March 6, 2018
The Basic Pattern of Work
Nowadays, there’s a lot of information out there on training retrievers. To the new student, a lot of this information can seem confusing. So here’s my simplified explanation. All animals are trained to do work in some sort of pattern – take the roping horse as an example. For a cowboy to rope a calf, his horse has to go forward to chase the calf; then when the cowboy throws the rope, the horse stops and starts backing up to take slack out the rope. Then the cowboy jumps off the horse and runs down the taut rope to flip the calf and tie it. The horse is trained to go forward, stop, and back up – three distinctly different motions and the control of these motions is what caused the work of roping a calf to be accomplished.
Here is the basic pattern of retriever work. As you can see by the illustration, again there are three distinctly different movements – sit, go, and here. These are the movements that we gain control of and by gaining control of these movements, we have control of the work.
You’ll also see that the pattern is drawn in a straight line between the dog and x, the retrieving object. This straight-line pattern is the one that’s always presented to the dog. It’s the reason that you train, to always go straight.
Deep Fork Retrievers
February 22, 2018
No, I’m not talking about the creepy crawlies. I wrote this post to help you understand a hunting retriever’s natural drives and personalities in order to develop successful training strategies.
For the intent and purpose of retriever training, we need a dog with a high level of prey drive and one that is not spooky. Does it have the instinctual desire to capture and kill prey? This is the drive that causes the dog to retrieve. A good retriever is always going forward in its life – never backwards. A spooky dog, the kind that backs away or runs from new situations, is likely to have problems with some or all aspects of training, water, guns, and even birds. If your prospect has prey drive and is not spooky, you’re well on your way to success. Everything else the dog does or doesn’t do becomes a training issue.
Dogs have individual personalities just like humans and to some extent are driven by their emotions. Those emotions are the things people recognize in their dog and have empathy for. It’s why we like them – we can relate to some of their feelings. They love, hate, fear and have jealousy. Their individual personalities can be kind and benevolent, or more cunning and willful. Some are less attentive than others. Some of them require leadership; some don’t care much for it. By taking all this into consideration, it will be a lot easier for you to understand your dog and make the appropriate augmentations to your training techniques that fit its personality.
Deep Fork Retrievers
February 15, 2018
I think it’s vital to understand the nature of a dog because it’s a key factor in how to teach and train it. A good trainer practices the art of manipulation to make clear-cut comparisons.
All expert trainers of any kind of animal have one thing in common. They understand the nature of the animal they’re trying to train, be it a horse, elephant, llama, or dog. I read an article 30 or 40 years ago in a Tri-Tronics pamphlet called Understanding Electronic Dog Training. At the time I wasn’t really interested in how to use an electronic training collar, but what they had to say about how a dog’s natural drives influence his behavior, intrigued me.
To understand your dog better, look at things from his point of view. He doesn’t have and can never have the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. He is not a moral creature – he is, in fact, amoral. Having a set of morals would require the ability to think.
When referring to the dog’s intelligence, substitute the word intelligence for the word memory. Another way to put it is a dog doesn’t know something until it’s happened to it. Because he can’t think, he runs off of memory. The dog’s mind operates on memory based on contrasting feelings of what it likes and doesn’t like and then decides between the two, always choosing the memory that was the most pleasant and repeating it.
By understanding this, the use of manipulation to give comparisons is the way to go. Whether you are in a teaching phase or a training phase, this principle always applies. You mold behaviors in a way that is beneficial to your work by making sure that the dog always gets what it wants. A good example of this would be teaching a puppy to sit for food, satisfying one of its natural drives – to eat. First, you put food in your fingers and present it to the puppy in a way that causes his hindquarters to touch the ground. The instant this happens, the food is immediately provided so in a few repetitions, the pup starts recognizing the motion of your hand coming up and begins to sit. Getting fed immediately makes the memory connection that butt on the ground means food. If the pup doesn’t sit, the pup doesn’t get fed. This is a clear-cut comparison using manipulation to gain a response.
John Amico, Deep Fork Retrievers
February 7, 2018
If you go to the trouble to find and buy a good hunting retriever puppy, one of the first things you need to think about is how you’re going to keep it. Your pup’s living environment is part of your training strategy. You are not only taking care of his physical needs, but also setting up a controlled training environment. From day one, the repetitive nature of your daily routine allows you to begin training your pup – the actions of feeding, watering, airing, and training all set the scenarios for this to happen.
The puppy needs an outside kennel that’s clean, safe and comfortable and a size-appropriate dog crate. For the kennel, I’d use welded wire panels to construct a 6x4x10 pen. Pour your concrete pad 8×14 feet for a surrounding 2 foot walkway. The concrete flooring should be broom-finished with an epoxy coating to seal it from bacteria. The kennel floor should slope 1/4 inch per running foot, so that it will drain and dry quickly. Make a trough-type drain that is wide as a flat tip shovel for easy cleaning. Slope the trough 1/4 inch per running foot to the sewer.
Clean water is a necessity and stainless steel buckets are the best. Galvanized buckets have the tendency to freeze in the winter and spring leaks and plastic is too porous to clean thoroughly. Hang your bucket in the shade where it won’t get knocked over and high enough for a male dog not to pee in it.
In the summertime, especially in the Midwest and South, make sure your dog has shade during the heat of the day. I’ve never seen a dog die of being cold, but over the years I’ve known several people who lost dogs to the heat.
When choosing a dog house, look for one that’s warm in the winter, easy to keep clean, and takes up as little space as possible in the kennel run.
Always remember, good animal husbandry precedes good training.
You can also use a dog crate as a training tool. The crate, like the outside kennel, is a controlled environment. Keeping the pup in a crate sets up a routine of cues that establish habits. Being fed, going out to potty, training, coming back in – all give opportunities for molding behaviors.
John Amico, Deep Fork Retrievers