How to Get Your Moneys Worth Out of Professional Training - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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It is particularly unwise to take your dog out of training on surprise notice. Your dog will probably be in the middle of some procedure that has not been completed, and the interruption will at the least negate any value which may have been derived from that stage of his training. At the worst, an interruption in training at any of several points may set the entire training program back. If you must pick up your dog before the time you have agreed upon, make sure your trainer knows of this as far in advance as possible so he or she may consult with you and bring the training to the most valuable conclusion possible for both you and your dog.

When your dog has reached the desired conclusion to its training, be sure you go to pick it up, and spend some time with the trainer. Unless you are an experienced handler and familiar with this trainer's methods, the things you learn on this visit are critical to your ability to make use of the dog's training. Listen carefully to your trainer, take notes, videos if necessary, and follow his instruction on working with your dog to maintain and further its level of competence. Little things like where to hold your hand when sending, the proper posture for casting on blind retrieves, how to line your dog up for marks and blinds, are all of great importance to minimize confusion on the dog's part as it switches from the trainer to its owner's handling. Voice, body gestures, and other forms of communication have been established by your trainer and must be as nearly as possible duplicated for best results.

Spend time with the trainer learning to handle your dog and carry on its training.
The more you understand about training the better use you will be able to make of the trainer's work, so it is also to your advantage if you can visit while your dog is in training and watch how the trainer handles all of the dogs. Recognize, though, that a trainer needs to accomplish a lot in the course of a training day. If you make sure you fit in with the trainer's routine, rather than interrupting it, he or she will probably encourage you to come back.

Your trainer will probably also give you advice on taking your dog on its first few hunts, things to look out for, how to enforce steadiness in the hunting situation and other precautions. The trainer knows that however well-trained your prospect is, a long day in the field or duck blind is going to place demands on your dog that have not been totally covered in training. Heed this advice and try to give your dog the breaks it needs to make the transition from training to the hunting field. No matter how we as trainers try, they are not identical. Your trainer will probably tell you to restrict your dog's activities in order to best ensure high energy during training sessions and attentiveness to the job. Roughhousing with people and other dogs, free time with the cats, and unrestricted liberty to roam large tracts of land are generally counterproductive to high quality work.

If you have decided to become involved in competitive field trials or noncompetitive hunt tests, trust your trainer's judgment as to your dog's readiness for such events. Bad habits and trial-wiseness can be developed by running a dog in formal events in which there is nothing you can do to correct the errors and infractions your dog may commit. Even with a well-trained and reliable dog it is unwise to run an excess of events, i.e. too many weekends in a row, two stakes in one weekend, until the dog is so habituated to reliable and excellent performance that this can be done without much risk of damaging its training.

Changing trainers, although sometimes necessary if there is a gross mismatch between the temperaments of trainer and dog, usually works to the detriment of the dog and its progress. In extreme cases, promising young dogs have become recalcitrant or uncontrollable. More often, excess training time is needed to make up for a change in method or a poorly-timed break in training. An inexperienced dog may not work well for a new trainer without a lot of review of fundamentals. This is another reason it is important to satisfy all of your doubts ahead of time, and choose a trainer to whom you can make a commitment.

In addition to all of the factors which affect your dog's success, consideration of the trainer's time and privacy will be appreciated. When you visit with your prospective trainer for the first time, make an appointment. Don't drop in out of the blue on Sunday afternoon! Ask if it's O.K. to bring your puppy and show him what it can do. If the trainer agrees to this, and gives you an appointment, be punctual. A trainer's time is valuable, his help's time is expensive, and he doesn't have time to wait around for late comers and no shows. Then get out your puppy and show the trainer what it knows. Don't bother bragging on the puppy as it will quickly become evident what the puppy knows. Does it know its name? Does it come when called, will it heel and sit on command? Can you get it to retrieve a dummy or bird to hand? If so, good. If not, more work for the pro to do on things you could have taken care of at home. Try not to fall back on excuses like "Oh! He never does that at home," or "he always comes when I call him in the back yard" (feed dish in hand) they never impress the trainer. Pull no punches, describe your pup honestly and don't make excuses for slips. The trainer will respect you and your dog for it.

Although you may be eager for news of your dog, try to get by without constant updates. Most trainers will give you a monthly written report on your retriever's progress, and perhaps one phone call a month is permissible. It is probably a bad idea to call your trainer more frequently as a dog's progress is generally gradual, and too much telephone time with your pro may constitute an intrusion on his privacy. He is already giving you two daily training sessions, feed, and care for your monthly fee, so it may be unwise to push it with excessive phone calls, unless you have a friendly relationship that permits extra conversations.

When we review the dogs we've trained in recent years that we consider successes, in that they met or exceeded their owners' expectations, or failures which were not able to function as basic gun dogs, the difference in almost every case was in the owners' adherence to the guidelines laid out in this article. If you have decided to commit the money necessary to train a dog, protect your investment by starting with a dog worth training, choosing a trainer you can trust, following instructions and learning as much from the trainer as possible, and refraining from insisting on training shortcuts.
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