If you are following the monthly training tips, you have heard me talk about times in training when I do not have a clue what to do. A Brittany pro that has trains dogs to National Championship wins told me one time that dog training is a guess. The trainer guesses, and the dog’s reactions tell him if he is right. Undoubtedly, the more dogs you have on the end of the check-cord the better you guess. Since I am an amateur and do not get to train a lot of dogs, I carry a short list of rules in my head to guide me into making better guesses.
- Don’t say anything.
- Let the bird teach the dog.
These simple rules are part of the West philosophy of dog training. A few years ago I added another one to the list.
- Stay out of the way.
Too often as trainers we think we know more than our dogs. I see trainers using the whoa command to tell their dogs when to point. They tell them when to be cautious, where to hunt, and a hundred other things their dogs already know how to do rather than simply letting their dogs learn on their own.
Last week I was working my two year old Brittany Max on quail in releasers. I had opened the releaser early and was letting him drag the check-cord as he hunted down the feed strip. When he got about half-way down, he pointed, and then he began to creep. Instead of yelling whoa or nicking him with the e-collar, I stayed back and out of the way. Sure enough, he crept closer to the bird and then pounced big time putting the bird in the air and chasing it. Only after the bird flushed did I take charge and nicked him as he chased. Once he stopped, I went to him and gently but firmly stood him up and walked in front to let him know flushing the bird was my job.
The concept of staying out of the dog’s way is appropriate at all different stages of training. Maurice Lindley made a terrific post to the pointingdog board in February where he used the concept of staying out of the way to help a dog that is blinking birds. Here is Maurice’s post:
I have an interesting dog right now for training. She was made bird-shy with the gun. She thought if she found birds the gun was coming too. The first couple of days of running this dog were very interesting. If a bird flushed close to her, she would spin around and high-tail it out of the area. I just kept running her on birds and staying out of the picture. She started pointing some birds but would leave the bird after a few seconds. I still stayed out of it. She would return to that bird after a few minutes and point it. You could see her getting her nerve up and she would start to creep real slow towards the bird, finally flush the bird and run away. She did this about ten times and you could watch her get a little bolder on each bird. Before long she was pointing and not blinking, but she would still hesitate when the bird flushed, then chase. The last ten days she has really come on and is showing no fear, very bold around game and really hunting hard. With dogs like this I find it best not to try and help them in any way. Allow them the time to figure it out and get over their fear on their own. Stay out of the way and let the dog learn.
A famous cutting horse trainer said the secret to training horses was to know what the horse was going to do anyway. The same holds true for training dogs. Getting to know your pointing dog — his intelligence and superior nose and genes behind him — will give you confidence to stay out of the way and let him learn on his own so he can become the bird dog he was born to be.