Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Pick Your Battles. Tucker Kuenker learning to hold the bumper while shaking off excess water.
Wars are not waged on every battle a nation faces. The battles worth fighting are those that maintain to preserve our freedoms we enjoy everyday. Be wise and choose your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting and not every battle you will win. For some battles will cause more harm than good and others will change your retrievers life. These are words I play out in my mind everyday when observing my retrievers work and train. I always ask myself, ” What is going to be the ramification from choosing to fight this battle now?” “Will I create a problem elsewhere?” or “Is this a battle worth fighting in the big picture for my retriever?” Some issues need to be address right then and there. Others maybe able to wait, as your retriever advances the problem may smooth itself without a battle. Remember where your retriever is at in their training. Ask yourself, “Is it fair to require this standard of performance right now?” Is the retriever giving effort or is he/she distracted in their efforts? All important questions to ask oneself before waging a war on a battle .
For example, some issues get worse when you point your finger at it. I have experienced some retrievers with mouth problems. Theses problems have a tendency to get worse if you choose to fight this battle on a consistent basis. The battle enables the problem to persist making the issue not about what the retriever is doing wrong with the bird, rather it becomes about the battle itself. The alternative is to let the retriever relax in their work through practice and conquering challenge in their training. It is surprising to watch as some of these problems will often fixes themselves.. Whatever the issue or problem for the day, evaluate its importance in the big picture of your retrievers life, purpose, and choose your battles wisely.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Solutions For Water-Logged Birds.
Have you ever sent your retriever for a water mark where the retriever travels directly to the area, but can not find the bird because it sank to the bottom of the pond. A frantic situation for the retriever and the trainer. Everyone scrambles to get the retriever a bird to bring back before the retriever looses confidence in their mark and leaves the area or worse yet returns to the line without a bird. Not an ideal training scenario and one we try to avoid.
Here are a couple of tips to prevent your training birds from sinking. First provide a pool of water in the pen your birds are kept. This will allow the birds feathers to naturally produce valuable oils that will allow them to float. While throwing marks in the water and after the birds have returned to the line take an auto shammy towel to wipe the excess water off of the birds. Then once the birds are wiped off hang them on a drying rack. If you can hang your birds in front of a fan it’s even better. Quickly drying the birds will help them to stay a float and last longer.
Another trick in the trade is to semi-taxidermy your fresh shot flyers. You will need a can of spray foam expandable insulation, a pair of small sharp scissors, and some cotton string.
First take the fresh bird and with the small scissors cut a small straight slit from the anus toward the bill. This slit should be no longer than two inches in length. Next remove all the inners including the trachea. Then tie a piece of the cotton string around the neck just under the bill. This prevents the expandable foam from coming out of the ducks bill while you are trying to fill it. Now insert the nozzle of the spray can into the small slit at the anus. Begin to fill the ducks body with foam slowly. Spray a little foam then wait a moment for expansion, spray a little more foam until you see the foam coming out of your slit. Give the foam a couple of minutes to finish expanding before you sew the slit closed.
To sew the bird up use the pointed end of the closed scissors to make small holes in the birds skin on either side of your slit, just like lace holes on a tennis shoe. Next cut a 8-10 inch piece of string to lace up the bird. Just like lacing up a tennis shoe insert your string and lace up your opening. Make sure to pull the skin tightly together so the foam adheres to the skin for a water proof seal. Hang the bird up where air can circulate around the body of the bird. This will allow for the bird to properly dry and provide a bird that float high in the water. The feathers will fall off before this semi-taxidermy bird will sink! This technique also works well when you are traveling to train or a freezer to preserve and store birds properly is not available.
May Your Birds Never Sink Again and Happy Training!
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: A Trainer’s Influence.
The influence of an owner or trainer happens with every step, every correction and virtually every interaction you have with your retriever. What ever the trainer does whether it be giving a stern “No”, tugging on the pinch collar, or correcting with the electronic collar elicits a reaction from your retriever. The reaction or consequence of the action the trainer took to modify a retriever’s behavior may not manifest immediately. Over time the response from your retriever may manifest in not only a change in the performance of the task but also an alteration to your retrievers attitude, anxiety, or proficiency in training. In simpler terms with every action the trainer takes there is a counter reaction from your retriever positive, negative, or indifferent.
The responses from your retriever will vary depending on your retrievers personality. A sensitive retriever will not tolerate harsh or heavy correction for long without jeopardizing the retriever’s attitude toward their work. For a sensitive retriever failure in drills and marks maybe enough to alter their attitude making them discouraged about their work. A more exuberant, hard-charging dog may need repeated heavier correction consistent overtime to change behavior or influence attitude in order to continue advancement. Until the trainer takes action with a retriever the outcome is unknown and vary with each student.
Almost every retriever experiences a decrease in marking accuracy when they are performing the drills and tasks associated with Force Fetch. Knowing this reaction to this stressful task in your retriever’s life field work must be made simpler to encourage a high probability of success. This counter action by the trainer to the stress of the Force Fetch while in the field will likely balance out your retriever for a boost in attitude, accuracy, and effort toward their overall training. We as trainer’s are always acting in accordance with the retriever’s responses no matter what they maybe. We encourage a positive attitude and response while making efforts to change or alter a negative response turning it into a positive habit formed reaction. Remember that you as the owner/trainer can perform an action that will elicit a reaction from your retriever that you will have to live with for the rest of that retriever’s life. A good rule of thumb is to observe something a time or two before you react, consider all the possible responses your retriever could have to your reaction, and have a plan to deal with those possible responses from your retriever before you take action.
