We are currently dealing with an over-complication of canine training philosophy. It is true that the nuances and individual adjustments to training required to compete at a National level is daunting. However, even this caliber of dog requires a foundation no different than that required by the typical gun dog for the majority of people.
We have been busy…very busy in fact. Our niche of exposing newer participants to what is possible with their gun dog is very rewarding for us. Attached to this process is an element of education, or often times reeducation of the fundamentals of developing a young prospect or training an older dog. The gun dog is relatively easy and comes with a certain amount of training; good and bad. The owner requires the education, or reeducation.
The internet has provided the dissemination of information instantly and like others, we have made use of this process. The problem we are seeing is that the loudest voice with the most technical or catchy terms are the most successful at “being the expert.” In most cases, the owners are just confused at the fundamental concept even if they have the ability to repeat the “text book” explanation.
If you look at a canine pet or gun dog, the terms utilized can be extensive such as Hup, Stay, Sit, Whoa. What about Out, Back, Over, Place, Kennel, Crate, Strips, Buckets, Sticks. You have Here and Come. This doesn’t even get into the whistle or the text book terms of dog psychology that have inundated the training process. All of these terms are rooted in three things that all domesticated canines must do. They must leave us when told. They must stop when told. They must come back to us when told. These three things are absolutes.
Anything beyond these three is nice. However, with the exception of picking something up, everything else is built off of these three tasks. The two easiest are coming back to you and stopping. Whether or not a dog stands or sits is up to you as long as the dog stops when told. Coming back to you is the most obvious one to understand. Going away from you is the most difficult one people seem to understand.
We are finding an endless array of drills and explanations of how to make the dog drive deeper, wider and run more perfect in its ground coverage. These drills can be quite difficult and complex on two levels. The first is the difficulty for the dog because it is usually not properly developed for the task being asked and the second is the difficulty for the owner because they typically are just emulating what they have seen but do not understand what the gun dog is really being asked to do. They see the picture of what it is supposed to look like and start from that viewpoint.
Any action that requires the dog to move away from you is as simple as getting a dog to go into a kennel. It is a simple targeting drill that is a concept that is missed repeatedly. We do a kennel drill with all dogs that begins with young puppies (they do it a lot) and continues with our older dogs (they still do it weekly). The drill is no different than what many other people do. The final picture is simply telling the dog to go in a kennel and the dog runs in the kennel and may stay in there or may run back out. That’s it, the task is complete. The mistake we are repeatedly seeing when we start to work with people or at our training seminars is that people are so concerned with the dog going in the kennel that they miss that the task is actually about getting the dog to leave us and go to a target. They train the dog that they will be rewarded for going in the kennel as opposed to rewarding the dog for leaving.
This is not a “How To” article. It is intended to get you thinking about moving away from being such a “Smart Trainer” and become a more “Educated Trainer”. Think more about the concept you are working on and less about the final picture. Think about this: Out, Over and Back all require the dog to move away from you and go to a target. Strips, Buckets, Sticks and Teasers all require the dog to go away from you and toward a target. Fundamentally, is this any different than a dog going into a kennel?
Todd has been training field bred spaniels since 1997. He participates in spaniel field trials and hunt tests in both the United States and Canada, has guided hunters for wild gamebirds, and is a professional dog trainer that firmly believes in the value of exposing hunting dogs to wild gamebirds."
Todd has won and placed in numerous spaniel field trials, including the 2018 National Open Championship and has won the 2017 National Open High Point Trophy. More importantly, he has developed numerous dogs and their owners that have won and placed in spaniel field trials, including the 2019 Canadian Amateur Championship.
Todd develops and sells started and finished English Springer spaniels and English Cocker spaniels for upland hunting out of Craney Hill Kennel in Mitchell, Georgia. He often has young field trial prospects in development throughout the year.