What to do? What to do? If you're new at training and encounter a problem while
working a sequential program, the best way to progress through it is to find
someone with experience willing to watch you train your dog. If they are a good
teacher (and that is the key), their advice can be like "gold". Knowing when and
who to ask for help is critical. It's usually the "little things" which trip you up.
Obtaining specific and correct information is much more likely to occur when the
training issue is seen in the proper context.
Puppy! The very word conjures up all kinds of emotions. One very important
thought should revolve around your future expectations. An excellent goal is
to strive for a confident, learning mode pup that understands the routine and
always seems prepared to accept whatever is presented.
A finely trained, happy dog is a work of art. You are the sculptor.
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So is your dog really in shape? Labs are special in that they like
to please, but going
that extra mile can quickly turn into disaster. Two things which help to protect our
four legged hunters are correct weight and physical conditioning. If the uplands are
a big time issue, dogs are best able to run all day when you "see" some ribs. Taffey
is at 61 pounds now, and I thought she looked trim at 68. What a difference in
performance 10% less fat makes!
Sprinting for marks does not condition a Lab for upland endurance. Taffey (and Lick)
spend about a month before upland hunting "roading". For us, this means I ride a
mountain bike on dirt trails and the dogs run several miles a day along with me. Dogs
deserve to be prepared and handlers need exercise, too!
Several years ago my grandsons started piano lessons, and their music teacher taught
them (and reminded me) of a very important concept. If you make a mistake, it takes
at least ten correct repetitions to remedy the mistake. There appears to be a correlation
in dog training. So, if you “let” your dog break, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time
(at least ten non-break/steady repeats) getting back to the standard.
Is your dog steady to wing and shot? Does your dog hold well on “whoa”? Will your
dog forge ahead on heel or occasionally pre-cast? Maintaining standards should be a
way of life, and it’s kind of scary how many things require constant maintenance! It's
hunting season and no one is around to judge....................................except you!
Taffey and Kooly are my last two pups. The first four weeks have many similarities,
yet the pups are very different. How does one deal with the unique makeup of each
pup? One thing is critical...........…don’t compare. Adjust and adapt to the immediate
needs. Let them grow at their own rate and design a “can do” schedule for the pup
at hand. Predetermined expectations are a trap. It is difficult at times to admit our
timeline is not the same as the pup’s, but it is not about us.
We must nurture. What this means is let the pup be himself and
successful at it. The
pup's "boss" must be able to realistically read the pup………not a timeline.
Decide what to do after reading the pup.
Learning how to train dogs is a long-term process. What you know and can apply at
any one time is critical to the advancement of your dogs. Dog training is somewhat
like chess "it depends a great deal on how much you know. But, what you know
is really everything you've learned, minus all you've forgotten.........and the
forgetting process is powerful." Rolf Wetzell
Therefore, it would seem a daily record enhances “remembering” and is a wise course
of action. It provides a reference with context. This “paper trail” will provide quick
recollection and inhibit the “forgetting process”. You will know more because you
have planned to forget less.
In watching Kooly's behavior (mental and physical) it was apparent picking up bumpers by the
end ("cigaring") is a habit created by either of two separate actions (avoidance and/or discomfort).
In order to avoid starting this, a dummy modification was created.
It eliminates one end and penalizes picking it up by the other plus makes the dummy awkward to roll
and "mouth". The "Kwick Bumper" is made using a regular 2" bumper and a 3" to 2" PVC reducer.
Kooly quickly learned the "sweet spot" required for a perfect pick-up and hold.
Here is a picture with Kooly and his "Kwick Bumper".
|May 25, 2004|
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One thing I like to do with my sit "imprinting" on young pups is to make it appropriate. What I mean by
that is don't have the pup sit as a meaningless exercise. I have my pups sit before and after exiting a
crate, when putting on or taking off a collar, before and after passing through any door, before entering
my truck, on the tailgate of my truck when leaving (to make them stop and to put on a collar), when
greeting someone and before eating. If you add up the number of times these happen each day, it is more
than enough and certainly sets the stage for solid, lasting obedience. In those real life situations they
expect to sit and actually start doing it even without asking. It becomes habitual good manners. It's all
Avoidance is something no one wants to see in a pup. However, when working with a pup, avoiding
problems is an art. Keeping a pup from acquiring bad habits is one of the easiest ways to have a really
well behaved dog. Planning ahead and anticipating the issues that most pups will “fall into” is what
experienced trainers do.
