Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't put that in your mouth

A few years ago a handful of guys and I were visiting with Rick Smith at a convention and the talk naturally centered on trainers and training methods.  Someone mentioned Paul Long and I remember one of the guys saying, "Paul Long has helped me train 15 bird dogs and 4 kids".  Laughs all around and the conversation moved on but I never forgot that line.  At the time I had no kids and really only appreciated it on the surface, but now that I've spawned a brace of my own it's been like peeling back the layers of an onion - every time I turn around I'm reminded of that line.
Somewhere I read that the average mature dog is on roughly the same intellectual level as a two year old human, certain considerations given. No doubt a professor got a huge grant to study this so there's bound to be tons of science behind it.  Still, the average parent and dog owner could come to roughly the same conclusion over time, so it's no wonder that Paul Long's disciple had success on both fronts.

Around my house I know better than to make any comparisons at all between child-rearing and dog training.  But the internets ain't where I live and I don't think my wife reads this blog anyway, so here are a few things I can verify are true for each side:
  • Yelling doesn't do much good when they don't understand you
  • Punishment doesn't do much good if they don't know what they were supposed to do in the first place
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition (especially when it comes to manners)
  • You can't get around potty training
  • Don't try to teach it until they're ready for it.  You'll know when the light comes on and it's time to move forward.
  • Too much talk can be counterproductive.  Keep it simple.
  • Praise even the smallest victories
  • The older they get, the more the game turns mental
  • Patience is not a virtue, it is the virtue

And then there are the strange similarities between kids and dogs....
  • Both are somehow genetically programmed to look you right in the eye and do exactly what you just told them not to.  I know they didn't learn this from me.
  • The more you wish for quiet, the louder they get
  • When they are quiet, something's up 
  • They never break their stuff, only your stuff
  • Wherever they are when they finish playing with something is right where it belongs 
  • They have no clue how to contain their happiness
  • There truly is nothing they won't put in their mouths

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    I went to see the doctor...

    After agonizing over my abysmal performance with a shotgun this season (see previous post), I broke down, did a little research and scheduled some time with a shooting instructor.    A well-credentialed guy (Dan Schindler, for those who are curious) lives not far from me and was available on fairly short notice, lucky for me I suppose.  Credentials aside, he turned out to be just what I was looking for: friendly, knowledgeable, methodical and patient.  And he honestly seemed to enjoy what he was doing.

    Over the course of the next three hours and several hundred rounds I learned a couple of critical things.  Apparently I'm pretty good with the quick point and shoot, widely known as the Churchill method.  I've never had much trouble hitting a quail on the covey rise or a pheasant getting up out of standing corn and this was confirmed on the target range.  Turns out that this method loses its effectiveness once you get out past 25-30 yards, something I can vouch for and have the empty shells to prove.  So went spent a lot of time working on those passing shots, the kind that tend to dominate the latter part of dove season.

    Seems my biggest problem was that I had gotten in too much of a hurry.  We spent most of the session working on slowing down my whole process, literally every part of it from mounting the gun to acquiring the target to firing and follow through. You hear it a lot in professional sports: split-second timing is everything, and the only way to control it is to slow it down in your mind.  I honestly never realized I had so much time to make a shot.  Once I got used to this simple fact the targets started dropping like flies.

    So how did all this translate in the dove field?  Mixed success on the first day out.  The difference was that I knew why I was missing.  There are a lot of adjustments between target range and field and this is the part that's left up to me.  Dove rarely come out of the trees at the same place over and over at the same speed.  You're constantly adjusting to a new shot - low, high, slow, fast, behind, from the side.  Still, any doubt that these changes would work was erased when I saw a dove crossing about 45-50 yards out, put the gun on it, swung with it, eased away and pulled the trigger, and watched it drop.  This was a shot I was never comfortable taking because of the distance and here it had worked just like it was supposed to.  I have to say that pride tastes a lot less like crow than I thought it would.