Friday, October 01, 2010

The "make it up as I go" method.

I rarely mention training here on this blog. In fact, if you were just skimming it you’d have no idea how often I do train or what I train for. I’ve been contemplating starting another blog that will focus on training sessions with details on what I’m working on, but really doubt anyone would want to read that. Or that I would be driven enough to actually write in it. We’ll see.

The day I stop evolving by trying new things is the day I become less of a trainer.

Over the years I have learned from many sources - People, books, videos, seminars... but the dogs themselves have influenced me the most, they let me know if I'm on the right track or not.

It’s hard to train alone. Friends and mentors are necessary to help point out mistakes and make suggestions on how to improve, as well as offer encouragement - I value and respect these people. I still take my dogs to obedience classes and most likely always will. I attend seminars. I watch people handle their dogs in training and trial, and learn from their performances. I'm on a never ending quest to do better and learn more. I'll "talk training" with anyone!

Yet I’m past the point where I need or want a training director. By training director I mean someone telling me what to do and taking offense if I chose not to do it “their way”. Directing the flow of a session is another matter, that is necessary in a club or classroom setting.

I’m a free spirit and prefer to use what I like to call the “make it up as I go” dog training method. This independence carries through all areas of my life from work to making dinner in the kitchen. Recipes and instruction manuals are too restrictive!

Each of my training sessions are molded towards a final snapshot of a perfect performance in my head. I go with the flow, reading my dog to determine what I should work on next. (Dog must be faster, more precise, steadier, with more intensity, etc.) Most often I’ve got a plan in place, but sometimes I’ll get creative and try new things - just to see what happens. It's like dancing with dogs. If it doesn’t work out no problem. There is always tomorrow and I have the freedom to try something else.

Maybe if I were to follow someone's method my dogs would do better in the few trials I actually enter. Maybe. But I can’t handle the pressure of performing for people. I hate feeling that I must succeed to accurately portray someone's "brand" - and that if I fail I’ve done something horribly wrong and it will reflect on them. I’d rather take responsibility for my own performance and leave it at that.

Training a dog brings me joy. Developing a relationship with an animal that loves to work with you is incredibly rewarding. They are my friends and I like spending time with them, and as a bonus training makes them even more enjoyable as pets and companions. To this day I'm continually blown away at what animals can be taught to do, and when I look down at a dog I've trained I realize what amazing creatures they really are.


Lena said...

Hi - Thank you for the kind comment you left on my blog. I will keep you all posted on how the gun shyness goes away (positive thinking, right?!). I enjoyed your post on dog training. My friend and I just had the same discussion and I'm really enjoying learning how doing little things differently affects how our sessions go. I'm having more fun this way than doing what someone/book tells me to do. :-)
Beautiful dogs, by the way. We have several Giants in our club and they are gorgeous.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

It's good to have an open mind about training. What works for one dog, may not work for another. A big bag of tricks is helpful.

workingdobes said...

Great post! Put well into words some of my current sentiments. You and Bullet are one of the dog/handler teams I really admire and enjoy watching compete. You are doing a great job with him and "making it up as you go along" seems to be a good fit ;-)