Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Before the Workout

Taking a little time before the workout begins can help set your dog up for success in the training field. What am I talking about? Dogs have to be in a submissive state to learn, and there is a short period of time once you arrive at the training field that can be used to help your dog get into the right frame of mind.
When I arrive at the training field, I have a routine. The first thing I do is put the dogs on a stakeout chain. This chain restrains their movements and requires them to submit. I get my equipment ready, plant birds, and by the time I return, the dogs are focusing on me and eager to go.
Next, I get the pinch-collar and check-cord and select a dog to work. I hold the pinch-collar in a vertical position in front of the dog’s head as an invitation to put his head through the opening. Right there the dog’s reaction tells me how he is feeling. Some dogs can hardly wait to put their heads through the opening, and I see this reaction as a willingness to learn. Other dogs purposely avoid the opening by dodging their heads from one side of the pinch-collar to the other; this reaction tells me the dog thinks he is the leader. If he continues to refuse this invitation, I gently nudge him with my knee in a dominant way. Usually a nudge is all it takes for him to comply and put his head through. Next, I unhook him from the chain and walk a short distance before asking him to stop with an upward tug of the pinch-collar. Once stopped, I straddle him and hold him between my legs to put the e-collar around his neck. Straddling a dog lets him know I am the leader.
If you think about it, maybe fifteen minutes have passed, and I did three simple things before the workout began to help the dog get into the right frame of mind: First, I put him on the stakeout chain. (A crate also works, because it confines the dog and requires him to submit.) Second, I asked him to put his head through the pinch-collar. Third, I straddled him to put on the e-collar. All three actions let him know that I am the leader. While these actions may seem minor, in a dog’s world, once he becomes the follower, he is ready to learn.
The next time you train with a pro trainer, pay close attention to his routine before the workout. Often, this routine is so subtle it is easily missed. You will learn that by taking a little time before the workout begins, you can increase the odds of having success in the training field.