Crate training is one way of preventing a pup from getting into trouble. Supervision and confinement
should be a puppy's way of life. They grow up not knowing all the little “naughty” things that they
could be doing. You know…......all those things you want no part of? -
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Pressure is a perceived force which effects the behavior of your dog by impacting mental reactions and
physical performance. Fairly applied pressure can create useful stress which in turn enhances growth.
It is important to continually monitor how well your dog handles pressure.
As a relatively new trainer working on hunt test and field trial skills, I must continually check my dogs'
progress plus my own. The toughest call is to distinguish the difference between lack of effort and
confusion. Dogs don't plan to make you look bad or want to fail. The emotional make-up of a trainer
requires patience, compassion and understanding when "pressuring" a dog. Keep it simple!
I have a pup that will be hunting for the first time. What does he need? Well, we’ve done some “roading”
to improve his conditioning for hunting in the uplands. Steady to wing and shot is especially an important
focus and he will be given a review of the proper handling of pheasants.
Kooly has seen single marks out of the boat into and beyond decoys with a steady to release focus.
Training with the boat blind up allows him see and hear a bit of what it will be like. He will know how
to sit quietly. In addition, Kooly is learning how to exit the boat and enter via the ramp. By the time a
real hunt occurs, he will experience several trips in the boat. In the excitement of the real thing, the
plan is to have him know the rules and be familiar with what is expected.
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How do you know what to do when things just don’t seem to be going well? It is very easy to drift into
doing too much of one thing. A simple approach to identifying the problem is checking the balance
in a dog's training. A journal can prove valuable by providing an inventory of daily events. If not, still
try to make an itemized list of the frequency and duration of things like marks, blinds, maintenance
drills, bird exposure, obedience work and hunting trips. Review your dog’s health status including any
vet checkups plus realistically appraise the dog’s physical conditioning.
After analyzing the data to pinpoint areas that have been neglected, a plan can be put in place to
correct apparent deficiencies. A happy, well functioning hunting dog needs balance. Balance
enhances the ability to maintain a high degree of personal confidence and maximize performance.
Doing this check-up may prove to be an easy, quick, mechanical method of putting your dog back on
the right track.
Jan - Feb 2005
First time breeder? or thinking about it? When looking at the hypothetical litter, develop a rationale.
Make a list of why this breeding should take place by answering these questions.
1. Can the pups become AKC registered?
2. Have the parents been screened by OFA and CERF.
3. What is the primary reason for producing the litter?
4. How many people have seen your dog work in the field? that like her?
5. Has anyone remarked, "You know, if and when you breed her, I would like a pup?
6. Have you discussed the breeding with prospective buyers (before breeding) ?
7. What is the primary reason the stud was selected? Which other studs were looked at
and why were they passed over?
8. Where are you going to whelp the litter?
9. Do you have detailed plans on how the litter is going to be cared for? socialization plan?
10. Is your vet aware of this breeding?
11. Do you have references in place?
12. How much money have you spent on caring for and training the dog in question?
13. If your dog has titles, why? if not titled, why not?
14. Would you still breed the litter if you only break even? Why?
15. How many puppies do you think will have deposits before they are born?
16. Is there a plan in place to handle the paper work - health guarantees, registration, vet
clearances (CERF'd pups, micro-chips, health) and shipping & pick-up alternatives.
17. Are you keeping a pup? Why?
18. Are you screening potential buyers? Why? and How?
All these questions should have answers. There will be a trend.
July - Aug 2005
Training issues happen....especially to new trainers. A good way to get an overview of a difficult
problem is to access one or more of the training forums listed in the Favorites page and use the
search function. Posting up a new topic will get a few replies, but generally most issues have
already been covered many times before. Read the feedback and learn the terminology. This will
give you the foundation to ask better questions more specific to your dog's needs.
