"When Hunting Season Is
More threads on training forums are now dealing with "How Do You Steady Your
Retriever?" The general answers involve efforts in “making" the dog be
steady. Most approaches use forms of denial with corrections. These are
supposed to reprogram the dog to new standards and expectations. The simple
philosophy is “if you don't do this you won't get that and it may prove
unpleasant”. In theory, if the process is repeated often enough new habits
may be established. In addition, these new training techniques and
corrections for “slippage” are now in place.
The questions begs how did the dog get there (not steady) in the first
place? The alternative “cure” is not to enforce new standards, but to
establish a stronger state of responsiveness, new skills and different
expectations.. A dog does these “things” (i.e. not steady) because she is
ignoring established/limited methods of control and/or lacking exposure. In
a word however, the dog is not responsive. In not so subtle a description,
the dog doesn't “give a rip” for your input in certain situations. The dog
is naive and out of balance. Is it her fault?
A dog can be “birdy”, love to retrieve and focused on what is in front of
her. The problems occur when the dog is not under control or responsive.
During these moments, a trainer will often have little input on the dog's
perception of how to deal with his “birdinesss” or retrieving in terms of
what is best for the team. She simply does what she wants and has been allowed
to do....and will often accept any pressure applied after the fact (when it
is too late).
So what must be done in the course of training to maintain a strong and
powerful factor of truly being responsiveness? The first step is to
recognize that training should involve a dog's sense of responsibility. It
cannot be an afterthought. It's what every trainer must learn to think
about in every moment. Does my dog “know where I am”......are all time?
Does she even care? How do you know this? If at times you feel like a "potted
plant".....who is responsible for that?
Can you interrupt her focus anytime you want in an instant without having
the dog become
unraveled, upset or distracted? If not, a dog's lack of responsiveness will
haunt you in critical moments......and then it's too late. You'll be
asking for a quick fix to make a dog “not do something”.....when in reality
being more responsive was the solution.
Responsiveness is a choice which must become an expectation. A simple
contrary example is putting a rope on a dog to
make them more responsive. If it is used as a correction for behavior this removes a significant chance or opportunity for
a dog to develop the awareness of responsiveness. It's not as if the rope
isn't a useful tool (when used in the proper sequence) but when it is
applied after the fact of allowing bad habits to develop that is
looses its effectiveness and impact in developing responsiveness.
There is often a fine line...and yet a significant difference between
being forced to or choosing to be responsive.
that's not steady is not in balance.
“Balance is a function of five
factors.......birdiness, retrieving, focus,
control and responsiveness.”
by Julie Knutson