We receive numerous calls regarding training inquiries each month. They generally begin with the owner telling us how wonderful the dog is, how well it listens, how good it is on birds and how much the family loves the dog. When the owner is done talking, we get to respond and it is generally only one question. If the dog is so great, why are you calling us?
The truth is not that the owner is trying to deceive us. The truth is that the owner recognizes there are a few issues in the dog’s training but the owner wants us to understand how important the dog is to the family. Trust me…dog trainers understand this. If you really love the dog, then you owe it to yourself to talk candidly regarding what is going on with the dog. Many of the questions you may not be able to effectively answer because you are not the professional. Think of it this way. I am at the complete opposite of the mechanically skilled scale. I own about three tools and know how to use one of them. When my mechanic asks what the noises in the motor sounds like, he might as well be asking for a cooking recipe, which I also do not know! It is the same with most people regarding dog training.
Any reputable trainer should take the dog in for training on a trial basis so that he/she can assess the dog. We generally need a couple weeks for the dog to get comfortable in the kennel, feeding and traveling. A kennel is a VERY different environment than a household and for most dogs that have been spoiled (yes spoiled), there is a required adjustment. We have had dogs come in and just fall apart for a few weeks and then we get to start to see the real dog. Other dogs come in for training and light it up right from the beginning. I cannot tell you over the phone how your dog will do and any trainer that tells you they can is a trainer I would advise you to avoid.
So now you know that you should expect a trial period, how long will the training take? Well, that depends on where the dog is in prior training and what you want the dog to do. It is the biggest question we ALL have. Everyone wants the same thing. “I just want the dog to do well in the field and to listen.” Unfortunately, that is of no help to the trainer and any good trainer is going to drill you pretty hard to be sure everyone is on the same page. We generally offer for the owner to see a bunch of our dogs that are at different levels of training. This does a couple of things. It makes it easier for the owner to say they want a dog that does what that one or this one does. It then allows us to advise the owner about what is involved in the way of time and costs. Of course, this is a moving target because our dogs have been in our program since birth and dogs in for training generally move a little slower due to getting started later in life. Look at a bunch of the trainer’s dogs instead of just one. It may be the only dog that was actually trained. Also look for a trainer that will talk about what he/she DOES NOT like about his/her dogs. NOBODY has a perfect dog…INCLUDING ME!
We generally look at a four-month training period. This is not always the case but it is a reasonable estimate. Four months allows one month for an adjustment period and to get the dog comfortable on birds. Our idea of birds compared to most people is quite different. Rita is a nine-month old puppy from a litter we had in February and has now had approximately 400 pen-raised quail contacts, maybe 100 wild California quail contacts, a few wild Hungarian partridge contacts, maybe a combined 100 wild Sharp tail grouse and pheasant contacts, maybe 50 pigeon contacts and a few Ruff grouse contacts. Needless to say, we give our dogs a lot of birds.
In the first month, dogs in for training will see about 50-75 quail contacts as needed and then pigeons for training. In the second month, we start shooting birds over the dog comprised of pigeons, chukar and/or pheasants. Throughout the first two months, we are also building the foundation for obedience in the field. In the third month, we get the dog responding in the field under control. This is a GENERAL schedule and should not be considered a schedule for any one particular dog. If a trainer pushes the dog too much, it will feel pressure and problems will undoubtedly surface.
You should now feel more comfortable about REASONABLE expectations you should have from your trainer. Now we need to talk about the cost. Like everything in life, we want everything for nothing. Well that is not going to happen and if you try to save a few dollars here, you will pay for it there. There are numerous trainers that will charge $400 to $600 per month, including birds. If those are the economics that work for you then that is the trainer you should go to. However, let me explain what you are paying for. When you send a dog out for training, part of the training fee is attributable to boarding the dog. This means that someone needs to feed the dog, exercise the dog, and clean the kennels at least twice a day. If you sent your dog out for boarding, I think it is fair to say that $15 per day would be cheap. That equates to $450 per month! Now you want someone to train your dog and give it birds for another $50 per month? I think this is an UNREASONABLE expectation. Our fees are $1,200 per month, including the cost of birds. Our rates seem pretty typical of quality kennels and history has shown us that training fees and bird costs continue to escalate to a more realistic level.
In summary, be honest about where your dog is in its training. Talk to a few trainers and see some of their dogs work. Get an idea of the program that the dog will be in and the expectations that you and your trainer have for each other. Expect to pay a fair wage and in return expect to have a quality and professional experience.
I know December is a long way off but we are starting the first wave/reminder to sign up for Winter training. We will only have so much room in the kennel, so we will need you to commit by sending in one month's training of $1200 and that will hold your slot for the months of December - March... The dogs have to be to us by December 1st, 2022.