The “Doctor Seuss Syndrome”

A first time retriever trainer must recognize the dilemma of falling into the “Doctor Seuss Syndrome”. One cannot continue being “I am what I am”.

The present, best advice given to new retriever trainers is to 1) find a mentor,  2) follow a sequential program and 3) strive to become a teacher.

The specific problem with programs is there's a built in assumption a "reader" can teach. I always get my "hackles" up when hearing this naive expression "Those that can't do become teachers." because I am a retired teacher (but that's another story). The issue with many first time trainers is those that can't teach will have a "heck of a time" training.

Quality teaching is not a spontaneous process. Understanding the rationale behind "lesson plans" which flow in a seamless manner while teaching what is right for the dog "in the moment" should be the primary motivation and focus. Unfortunately, the usual themes that go along with simply reading a program are "I want my dog to do this now." and "I don't understand why he can't do it."

Keep in mind that every pup is unique and what is necessary in the moment is often impacted by awareness.  A teaching mentor will tend to prevent a beginning trainer from venturing into "left field". The rationale is the mentor provides input much like a "gutter guard" does for the young, inexperienced bowler. Avoiding mistakes is important and knowing what they look like "ahead of time" requires experienced advice. It is not efficient to learn from recovering from mistakes (except for the next pup).

Sequential training is very much more effective if each successive lesson is seamless (with the previous). Seamless means there is very little opposition to progress and (to repeat) much simpler if the focus is on a dog's needs "in the moment". This concept is often lost when just following a timeline/list. 

With respect to the mantra of most programs - "This is what you do next", they rarely focus on the "how" and "why". There should be a great deal more said about becoming a teacher. If there is a concerted effort at learning how to teach, then you may be able to “do” and become more than what you were. The key is always being able to say (in a positive manner) "I am not what I was yesterday!" This validates progress and becomes self-rewarding.

Each pup's future depends on how willingly a new a new trainer strives to  improve their teaching skills. Here are two tips suggesting how to go about changing (written mostly to myself several years ago).

The 1st is seeking help via a mentor. The 2nd has to do with keeping abreast of training progress by maintaining a detailed journal.  

                                  August, 2003 Tip of the Month

What to do? What to do? If you're new at training and encounter a problem while working a sequential program, the best way to progress through it is to find someone with experience willing to watch you train your dog. Knowing when and who to ask for help is critical. If they are a good teaching mentor (and that is the key), their advice can be like "gold". It is usually the "little things" which trip you up. Obtaining specific and correct information is much more likely to occur when a training issue is seen in the proper context.

                                  March, 2004 – Tip of the Month
Learning how to train dogs is a long-term process. What you know and can apply at any one time is critical to the advancement of your dog. Dog training is somewhat like chess - It depends a great deal on how much you know. But, what you know is really everything you've learned, minus all you've forgotten.....and the forgetting process is powerful." by Rolf Wetzell (Grandmaster chess player)

Therefore, it would seem a daily record enhances “remembering” and is a wise course of action. It provides a reference with context. The “paper trail” provides quick recollections and is designed to inhibit the “forgetting process”.
You will know more because you have planned to forget less.

Here are a few important concepts to grasp 1) organize lesson plans based on program steps with a rationale (this means stating the reason for the lesson), 2) continually ask what skills must be in place in order to introduce the next new "step" (at first write out a list), 3) don't try to teach more than one new skill at a time, 4) if you do not know how to read a dog, then at least make a list of actions to look for that describe posture, attitude, effort and performance (this will seem very mechanical at first) and 5) become proactive at designing and presenting training sessions consistently driven by the concept of "doing what the dog needs in the moment".

A teacher must strive to analyze and understand the dynamics of retriever training. Awareness in terms of what the dog needs is the catalyst which feeds quality training. 
Do not expect a pup to do things naturally and/or correctly unless you present  situations which are designed to meet his needs.  When the focus is mostly about a trainer's wants, the process becomes inhibited.

Focus on teaching in a manner which convinces a pup that 1) this is a lot of fun and 2) you are the "greatest thing since sliced bread". Keep in mind it's not all on the dog. It is more about being a teacher/trainer. "I am what I am" should become more than just "green ham". Practice!

If little of this makes much sense, "doing" will proceed without much direction.

Perspective: I taught chemistry and physics for 25 years, was an industrial chemist for 3 years, trained race horses professionally for 10 years and still found the learning curve "interesting" for teaching/training retrievers. My previous teaching experiences made the transition somewhat simpler.

It is January, 2014. I am 73 and being retired is my final "job". However, I am definitely still working at being a teacher of retrievers.

                                                            by KwickLabs  Jan., 2014

                     updated 08/14/14  
    "I'm beginning to learn that 95% OB is not enough.........and 85% is much
          worse.........but 75% is pretty good."
 KwickLabs  Sept., 2006

                                An Introduction to Reading a Dog (link)
                by KwickLabs - 2002-3