With the shooting season now well behind us and our new training season underway, Saturday was our first Novice day of the year.
What a fantastic turnout ... and it was great to see so many of the new faces from open sessions joining us for a full day.
We "Train to Win" from the very first session that our members attend, and for us the basics form the foundation of all that is to come.
From remembering your whistle, to putting a lead on correctly through heel, sit and stay... we train these elements in every class, right through to our advanced members that compete in team competitions.
Learning how to put a lead on correctly without causing our dog any stress is a very important first step. If you dog is uncomfortable either wearing it's lead or because as a handler you transfer your stress, it will become a battle. Gently, quietly and without pulling or pushing the dog, place your hand through the slip loop and lean forward to stroke your dog whilst dropping the loop over the neck and lead on !!!
The placement of the lead is just a vital.. get it wrong and you can cause the dog great discomfort, if you are ever in any doubt ASK ...
No one likes to ask questions in class, but try it ... if you don't understand something or are unsure ASK, that is why you come to lessons, please don't stand at the back thinking to yourself , " I can't , I can't .." You CAN. Information and knowledge make us better able to train our dog.
After a short demonstration on how to put our leads on correctly and how to walk our dog at heel, including ensuring ours dogs "SIT" as soon as we stop (using our whistle) we spent some time practicing this excercise before moving on to our "Sit / Stay".
As we progress our dogs learn that a single sharp whistle means STOP and that this stop means place your bottom on the ground and wait there until I tell you what to do next... it is something that requires patience and practice but will ultimately give us a very attentive and nicely trained dog.
As some of our members had been to various open sessions we had a mixture of abilities. Some just starting out and leaving their dogs on the lead and taking only a step away ... some that could remove the lead but needed to stay nice and close whilst keeping the dogs attention focused (in this case by the use of a tennis ball) .. those that were able to take the lead off and step away .. not too far but enough for there to be space and then those that can leave a dog to sit and walk a good few paces back.
Go at your own pace .. there is no point in trying to sit your dog and walk away from it when it has no understanding of what it is being asked to do. Take your time and progress though the steps even if does seem tedious. You don't want to be sat in a line in advanced class this time next year with your dog still creeping towards you. Be firm and consistant.. a shuffle is a move, put your dog gently back on the spot and start again.
With our basic excercises completed, time to introduce our novices to "The Retrieve". Time to move forward from throwing a ball or a dummy out in front of us and letting our dogs run in.. time for a little control.
An introduction to the use of the "The Gate" and once your dog has the retrieve how to encourage him/her back to you. Remember, no snatching, grabbing or growling, make yourself welcoming and encourge the dog in, only taking the retrieve once the dog is ready.
A retrieve can be as simple as sitting you dog, passing it a dummy, letting it hold the dummy and then taking it back. Something that can be practiced whilst watching the TV in the evening.
For some dogs the sense of freedom once you send them for a retrieve can prove irrisitable and can lead to a couple of circuits of the paddock displaying their newly won prize. So to concentrate the mind and to take away the "opportunity" a retrieving lane can be the answer.
The lane ensures you can relax and concentrate on your dog and the task in hand without having to be on "tackler" duties as it makes a bid for freedom.
The side of the house, an alley way, between two hedges or even the hallway at home, somewhere you can put a dummy out for a retrieve and the dog has no option but to come back to you .. no ducking round the sides or laps of the garden.
For young dogs and novice handlers a full days training can be demanding so an early lunch afforded everyone time to take a breather.
New experiences are also an important part of any dogs training ... so for our Novices the afternoon session held three seperate challenges...
A shallow stream or ford is a perfect place to introduce your dog to water. Some dogs are born to water and need no encouragement at all.
Some really are not keen and need a helping hand to understand it's all alright.
And some are more worried about whats on the opposite bank than the water itself.... try and remember in new situations to take a "dogs eye view" if possible.
You might be out on a walk, at a working test or a field trial, or even out on a new shoot and you come across that rickety bridge. Learning to deal with obstacles can mean the difference between your dog staying dry and you getting very wet !!! ... Assess what is in front of you and how best to deal with it as a team, you both need to cross whatever the obstacle might be.
For this bridge some chose to leave the dog on the lead and walk across together, others in the past have carried their dog accross, some let the dog go ahead of them (although if you decide to do this, make sure that the dog will stop when it gets to the other side and that "the other side" is safe. The last thing you want is to send your dog across into a field of stock, that it hasn't yet been taught to behave around)... and some asked their dogs to sit and wait whilst they crossed first and then recalled their dog over. Find your own way but stay safe.
So our young Novice dogs and their handlers experienced new tasks and situations, they worked hard at their basics and hopefully stored the knowledge that was shared.
The last lesson of the day .... how to play.
A group "free" walk across the stubble field .. sounds easy, but as I explained what we were going to do I saw some faces drop. With a solid recall and lots of socialisation this shouldn't be a problem. The option was given that if at any time you were uncomfortable then place you dog quietly back on the lead... but fun was had by all and at the end .........
Lots to go and practice and I look forward to seeing you all at various open and novice classes over the coming weeks... and remember, if in doubt ASK !!!
A link to a full gallery from the day will be posted shortly.