The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Are you talking to me?

Why do handlers continue to blow a whistle command over and over when the dog isn't responding even a little bit? The whistles usually get louder as the repetitions mount up and still no reaction from the dog. Once off the field this handler will usually make every excuse in the book for the dog and will say things like; "it's too windy and the dog couldn't hear." "the dogs are having trouble hearing because of the topography." And my all time favorite, "my dog never does that at home." I'll bet it does. I don't have a stop on my dog until I have a stop on him at 600 yards with the wind blowing straight in my teeth and I'm backing up. But I don't ask for that stop until I have it on a dime up close and personal. I actually start training a stop when my dogs are young. I ask them to lay down before I put down their food. This makes laying down a good thing and pretty quick, they're hitting their belly every time I ask. It usually takes a little reinforcement once on stock, but it comes pretty quickly there as well. I had a young filly that I broke on the ranch and decided to sell. She was really typey and very pretty and I thought she would be worth more if I trained her with a sliding stop and spin. I went to see a reigning horse trainer and friend of mine, Todd Crawford, while he was still in Temecula, and asked him how to teach that stop. What he told me stuck with me and works for me just as well on dogs as it did on that filly. When he is training his horses and asks them to stop, he lets them stand for a minute, relax and rest. In other words he makes stopping a good thing. His horses enjoy it and want to stop. Training my dogs to lay down before I feed them accomplishes the same thing. If you have to repeat your whistles at practice, you'll never have a chance on a trial field where everything is new and exciting. At home my dogs have to respond instantly to my whistles and I make every effort not to blow a command more than once. If I do, there's going to be a correction. I teach everything at hand until my dogs are responding, then I start stretching out the distance. Getting a great big, wide flank at the top of the fetch on a really big course in atrocious weather is how I know that my training has been effective. To be competitive, I simply have to have it. In a double lift trial, for instance, you'll need a good stop to set up the dog-leg fetch because what you're doing is stopping the dog short on an outrun. Can you even do that at home? In addition, you'll need to be able to flank off the pressure at the beginning of each fetch to keep the dog-leg fetch on line. If you start early, always reinforce and be consistent no matter what, you'll get a dog that listens while other handlers are making excuses.

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