Train­ing the trainer

The se­cret of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion is dis­cov­er­ing what mo­ti­vates the han­dler, says El­lena Swift

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - GUNDOG TRAINING -

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

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