Tuesday, May 7, 2013


A hallmark of talent is loving to practice. - Penelope Trunk, Brazen Careerist

An amateur practices until they get it right. A professional practices until they don't get it wrong. - Richard Crittenden (D.C. Opera Workshop)

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice. - Anton Chekhov

I've been thinking about practice lately. A lot. Field trial trainer Bill Hillman talks quite a bit about practice on his DVD "Retriever Training Fundamentals: Part 1 Land". He argues that most trainers just don't practice enough with their dogs. They teach something a time or two, think the dog understands, and then move on to something else. Bill stresses continuing to practice the fundamental skills throughout a dog's lifetime. 

Most of my training energy these days is centered on field work with Sonic and Little. Who would have thought that young(er) woman who disliked guns and dead birds and only got Working Certificates on Tramp and Treasure to get them into the FCRSA Hall of Fame would develop such a passion for field work? I love being outside, seeing the dogs do something they have a huge passion for, helping them to learn how to be the best teammate they can be. It all comes down to training. And practice.

I have always loved puzzles and problem-solving. Maybe it is why I liked math and computer programming so much when I was in school. I still love programming. I just love training dogs and people even more. To me, dog training is one giant puzzle. Whether I am training for blind retrieves in the field or teaching my dog to heel with animation and precision for the obedience ring, it is critical to have a road map of training steps to follow. I have always believed that if one book or video on a topic is good, having six is better. I like getting a lot of different view points on something. I guess it helps me to study the road maps that other trainers travel and find success with. I like to see what they consider crucial foundation steps, and how they put them together into more complicated behaviors. If foundation is weak, the later steps built on them will be weak.

While it matters a lot that you have a goal, a vision and an arc to get there, it matters even more that you don't skip the preliminary steps in your hurry to get to the future. Early steps might bore you, but miss even one and you might not get the chance to execute on the later ones. - Seth Godin, blog post 11/7/12

I love putting in the daily practice with the girls. Given their enthusiasm to "load up" and go train, I think they love the opportunity to practice with me. I love discussing training with other trainers, traveling their road map some to find out what little side paths helped them.

It helps a lot to have an experienced instructor to help guide you along the road, especially when you are a new trainer and have never traveled any training road before. Sometimes that instructor is someone with whom you can take weekly classes. Sometimes it is someone who has written a book or produced a video on the topic.  Sometimes it is a classmate who helps motivate you to train on a day when you are tired. But you still have to practice. No matter how great the instructor or book or DVD, if you don't practice the skills with your dog, you won't find success, whatever your definition of success is, whether it is to have a well-behaved companion in the home or a trial-winning obedience dog, a hunting companion or a Master Hunter.

What are you going to practice today?

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