Sept - October 2005
A training tab on a young dog is a common technique used to maintain control. Teaching obedience
and line manners are simplified. It consists of a choke collar/pinch collar and a 12” piece of poly-rope.
I prefer the choke collar, but in some cases the pinch collar is more useful.
An older dog can benefit greatly by using it as a simple maintenance tool in the yard and with short
set-ups where potential “hang-ups” are non-existent. The week before a hunt test line manners can
be easily “refreshed” by using it in combination with “in-your-face” breaking birds and a high level
of training action at the line. Enhancing corrections with no retrieve and removal from the line will
cause most dogs to respond in a positive manner to these specific reminders of what the standards
are supposed to be. Test results are usually determined by what happens at the line.
November - January 2005-6
One day this past summer I went to see a pro trainer. He was preparing to do some OB yard work
with his young dogs, so I pulled up a chair to observe. After watching the lessons for about an hour,
my mind finally realized what I saw. Basically, I'm thinking this is something that should definitely
be added to my "tool box". The check cord may end up in storage. He was using a Flexi-lead.
Pushing the stop button and releasing it at the precise moment kept the dog under control and in
position while never being "in the way". With a little practice the Flexi-lead appears to be a solid
innovation for yard work. The whole gamut of remote sit, here, heel, front and side finish was
covered. De-bolting was done by using a remote sit with "here" past an open gate to an airing yard.
The process was slick..........quick and very efficient. Be flexible when teaching.
February - 2006
So just when do you start asking your pup to behave? Early expectations are a pup should be a
good citizen around the house – like not biting or jumping up on people, house broke and learning
a routine. Formal obedience is eventually going to begin, but when? The fear of “taking drive out”
too early may cause an inexperienced trainer to overcompensate and allow a pup to turn into an
unruly, difficult pup. There are markers for the beginning of official OB - 1) permanent teeth are in,
2) the pup is mature enough to handle pressure, 3) the pup is confident and brave, 4) the pup has a
great interest in birds, 5) the pup is enthusiastic about retrieving and 6) the pup understands basic
rules and a daily structure. If all of those are in place, “clamping down” (known as formal
obedience) is next. A good axiom to follow when working toward a high level of OB is to seek
perfection. If a concern for any OB issue occurs, a good rule to follow is to “never, ever let him
March - 2006
Here are some of ideas about "fun bumpers". 1) If Daisy just finished a good session where she
learned something, the last thing I want her to remember.......won't be "happy bumpers". 2) If
Daisy just had an issue that didn't go well and she's obviously "down", I'd rather the last thing she
remembers is....it wasn't all that bad. 3) If I have a soft dog that needs to be "hyped up" a bit (kind
of like an adrenalin rush) to do well in drill work, Kooly may get a "happy bumper". 4) If I have a dog
that is a "manic" trainer, Taffey doesn't need "happy bumpers".
So in summary, I use "happy bumpers" to get a dog excited so he will perform better or for the
opposite effect to make a dog forget. It seems contrary that if you can make a dog forget that you'd
want to do that after a good session. Attitude is a tough thing to develop, and "fun bumpers" can
have a great impact if used wisely. As always........timing is everything.
April, May, June - 2006
What happens when a dog starts relying on their nose so much that they get lazy about marking?
That's the central issue. It's all well and good that a dog will use its nose (though some of us would
rather most such weren't "down on the ground") to hunt up a missed mark, but developing a dog that
misses precious few marks in the first place should carry the most weight in the training balance. Even
for strictly field use, where marking accuracy isn't graded, per se, and marks very often swim or walk
away from where they fell, thus requiring a dog to use its nose, getting to where the bird fell and the
scent trail begins as promptly as possible is still central to efficiency.
As long as a dog is marking keenly, I'll throw some orange bumpers and high weeds in the marking
mix to put nose in play as well as sight, but when too much hunt starts to rear its head, we go back to
white bumpers, short grass and/or prominent landmarks to put Pup's focus back on sight............
