training humans than dogs.
I'm not going to say that there is no such thing as an intrinsically bad dog, I'm sure that there are a few thoroughly bad sorts out there. More often than not, it's a case of a good dog gone bad at the hand of an incompetent or lazy owner. Wasted potential; stress and frustration on all sides.
Modern gundogs have been bred to be biddable, even Cockers. They just want to please.
It's the old joke but it's very true; Try locking your wife and your gundog in the boot of your car for 24 hours and see who is most pleased to see you when you let them out!
Equally, very few gundogs are perfect. Each will have a trait or a habit that you find irritating. Alongside basic obedience and manners, these are the area that you are going to have to work on. Every dog will be different in the areas where they are deficient. Some will be sticky on retrieving, some won't pick feather, some have anger management issues; most will want to run in.
There is no "one size fits all solution." Early days training and basic obedience will pretty much follow the same pattern irrespective of what breed of dog you have or what its purpose will be. It's only when the basics are instilled that you need to find a bespoke solution to your dog's issues.
Flexibility is key. Just because one solution worked for you last dog, that approach may not be appropriate for your new pup. You have to train to your dog's character. A hard going dog can take a more interventional approach in comparison to a soft dog, which will need lots of gentle encouragement. It takes time to really know your pup's character. If you haven't got time to spend with your dog every day, things are going to be difficult. In my experience, the most difficult character type to train is an oppositional dog that is also soft natured. That way lies many hours of tears and frustration.
It's amazing just how much you can achieve on your own. Books and the internet are a great resource. You also know more than you think you do! However, there may come a time when you seek outside assistance.
There are a lot of unregulated dog trainers out there. Some are great; some are robbing shits. Hopefully you'll find a great one. For the novice, group training is a tempting solution, but it is not as economic as it seems. In reality you only get 5 minutes one on one in a group, and training tends to be set at a generalised level. Good for confidence, crap for your dog's specific issues. Remember you are paying for training NOT socialisation. If cost is an issue, one on one lessons can be expensive, but you don't have to have them every week. One a month may be enough to keep you on the right path.
Try to find a trainer that you like personally. It's hard to take advice from people you don't like or respect. Likewise, I try to take on clients whom I get on with. My wife says I need to work on my inter-personal skills! I think she needs to mind her own business.
I recently took on a new client, who had a 2 year old Springer, who was sticky on retrieves. I should have known the fit was wrong when the client talked all over me on our first telephone conversation. The clue is in the word "trainer" if you know better, stop wasting your cash and sort the problem yourself. If you want to learn; STFU and listen! This particular client's dog had a lot of control put on it at an early age; so much so that the urge to retrieve had been repressed. The dog would hunt with a degree of esprit, but as soon as the dummy was found, she pottered, mouthed and generally lost momentum. The dog had become bored with canvas and even more bored with her drudge of an owner. The phrase "more life in a tramps vest" came to mind. When I pointed out to the client that the reason the dog didn't retrieve back to him was that she found a saliva-sodden canvas bag more interesting than him, relations turned frosty. This was a 2 year old dog that had never had feather in its mouth or any experience of what it was bred for. What a bloody waste! I tried to persevere for the sake of the dog, but eventually we had to go our separate ways, the client to find a more "inter-personal" trainer and me to tick off from the list, another of life's arseholes whom I never have to meet again.
What's the most common name for a gundog? Is it Teal, Drake or Duke .......? Well if what you hear shouted on a shoot day is anything to go by, it's "You (insert colour of dog here) Bastard!"
The other thing that you are highly likely to hear is the keeper shouting at some poor soul to get is dog back into line, as Harvey rockets off through all the best drives on the shoot, scattering birds back over the beaters, leaving the guns to wonder why all the birds have gone out of the side of the drive. Hence the name of this blog.
Owners screw up. Such is life......
This blog is going to attempt to address some of the thorny issues when it comes to getting Harvey out onto the shoot, without too many tears. Yours, not mine.
I've chosen the name Harvey for the dog, as this is the name of probably the worst Labrador I have ever seen. Owned by a guy that I know who is a complete tosser. This guy got his leg badly lifted by a keeper in Scotland when he was sold Harvey at about a year and a half old. Harvey was been sent away because "he's a ladies dog." In all honesty, nobody in their right mind sells a year and half old dog, unless there is something wrong with it. If you understand that, then it's OK to buy a part trained dog – you have to decide if you can live with the fault(s). Harvey however is a slow motion train crash....... bungalow.....absolutely nothing upstairs. Greedy, ungracious, badly mannered and likely to run in – that's just his owner. The dog is worse!
Some of the early posts in this blog have appeared elsewhere, either on my website or FB page under the "Trilly's Training Tales." For the sake of completeness I'll include them here as well.
It's also worth saying that when it comes to training dogs, there is a lot of crap talked. Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one. Everyone has a method. If your opinions and methods work – stick with them. If they don't, try mine; or don't! I honestly don't care.
Like kids, when it comes to training dogs, I believe in discipline. Not kicking the dog all over the park discipline, but firm, fair and consistent discipline. So if you are looking for tips on clicker training – you have come to the wrong place. You won't like my methods and chances are I won't like you.
I don't believe in using food as a training aid and I believe that e-collars are not cruel and have a specific place in the trainer's armamentarium, but should only be used with proper tuition, by people who know what they are doing. I don't like the Kennel Club or what it stands for, but for the moment I tolerate them and I am deeply sceptical about the world of Field Trials and I would rather eat my own testicles than run my dogs in a trial
Oh and if you are looking for an instant cure for a deep seated problem – there are no quick fixes. In the real world Ceasar Milan can't transform a canine hooligan into a textbook dog overnight.
Right; I assume that has pissed off the pink and fluffy brigade, so if you are still reading, thanks for staying the distance. I hope I can help.