"Training Issue?"

Responsiveness is a "Two-Way" Street

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                            Thoughts About "Out of Sync" Retrievers at the Line 

This is a comment from  a recent retriever training forum "Guess we have different standards and I would correct on any paw movement, etc, but not on a dog leaning it's head forward when I put my hand down."

My thoughts revolved around this question......How does one know the dog knows it is leaning forward or moving paws..........in that moment? To continue along those lines...if a tap of the heeling stick causes a conflict to suddenly disappear, is that momentary (or longer) and/or an understood correction? In other words, is there a clear, distinct message being sent that permanently removes the action and replaces it with the proper expectation? Or is it more of a temporary “dance” in the usual routine. How does one know?

There is a common rule about dealing with "mistakes". Once made, it takes ten correct reps in a row to get back to square one. And unfortunately, the "individual" (dog) must be able to draw a distinction between what was wrong and the correct response while dealing with the correction. In addition, what about a loss of focus? Repetition can be perfectly wonderful or a lasting, confusing  curse.

Following a program correctly is similar to traveling along a very high, narrow ridge....slip off and getting back on top may prove to be a huge challenge.

Julie Knutson (pro trainer and author) has an excellent, one word description of the well trained retriever......balanced.  Knutson’s description of balance includes five factors - "birdiness", retrieving, responsiveness, control and focus. Keeping these in harmony is not a function of corrections predominantly using heeling sticks, an e-collar and/or denial. The "out of balance" retriever is often a real "pain in the donkey". 

In another training philosophy, Hillmann suggests continuously developing correct repetitions from the very beginning with a focus on excitement, fun, being consistent (precision) and practice (repetition). His approach is similar to Knutson's in that there is a huge emphasizes on focus and responsiveness. It is in the trainer’s best interest to spend a great deal of time developing and utilizing balance in a pup's routines (early on).

Given the above, the conclusion clearly indicates a retriever weak in the responsiveness factor probably will end up requiring corrections to engage his attention. In addition, factor in that  many trainers are not really skilled or effective enough in the manipulation of corrections. These issues suggest way too many retrievers are experiencing training that is not especially rewarding and not nearly as much fun (as it could/should be).

Been there......to a certain degree and found it difficult to change because in essence becoming a different person takes time. However, the “five factor” Knutson concept and the Hillmann philosophy of training "combination" may become much like the “perfect shoe”…..once measured well and worn regularly.

In closing, responsiveness must be a "two way street".