Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Getting it right

A week from today I'll make a drive across the state and bring home the newest member of the team. Everyone's excited, eager to meet this little guy and have him as part of the family and I'm slowly checking items off the list to make sure we're good to go. Kennel cleaned, bowls scrubbed, collar and lead where I can find them, pile of rags handy. All stuff I could have knocked out in about an hour if I didn't have 8 weeks to kill.

As I mentioned before, it's been almost 20 years since I had a bird dog pup in the house and the last time around I was cutting (and grinding) my teeth. This time around, with the blessing of 20 years of experience, I'm intent on doing a few things differently and I've been reading and thinking and reading and thinking some more about how best to approach this project.

More and more I keep coming back to one overarching theme: It's not what I do that's important, it's what I don't do.  As in don't go after him when you want him to come. Don't talk incessantly when trying to teach him a one-word command. Don't scold him for the puddle on the floor when you forgot to let him out. Don't feed him from the table if you don't want him to beg. The list is close to endless and its length underscores how much easier it is to just do a few things right.

So I'll focus on basics like talking less and showing more, being consistent, not rushing the progress, using the occasional backslide as a hint and not a reason for punishment, giving affection only as a reward. Yes, the last one will be a challenge. I'm unabashedly affectionate with all dogs, my own especially. Might not get that one right.

Probably the biggest training aid is not something I've found in any book or article. It's my age. I'm just a helluva lot more patient now than I was the last time around and I'm convinced that patience is one of the most, if not THE most important aspect in raising a pup. In spite of what you read and see about 3 month old pups being broke to wing and shot, it takes time to make a good bird dog. As in years. It's only a race if you make it one.

One last don't: Don't over-think the process. People get so worked up over getting it right that they try too hard and manage to get it perfectly wrong. It's a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.

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