You are working with your dog and run into a snag in your training. What do you do? Jump on the internet and search for other people who have had this same issue or jump on Facebook looking for help. Generally what you will find is a million different answers and a dozen or so “solutions” to your problem. Who do you trust or how do you decide what will work and what will not? You definitely don’t want to ruin your dog and you want to do the best thing for your dog.. The best advice I can give you is to look at your options and decide on a method that makes the most sense to you for your unique situation and your dog. You know yourself, your dog, and what you want to accomplish with your dog better than anyone else. It is up to you to make a decision and follow through with it. If you are honestly working together with your dog and truly want to accomplish something then make that your resolve and get to work. A few things that I have done that worked well for me are to reach out to the people that have accomplished the things that I wanted to accomplish and search out the mentors that I believed could help me get there. Most of our trainers especially the best ones I have ever met have little to no social media presence, the don’t have time for many podcasts, interviews, or even much time to field phone calls. If you want knowledge and a real mentor that will help you get through these first time or the challenging experiences without making the same mistakes they did then you should search them out as I did and learn from their experiences and mistakes. Nearly every professional dog trainer has overcome a whole lot of mistakes they have made along the way and the reason we are paid to work with and train your dog is so your dog doesn’t have to go through that learning process as the mistakes become fewer and fewer as we grow and have experience with more dogs. You will have a better relationship with your dog if you are willing to put forth the effort and you will see it in your training and beyond. Don’t fall into the facebook trap with the keyboard warriors. Find someone you trust that has accomplished several times with several different dogs what you are looking to accomplish and find a way to add value to their lives and they will add value to yours. I will give you an example.
When Brandon Mendez first showed up to our kennel he was looking for some help with his Labrador Sully. Sully was having some problems retrieving, it seemed he did not like feathers, and was a little noise sensitive. Brandon wanted some help and had seen some Labradors I had worked with in the past and asked if he could pay for a little of my time and help with Sully. I was very busy but I could see that Brandon was serious and had all kinds of goofy things going on that he had read online like keeping his bumpers in sealed bags with duck feathers, clapping 2×4’s when Sully was eating, and trust me the list went on and on and on.. But I could see that he was trying and he trusted me to help so we struck up a deal that if he could help me with some things like cleaning up the kennel and planting birds and so on that I would in turn help him with his pup. Turns out Sully just wasn’t having fun with the dead birds Brandon would bring back from his hunts and try to get him to retrieve and while he Brandon had all of the best intentions he had overlooked the fun aspect. We took Sully with several of my training dogs to the water and had a handful of live ducks we could use for training. When Sully saw, heard, and smelled the live duck and watched another dog make a few retrieves he started going crazy in the dog trailer. Brandon started to holler at Sully to which I advised him to let it be in this instance because we could see how badly he wanted to compete and have that live duck in his mouth. We let Sully roll out of the truck while he was going crazy which is what we definitely wanted to see with a dog that we were questioning his desire to retrieve and get after birds, then we threw the duck out into the water and Sully made his first duck retrieve! Those are the moments we live for. Sully comes up on the bank and was a little reluctant to give up his prize but we got the duck from him and got him excited all over again and threw the duck a couple more times and built his drive and confidence in the process. Before Sully was tired or the fun had wore off we put him back in the trailer while he was still very excited about it and that pretty well fixed his discomfort for duck feathers in his mouth forever. It is much harder to build drive than it is to take it down a notch. This is why most pro trainers don’t start their gun dogs too early with “work” but the pups are allowed to make plenty of mistakes and just have fun and stay excited about working in the future. Long story short Brandon was amazed and got bit with the dog training bug and ever since that day he would show up to the kennel and help clean, train, and learn until he was doing so much I had to start paying him and a year later he is here pretty much full time and is No Limits Kennels lead trainer 2 years and hundreds of dogs later.
Find a mentor that you can help in some way and ask them to help you become a better trainer or just to do more and get better with your own dog. NAVHDA training weekends are great and have a lot of really great people to learn from. If you want to get learn and do more with your dog NAVHDA training weekends are a great place to meet people and get started. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The best way to train your dog is one step at a time. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, in fact an honest mistake is never really a mistake at all, it is only an opportunity to learn and to grow.