A Few thoughts on Training
I recently sent a Standing Stone Kennels YouTube channel video link to my current list of clients. In general, Ethan and Kat do a nice job of video production, and demonstrate effective methods of training. Just as important, their method would easily work on any Drent. Low stress conditioning equals more fun, which in turn generates more positive responses. Once a dog knows what the command is you can begin to apply consequences for non-compliance. As the dog improves, the consequences for non-compliance can be increased, but only if done with care and full knowledge that the dog clearly knew what it was supposed to do and chose to not do it. Their video for teaching a recall is a nice example of this, see below, and if you take the time to review the video, they do a nice job of only rewarding and acknowledging the pup’s correct behaviors to their desired action and more or less ignoring sloppiness and/or when she gets it wrong. This is a critical step in the development in a young pup! It teaches them to learn, explore, and to look to you – their boss – for leadership. The dog must want to look to you for leadership and guidance, otherwise you are likely in for a difficult time. This Old School "yard work" applied with modern training principles and techniques is your start to building the all important relationship of trust and respect with your pup.
Do I use a clicker like Ethan and Kat? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it. When you are rewarding or correcting your dog you have 1/3 of a second to get that done in order to have the best chance for the dog to associate the reward/correction with the action. Using a clicker can help you to get the timing of reinforcing a “good job” within that small window of time. It can also be easier for the dog to discriminate as a positive stroke, in particular, if you are very conversational with your dog. Clicker use has a few down sides, and for me, remembering to have one with me is generally the one that gets me. There are lots of great resources out there, and if you are thinking to use a clicker in your training efforts, now is the time to start learning and practicing the technique – it does take some learning, but it may be well worth the investment of your time.
In the field I use a whistle. I love it and find the whistle to be a valuable and powerful tool. I dislike hollering a dog’s name anywhere, and in the field isn’t any different. Plus, it is very likely that conditions will seriously limit how far your voice carries. A whistle will save your vocal cords, keep you from looking like a raving lunatic, and generally the tweet of a whistle will carry further in more conditions than your voice ever will. The only trick is to not be the person who is constantly bleating their whistle like a maniac, like I said it is a powerful tool, and so it must be used with judgement. So, when to start with the whistle? We will begin tweeting a whistle at feeding time shortly after the pup’s ears have opened. They will soon associate that glorious tweet with meal time and this with a little reinforcement from you, will help cement this foundational Pavlovian conditioning as something as strong and irresistible as the Siren’s song is to a sailor.
Thanks Brian. I noticed you have different whistle sequences for different commands (or at least that's what I thought I heard when we were in the field). Can you elaborate on that?
Brian P O'Connor
Erik, yes you heard right. A short tweet is used to get the dog's attention and to change direction based off of the hand signal I give. A long tweet, maybe 2-seconds, is for the recall. I also use hand signals, but not always in conjunction with the whistle.
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