.........by Rick Hall
July - September - 2006
Don't start pups with the "here" command around the house or with a check cord. My pups (early on) are
taken for daily "romps" in isolated, safe areas. During these walks in exciting, new places, they eventually
start to venture away. At times, they will want to check back with you. Seeing this action, you kneel down
and say "here" a couple of times (they are almost desperate in their returns). You get "happy" with them
and show (with animation) how wonderful the "here" word is. Try to get two or three of these "situations" to
occur every day (don't wear it out). The pup will forever think "here" is a wonderful word, and recalls will
be much easier to formally teach and maintain.
Also, properly introduce the use of a check cord (if you are going that route). This is done gradually.......and
not suddenly when you are frustrated with failing efforts to get a pup to come to you. After the pup has gone
through early imprinting of the "joy of here", then the check cord (properly introduced) can be used to enforce
the command or the alternative may be used (around four/five months old.....e-collar). My pups are "here"
imprinted, leash broke, graduate to a Flexi-lead and collar conditioned to "here" before formal OB (no check
Note: A properly imprinted "here" mode makes puppy retrieves much more fun for all.
"Here" first......"Retrieves" after.
October - December - 2006
The precocious pup versus a slower developing pup present an interesting training choice - how to deal with
maturity and skill building. A quick puppy is able to do just about anything that is asked. What's sometimes
ignored is how they mentally cope with all the "stuff" thrown at them. The pressure to assimilate is hidden
by their drive and joy to perform. So the trainer moves on without the pup actually knowing "what the heck
is going on". They grow up without a solid, deep understanding of the basics which in the long run may
become a lifelong "ball and chain" so to speak.
The slower maturing dog has a built in filter that causes skill levels to develop more evenly with the mental
ability to handle life's lessons. In no uncertain terms, the pup truly tells you when he is ready to move on.
This allows the trainer to fully develop foundations that support advanced learning while the "early" pup
peaks out "early".
What's the old training axiom? "Train a fast dog................slowly." The "fast" puppies need time to get their
"mental" strength in tune with the pace of daily lessons. A to Z in dog training is not a race and the front
runner does not always win.
January - February - 2007
The dog hates pressure. Yep, time to think "outside of the box". Kooly was a bit like that......he needed
a reason for it all. So we just went hunting. He began to think "Hey, this is fun and you are not that bad
after all." The dog is only responding to what was done to him and baggage is not easily displaced. You
have to redefine each others' roles.
Sometimes in training you get to the point where judgments were wrong and you end up at a "bridge too
far". You might have to carry pom-poms and wear a cheering outfit, but get the dog into having fun again.
Work at convincing the dog there is joy in what he is doing. Going back just doesn't work very well. Move
into another totally different area. It helps to be a clever con man.
Things that worked for Kooly were 1) hunting upland, 2) lots of birds when marking, 3) sticking to drills that
were perceived as fun, 4) cheering was good and nagging was not, 5) regular "roading", 6) being more
predictable/consistent and 7) fun bumpers (lots of them). What actually happens is the dog begins to
appreciate teaching and usually learns how to respond properly to pressure.......which wasn't happening
I've been to the "bridge too far". The view is not pretty. Two months for recovery is not nearly enough, so
accept it as a long-term project.
March - June - 2007
In the past, every once in awhile, I would write an evaluation of my dog's progress. This would result in
some training changes designed to work on problem areas.
The weather has been very cold lately, and time was abundant. So, I am into organizing an "inventory"
for each dog. To start with, each dog's strengths and weaknesses are listed. The plan is to take advantage
of what they do well and work at reducing "holes". By writing it down, a training program can be
developed to produce a better dog (in theory).
Since, I have always kept training journals, the focus will not be lost. As the year "plays out", we will see
how this works. Here are the "inventories" for Daisy and Kooly.