Training your dog can be a tedious process. Every lesson is ear-marked by baby steps of advancement and flickers of talent blossoming. Your retriever will experience highs and lows, good days and not so good days. It is during this process of retriever training that the Trainer must recognize tiny glimpses of effort. If the dog is putting forth effort to figure out the task or lesson his/her effort must be rewarded. If effort is continually not rewarded and the lessons are forced through advancement the retriever’s training attitude will suffer. It is up to the Trainer to decide in what manner to reward the dog to fit the lesson. The reward should be significant to the dog but, not over lavishing to distract the dog from his/her lesson or task. Excessive praise and play works well to come at the end of the lesson or task.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Advance In Baby Steps.
Progress your dog in small increments. What seems to be a simple task or step in advancement to us humans may not be so simple for our dogs. Our dogs do not possess the ability to reason such as the human mind. They learn through repetition and proper conditioning.
Here are some good rules to follow:
1. Whenever the distance between the dog and the bumper/bird is increased, the task is in an advancement state.
2. Whenever the distance between the Handler and dog is increased, the task is in an advancement state.
These rules will help you not to advance your lessons on multiple tasks in one session or advance too quickly. The rules will also help you know when or how to simplify the task or lesson if your dog is experiencing too many failures. Keep your training simple, isolate lessons, teach through a “Yes”, and always try to end on a positive note.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Consistency Is Key.
Consistency is a key component to any successfully trained dog. Once an individual determines the training program, philosophy, and goals for their dog the ground rules must be set. In setting the ground rules for any program it is imperative to use consistent repetitions. “Practice makes perfect,” as long as it is consistent throughout the dog’s life. For instance, if your puppy is allowed to chew on your shoe for weeks with no consequence and then while innocently chewing on your shoe like many times before, receives a correction it becomes unclear to your puppy as to what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior. This type of inconsistency breeds apprehension, lack of effort, and poor attitudes. The puppy’s unacceptable behavior should have been corrected the first or second time the chewing took place and treated proactively by replacing the shoe with an acceptable chew toy.
From the moment your dog wakes up, to the moment he falls asleep, you can positively or negatively influence the habits and behaviors your dog will have for its entire life, simply by your consistencies or lack thereof. Most dogs thrive on a routine, when life is scheduled out for them they learn when it’s time to eat, when it’s time to rest, and when it’s time to go to work. The dog also learns what behaviors are normal, what behaviors elicit praise, and what behaviors are followed by a correction. It is this routine that establishes your standards in black and white for your dog. These standards help your dog understand where their place is in their world as your dog.
Tera’s Training Tip Of The Day: Take A Positive Approach To Exposure.
Dogs naturally fear the unknown. Many dogs take a curiously cautious approach to a new environment or situation. Intelligent dogs notice change and differences in their environment immediately. Most dogs may notice the change or differences and not be effected by it. These dogs most likely experienced a variety of positive exposure to their world early in their social development. Where other less exposed dogs may struggle displaying a sensitivity and apprehension with change, new lessons or environments. For this reason, an owner/trainer must try to expose the puppy or dog to all kinds of situations, environments, people, and conditions they can think of in a positive reassuring manner. Proper socialization is critical in the development of a confident, well balanced working dog, with a positive working attitude.
Recently, a friend of mine called with a question about training the Force Fetch. He was having some difficulties reading his dog’s attitude. He wondered why the dog was showing apprehension in the lessons of the Force Fetch. He also mentioned that his dog performed the Force Fetch better on the ground and seemed to be more at ease then when his dog was on the Force Fetch table. When he made the statement I asked how and when he exposed his dog to the Force Fetch table. He replied he had placed his dog on the table and quickly began teaching the dog to hold and fetch. At that moment it became clear the Force Fetch table had never been properly exposed to the dog in a positive manner. The dog’s initial experience with the Force Fetch table involved a new lesson which included negative reinforcement. A recipe for a poor training attitude in this stage of the dog’s fundamental lessons. Never fear all is not lost, dogs are resilient creatures. The oversight was recognized and a new training approach was taken with the 6 month old pup resulting in a better training attitude with great effort and success.
Tip Of The Day: Semi-Frozen birds can be useful in teaching good mouth habits
Fresh Flyer Ducks or Pheasants can be cumbersome and somewhat intimidating to a puppy to pick up. If it is warm the down feathers have a tendency to stick to the pups tongue. A fresh bird is also very floppy making it difficult for the pup to properly pick up and carry back on the first pass.
When teaching a puppy how to “Hold” a bird I like to use a Semi-Frozen duck to start. Either a Hen or Drake will do. I pay close attention to the way I freeze the bird, positioning the duck with the wings tightly tucked to the body and the head straight. This ensures that the head and wings can be positioned out of the way for the pup to grab the breast when I present it to them and put it in their mouth. Because the semi-frozen bird has more solidity than a fresh bird it naturally (without pressure) discourages unnecessary mouth movements such as chomping or gnawing. Therefore, encouraging good mouth habits from the start and inspiring the puppies assurance in handling birds.