Poor Training Methods

Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

June 2013

Dogs learn fairly easily; it’s the dog owner that often has problems. As an owner/handler, we often create trouble for our dogs that could easily be avoided. Here are a few training don’ts.

Don’t try to force field work before a pup is ready. Make sure the pup has had plenty of time to “have fun”; that includes chasing song birds, butterflies, etc.

Don’t use an e-collar to teach a desired reaction to a command. Commands, and the resulting action by the dog, are taught without an e-collar. Use an e-collar to enforce a command already taught and that consistently produces the desired response. If you have no experience with an e-collar, seek the advice of a professional trainer. The e-collar is a wonderful tool; however, if used incorrectly, they can cause irreparable harm.

Don’t be inconsistent with correction. The dog can’t be corrected for poor behavior one day and allowed to go free of correction for poor behavior the next time. The dog will be confused. Consistently correct for bad behavior. 

Don’t reward a dog for simply being “there”. Only reward a dog when he has performed as expected. That doesn’t mean he had to perform perfectly; it means he has made an effort to learn.

Don’t apply negative reinforcement for bad manners if the dog doesn’t understand why he’s being corrected. This goes back to the building block method of training. Start with the very basics and progress only as fast as the dog can learn. If you apply correction and the dog doesn’t know why, you could be headed for serious behavioral issues.

Don’t repeat a command. A dog must learn to respond to a command after hearing it just once. Continually yelling a command will only teach the dog to respond after several “yells”. You get frustrated and the dog gets his way. If you must consistently yell at your dog, the dog has won the battle.

Don’t buy a puppy because he’s cute. Recently, I watched a hunting program that featured a well-known outdoor TV personality going on a bird hunt. This was at a Southern quail plantation/preserve. As with most bird hunting programs on TV, the dog work was pretty poor. The dogs chased on the flush; hunters shot at birds just three feet above the chasing dog…all in all, a very unsafe and poorly produced program. As with most poor dog work on TV, the hunters kept complimenting the guides and the lodge owner on the dog work. And then, the dog trainer, proudly states: “We like to pick our puppies based on color!” No wonder the dog work was poor. Research the bloodline of the sire and the dam, and buy based on the hunting traits you desire.…not based on color.

Although I could go on forever with “don’ts”, let’s add just one more. Don’t take your dog out on opening day after he’s (and possibly you) sat around the house for ten months. Both you and your dog need to be conditioned before heading to the woods or the fields in the fall.

Those folks are my “don’ts “ for this month. Depending upon where you live, you may only be three months away from the opening of bird season. I’m excited and I hope you are also.