July - December - 2007
The phrase "He never does this in training before.....so there is nothing to correct" comes up quite often
when discussing the “test wise” dog. How do you deal with it in training? I’ve had my share of working
on this issue. However, running this lament past by pro friend (again) brought on this comment. "If he isn't
doing it in training........you aren’t trying hard enough." This has determined the main theme in Kooly’s
recent training. Kooly is only vocal (barking) in hunt tests. He’d creep, and the judge would say, “Re-heel
your dog”. Kooly would then bark during a reluctant re-heeling process, but there are really two
problems – creeping and vocalization.
There are several possible solutions. Also, there are many that seem to think this is an extremely difficult
problem to solve...because it is. I accept the fact he may have gotten where he is now by mistakes I may
have made earlier, so it becomes a challenge to figure out how to correct this.
January - 2008
Every year about the same time (January 1st), resolutions and goals are stated and listed. My favorite
question has always been “What are your goals with the dogs for the year?” In the past, it seems listing
things like progressing to a higher level in training, participating in events, earning titles and finishing the
year with great hunting trips was the norm. In retrospect, it was more of a dream list. The philosophy
was to “aim high.............you might hit something".
To a certain extent good things did happen. However, aiming high presents an interesting challenge.
Consistently hitting lofty targets requires solid skill building. It is "all well and good” to identify the
destination, but what about the maps to get there?
Therefore, the 2008 New Year will start with a "short Kwick list”. In theory, if the “Kwick” list
is satisfied.......anything else will be a bonus. The theme is “Better Aiming & Less Wishing”.
1. heel correctly..........in spite of high drive
2. sit quietly.....in spite of great temptations
3. balance.......keep it "tasting good", using
Julie’s list – responsiveness, retrieving,
“birdiness”, focus & control
4. have fun..............no grinding
July - December 2008
There are "those days" which crop up
once in awhile that seem to suggest drastic changes might be necessary.
Before doing anything in a rush, ask yourself a few questions...........Is what happened out of character? Was there some new distraction that may have created the problem? Have you done
any previous training in the same area which may have conflicted with the new setup?
Is a female due to come in heat soon? Has the dog's daily routine been upset recently? Are
you using enough birds vs. bumpers? Is there a consistent balance in marks vs. blinds? Is a dog perceiving pressures that maybe you don't see?
Does the dog know the expectations?
Before pushing forward or backing off, try and figure out if it was just one of "those days" to forget
or a serious issue. By taking the time to do a thorough analysis, the correct decision is more likely
to occur. A plan with a sound rationale is better than a quick reaction without much thought.
"Do what the dog needs." Julie Knutson...2007 Kentucky Pointing Lab Seminar
Last Tip of the Month (for awhile)
I guess I'm not so "warm and fuzzy" with biting pups. The biting issues
are dealt with early on with tethered sessions on the living room floor.
I want to have control over the pup's freedom and consistently apply the
same correction. A "muzzle grab" and a stern "no" always worked quickly
for me. I am "up close and personal" and there is no chance for escape.
I'm not looking for an easy, alternative distraction, and I'm sure the pup's
Mom wouldn't do much coddling, either. Deliver consistent consequences
at the level they "dish it out" and get this issue over with
sooner...rather than later.
The regular sessions are designed to be boring and cost me zero time......I do watch TV at times. Puppies need to learn that not everything is wild and exciting. Their reward is 30 minutes of quiet time with me. Several neat things occur.....1) the pup becomes leash broke, 2) the possibility of escape is removed, 3) biting becomes clearly unacceptable, 4) the true meaning of "no" is established and 5) being relaxed, quiet and calm is normal (for both of us).
The "muzzle grab" and "no bite" routine can be transitioned to a simple raised finger and a quiet "uh...uh...uh" verbal warning..............when he understands and just needs a reminder. I should mention that there are different levels of the "muzzle grab’.
On a side note, veterinarians will very much appreciate the fact that they can easily mess with the pup's ears, legs and paws without him/her "freaking" out. I know I'm making headway with
a pup when he falls asleep next to me.
Kooly's Plan (the continuation Link)
Daisy's 2007 Inventory (link) 2008 ?
Kooly's 2007 Inventory (link) 2008 ?
Taffey's (coming soon)