Guest Blog Post by LWDG Group Expert Claire Denyer
This is the face of a very beautiful and cheeky young gundog who knows she was very cheeky during training this morning. Training your dog won’t always go perfectly, it won’t always go as you thought it would. That’s normal and it is the reality.
What should I do when things go wrong?
I’m often asked what I do when things go wrong. The honest answer is that it totally depends on the dog I am working with, what has gone wrong, why it has gone wrong, the environment, and the situation.
I hope the following helps you think about what you should do when things go wrong…
When we are training the dog, we are educating the dog. We may use luring, shaping, repetition, and consistency, to aid successful training. We encourage the dog to make good choices, and the gundog is rewarded for those choices. Behaviours which are rewarded are more likely to be repeated.
Duration, Distance and Distractions
Look at the duration, distance, and the distractions, and ask yourself if you have prepared your gundog enough, have you prepared them for each element, if not then go back a step in your training and build duration, distance, and distractions, in that order.
Proofing the training
Ensure you proof the training in a variety of environments and under varying conditions.
However, if the dog understands what is required, but chooses not to comply, we use constructive and appropriate (not harsh or abusive) corrections to encourage the dog to make the right and rewarding choices in the future. Correcting a dog does not mean being cruel. We do not advocate harsh handling. It’s not necessary or nice.
I thought I’d go through some of the more common mistakes we commonly see handlers make when correcting their dogs in gundog training:Many handlers use a ‘stern telling off voice’ but they raise their voice, some almost shouting, and the dog becomes numb to it, so often becomes ineffective, or in some cases, is always required because the gundog no longer listens to a normal speaking voice.
If done correctly, a verbal (non-shouty) verbal correction can work, however, you must also put the training in to teach the behaviours you want more of, and reward those behaviours.
Many trainers recommend ‘getting after your dog’ if they ignore the stop whistle or recall. Now, I will go out to my dog if she is ignoring me, but in most situations, I personally find running after dogs ineffective (unless you are trying to cut across their path to stop them from swapping dummies or similar). Some gundogs think you are joining in, some think you are playing chase and it becomes a game, some gundogs are very sensitive, and then it can create other issues. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I know many owners who could physically ‘get after their dog’ successfully anyway.
So unless it’s very effective for you and your gundog personally (or required in very specific situations) I would suggest you just go get your dog and walk them back on lead (do not give another command) to roughly where they ignored the stop whistle (I call this the walk of shame!) and sit them up, pip the stop whistle and resume where you left off. If they ignored the recall whistle then go get them, pop the lead on, and walk them back in silence, then do a successful mini recall to ensure you and your dog are on the same page.
If a gundog is repeatedly breaking a stay, don’t just correct the gundog, or get frustrated, look at the behaviour your dog is displaying in that situation. If your dog is creeping towards you it is very likely they lack confidence, or you have increased the difficulty of the exercise too quickly, so getting frustrated won’t help, and may even make the problem worse. A dog getting up and buggering off however is a different matter.
So, how did I handle Rose’s misdemeanours this morning?
Well, when she thought she knew best on a blind retrieve and ignored my line, going in the direction instead of where she had picked a retrieve previously, I called her back and reset her, giving her a chance to follow the line a second time. However, although she started well, she did again deviate from the line, so I called her back and walked her closer in the hope she would take the line and wind the retrieve. However, Rose clearly in a headstrong mood still didn’t follow the line. This time I walked her to heel towards the retrieve until I was sure she would wind it, I then turned and walked her to heel away from the retrieve, before turning and re-sending her, this time she took the line and was successful. The important lesson was that she didn’t find the retrieve when ignoring me. She found it through working with me.
We then resumed training but I was mindful to keep blinds short and successful.
Then two lovely retrieves later Rose tried to play keep-away with the retrieve, I mean, the last time she even considered such a cheeky move was such a long time ago I can’t remember. She was literally bouncing about playfully. Not a behaviour I expected nor want to encourage so I gave her my best-disgusted look, turned on my heel and started walking away. Rose followed me and gave me the retrieve immediately.
So, on that note, we decided to stop the session. No hard feelings. Never hold a grudge. Never get angry (even if inside you are fuming)
I never continue training if I feel frustrated or upset by something. It’s not worth it. We are only human. Better to stop and do something positive and leave your session with your dog still as your best mate.
Remember, gundogs make mistakes just like we do.
If you would like to purchase Claire’s book, The Life of Rose: Raising a Puppy the Family Dog Services Way, you can do so by clicking the link to our LWDG Amazon Store.
Find lots of gundog training books recommended by the LWDG community To view previous LWDG resources with Claire Denyer, please click here:
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