Training the trainer
The secret of good communication is discovering what motivates the handler, says Ellena Swift
In my line of work, I am often asked what the most difficult part of my job is. There are various assumptions as to what this might be. For example, some assume that dealing with nervous or aggressive dogs might be difficult. This can be hard, particularly knowing that there is a good chance I could be bitten while trying to help the dog and owner. These cases also involve a great deal of investment, both in terms of time and emotion. I have had some suggest that perhaps training a dog for someone else can be hard as I become attached to said dog and find it difficult to let go. They, again, are not wrong, but what makes this part of the job easier is seeing the joy and pleasure both dog and handler get in the coming years, working together in their favourite pastime.
The hardest part of my job, ironically, doesn’t involve a dog. The most difficult part of my job is training the human. Training a dog always has its challenges and invariably throws up various problems. However, dogs learn by association rather than memory, meaning it is easy for me to create new associations with said dog and change their previous undesirable behaviours into positives. The difficulty comes with the handover to the owner.
People by their very nature find it difficult to change and are often reluctant to see they are the problem rather than the dog. A common statement by handlers is, “I’ve had numerous dogs and never had this problem”, implying it is the dog’s fault, not the handler’s. Ellena shows Tom the slip lead, how it works and how to use it correctly in order to encourage a good heel
As any good dog trainer will tell you, no two dogs are the same. A sign of a decent trainer is one willing to admit when their usual methods do not work and, if this is the case, they are willing to change and work on new methods to suit the dog. It is, in essence, no different to being a teacher in a school. Anyone in a teaching role will understand
and appreciate this.
And no one knows this better than our resident pigeon shooting expert and instructor Tom Payne. He has had the joy of teaching me clay pigeon shooting. This was a great experience for me and
an even more joyful one for Tom, being that I am such a marvellous student. Tom was professional, patient and gave easy-to-follow instructions and, by the end, I was showing noticeable improvement. So it is fair to say he is a great instructor.
So let’s flip this on its head. Tom is now the proud owner of a six-monthold black Labrador dog puppy, which is none other than the brother of my
“Tom gave him the well-known commands ‘come on mate, don’t show me up now’, ‘seriously? Sheep poo?’ and ‘just walk like that other dog’”
little superstar Briar. I have been reliably informed by Tom and his better half that he needs help training Woody, so I am going to see what Tom is like as the student. Having had a few discussions with him about