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Steadying Blues - An Interview with David Lauber

by Geoffrey English



Over the last two issues David Lauber has walked us through the process of steadying a dog to wing and shot. This month David addresses how to combat the "steadying blues", which faces many dogs during the steadying process.


Sitting squarely on a flushed bird is the end result we are looking for.
Photo by: Author
David Lauber:
"As I mentioned last month when we discussed the steadying process, an entire book could be written to address all the issues you could run into during the steadying process and how to combat the "steadying blues". When professionals train dogs, they try many different approaches before they find an approach that works with a particular dog. A reputable professional can read a dog and avoid problems long before they actually occur. This is where the experience of professional trainers comes into play. By constantly refining their training program, professional trainers can often avoid the inevitable pitfalls novice run into when training a dog."

Gundogs Online:
"The last couple of months we spent quite a bit of time explaining the process of taking a young spaniel from yard work, to the field, and steadying them to wing and shot. Since those articles were published, we have received a number of questions regarding how to overcome the steadying blues. In your estimation, what percentage of dogs go through the steadying blues?"

David Lauber:
I would say roughly half the dogs go through some form of steadying blues. The novice may not notice any real evidence of the steadying blues, but to the professional trainer who trains a number dogs can typically see subtle signs of steadying blues long before they become a problem. Of that 50%, I would say 95% of the dogs show no signs of the ill effects from the steadying process, if identified and handled properly.

Gundogs Online:
"Is there anything the novice handler can do to prepare his dog for the steadying process, whether they send their dog off to a professional or steady their spaniel themselves?"

David Lauber:
"There is one thing a novice can do prior to sending his dog away to be steadied by a professional trainer. He can start working early on the dog’s manners. When I say manners I mean, the dog must obey simple obedience commands like "hup", "heel" and "come". A person can set the stage to making the job of steadying easier by working on these fundamentals and having a dog that is 100% reliable on these commands. In fact, I would not attempt to steady a dog that was not 100% on these commands. If a dog has always been accustomed to immediately responding to these commands and knows who the boss is, chances are he will move through the steadying process more quickly than a dog that has not. And, of course, this will reduce the likelihood of the steadying blues."

"Everybody likes to start his or her dog on manners at different times. If you have a dog that knows who the master is and he knows there is only one correct response to a command, regardless of the distractions or temptations, you have half the battle won."



Rolling in clip wing pigeons can help correct a slow flush.
Photo by: Author
Gundogs Online:
"Can the steadying blues start in the yard or is it something that starts to show itself only in the field?"

David Lauber:
"While it is less likely that a dog will show outward signs of the steadying blues in the yard, it can begin there. The yard work is a place where the dog is learning new things. During this time, you need to keep it fun for him and keep his interest level high. During the steadying process, the mind can only absorb as much as the dog can tolerate staying seated. So you don’t what to push the dog too much if he is not ready. Pushing too fast will inevitably lead to confusion between you and the dog. Keep the sessions to 15 minutes a day. Don’t overdo it."

"The steadying process, more than any other process in dog training, is the time when handler needs to remain patient and alert. The minute you feel yourself starting to lose control, its time to end the session and come back to it later in the day or the next day. When you’re training a dog, you need to be in a very controlled atmosphere so you can send a clear, concise message to the dog. When a person is angry, mad or frustrated they are going to act without thinking and they are undermining all the work they have done up to that point. It is better to put the dog up rather then create more problems."

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