It’s been a month since we had our training session with Paul. He finished that session by giving us a set of guidelines to work with and a basic structure that we could apply in our training sessions.
I can only speak from personal experience but I applied what he suggested to the areas I had been struggling with and I have seen vast improvements in Bertie’s and Mossy’s response. In fact, Bertie went on to win an any variety advanced retriever working test following this session.
We had agreed at that time that a second session would be of benefit to reinforce what we had been taught and bring forward any problems we would have encountered in training during this time frame.
Last Wednesday evening our small group met for the second time on the shores of Lough Ennell. Although Katherina could not attend due to work committments the Goldies were very ably represented by Stina. We started the session with Paul asking each of us ,in turn, how we had been getting on and any areas which we particularly wanted to focus on in this meeting. Each dog and handler then had an opportunity for some one on one tuition as the rest of us listened and learnt. Small groups allow this unique opportunity that a bigger group may not offer.
We worked on solutions to ‘running in’, teaching and reinforcing hand delivery from water, improving marking and lining for blind work.
What I gained most from both of these sessions is simply that it is okay for both handler and dog to make mistakes in training. I think most novice handlers, myself included, sometimes feel we have to test our dogs in training. This of course leads to the inevitable frustration when what we test for doesn’t work out and our dog loses confidence and interest.By keeping training simple and allowing room for error more progress is made.
For example, I have been struggling to get Bertie to take a straight line. He’ll often pull off to the left or right. Although this has improved in the last month since I stopped nagging with the whistle it’s still far from perfect. Yesterday evening I lined him for a blind and typically he pulled left. Paul then suggested I walk him in two or three strides and line again. If he failed again just walk in another three strides recast and repeat until the dog gets it. As he explained you can always lengthen the distance once the dog succeeds but you need to find the dog’s level first. On the first walk in Bertie took off like an arrow straight to the blind. Such a simple solution but something I would never have thought of.
Sadly this is the end of our Summer sessions for this year. I want to thank my training companions Colum, Mariann and of course Elly for making it such a fun Summer along the lake with our dogs. A special thanks to Paul Toal of Altiquin labradors who was brave enough to take on our little group of Any Variety Retrievers.
We will be back next year and if anyone wishes to venture into gundog games but is not sure how to get started you’re more than welcome to join us at our little meet along the lakeshore..until next year..Happy Hunting..