Monday, April 2, 2012
Have you ever heard a person say something like... "WonderDog does it perfectly (insert location i.e. at home, in training, etc) but just (insert excuse i.e. gets too excited, goes crazy, forgets everything, etc) when we come to a trial or hunt test?" What you are actually hearing, whether the person saying it knows it or not, is a description of the dog's wondrous, and yes - sometimes frustrating, ability to discriminate.
In this case the use of the word means to perceive minor differences in situations, locations and even the collar a dog might wear in training vs. competition. They can (and do) perceive differences in their handlers emotions, whether excited, nervous or confident. Is it then any wonder that well trained dogs suddenly "blow up". Is it really because they are stubborn, strong willed, psychotic and so on - or is it that we have not provided them with enough different training opportunities, locations, gear that enable them to do what comes so readily to humans and generalize that what they did right in the hayfield works in the desert? I believe the vast majority of time it is truly holes in our training and or handling aspects that result in performance upsets than the dog "giving us the dewclaw".
I suggest to train as you will compete. If at the time of competition, your dog can't wear an e-collar, then the training program needs to get to a point where WonderDog will perform reliably without one. If the intent is to hunt a specific game bird - make certain they've trained with them. Don't be shy about training in as many different locations as possible - but try to keep in mind there are a number of things that can stay the same. Be consistent in how you prepare the dog, what gear he wears, how you bring him to the field. If you as a handler are consistent with your training, it is much easier for your dog to understand that expectiations of him are the same. Make certain the routine for a hunt or performance run is different than going for a jog on the beach or play date with other dogs. If, as a handler, we try to stay "relaxed" and approach a performance run like a free time/playtime, then the dog might just figure it's all just for HIS fun - and when you're trying to chase him down with a bird in his mouth that he ran in and stole point from your bracemate - that's not much fun at all...
Good luck and Good Training!