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Dave's Commentary

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Training your gun dog. Those words get pro and amateur handlers attention, good or bad.

There are a lotta ways to train a dog. So many ways that someone just might be confused on which one to use.

I'd like to share my thoughts on a few ways to train your dog. Now what I'm about to say is opinionated and you may not agree but then again, it's the gentleman (gentleperson for the politically correct folks) who can agree to disagree.

I've seen the various videos, books, and seminars on how to train your gun dog. Some trainers I really like, some trainers I wouldn't let touch a Heinz-57 dog.

First off, I don't believe ANY gun dog should have an electric collar or pinch collar strapped on it from day one. Let me illustrate my point:

I have been training a young Brittany bitch (not out of my kennel bloodlines) lately that is VERY hyper. You would think that such a dog could take a heavier hand. Wrong! This dog is soft. Her owner recognized this and brought her to me. He had been reading my training tips here on the web and was using them vs. Pinch collars and e-collars. Only thing, he couldn't get much past heel because her hyperactivity wouldn't allow her to concentrate and the owner knew she couldn't handle more pressure and realized he wasn't skilled enough to finish training her without possibly ruining her.

How did he know she was soft? She would cower and cringe with just a simple harsh tone in his voice. What can you do with a dog like that?

The aforementioned bitch is now steady to wing and shot, retrieves to the position of heel, is staunch, hasn't lost any enthusiasm for birds, and her range wasn't affected. "HOW?" You ask. Repetition. Lots of praise and repetition. Is she still hyper? You bet she is. Did it take more than 30 to 45 days? Yes. Did I feel like I was spinnin' my wheels sometimes? Yes. What finally got through to this hyper dog? Repetition, repetition, repetition. Praise, praise, praise.

I suspect many trainers that use the e-collar/pinch collar as a universal tool don't have time for such dogs and if the dog can't perform, the owner is asked to come pick up their dog. I know this because I usually get those Brittanys. By the time I do get them, they cower at anything, usually blink birds and are an overall basket case.

Beware any trainer that guarantees a 'fully broke dog in 30 days', etc. Such a trainer is in business to make money and trains every dog on a time line, HIS time line.

Now before all you trainers out there start slingin' arrows my way, understand this: I get results my way and you get results your way.

I have noticed that in the last two years (writing this in '99) I've been on the web, there are now a lot of trainers talking about developing the natural retrieve and 'soft touch' techniques. Where was that talk years ago? I think maybe it's the politically correct thing for them to say to get you interested in their video, book, or commissioned based promotion of an e-collar system.

I only use the modern e-collar once the dog knows what he is suppose to do and then I use it on its lowest setting which a human can't even feel. I placed it on my neck to see exactly what the Brittany feels and it's barely a tickle. It is simply an attention getter. I will acknowledge that Sometimes you have to use a collar at a higher setting but if it is done right, it will only be needed once - but be careful, you could take the fire and pop out of the dog. The e-collar is merely an extension of the check cord and it's better to go back to the check cord than use a higher setting on the e-collar!

So, if that's all my e-collar feels like, what's wrong with using it from day one? My philosophy is this:

The e-collar is a tool much like the crescent wrench. Is it the perfect tool? NO! The crescent wrench may fit a lot of nuts and bolts but it's not always best. Sometimes a box-end wrench is better. What's the analogy about? The dog may just need more yard work which is usually the case! Or, maybe the dog's yard work is wrong because the trainer doesn't know what he's doing. So, yard work may be the better tool to reinforce your training. The 'crescent wrench' just may 'booger up the threads or strip the nut', i.e., take the fire out or ruin that young pup.

I do like D.T. systems SPT 7302 with the humane vibration feature!  Contact me if you have questions about D.T. collars or wish to purchase one.

A trainer proves him/herself when the dog is trained without taking the fire out of the dog. I've seen too many dogs that had pop and fire as a young pup only to become mechanical after training.

As for the pinch collar, I don't like them. I didn't like them 30 years ago and I don't like them now. Yes, there are great trainers out there that have handled many dogs to field championships and national championships who employ the use of the pinch collar. It's just not My way.

I respect all the trainers out there who continually turn out top quality gun dogs but I don't have to agree with some of the techniques. That's what makes us different.

On a final note. I have been told several times in my life that bird dogs are "just dogs", "things", "tools", etc. It always seems to come from the mouths of people who use rigid/harsh programs. Go figure...

Well that's my 2 cents worth. Remember; watch your dogs' reaction to your training. If it ain't working, seek help.

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