By Jennifer Broome, QK Owner
We just completed the 5th visit in 4 years for Bird Dog Hall of Fame Inductee, Mr. Rick Smith, to come to QK. What an honor to not only host this incredible man and extraordinary dog trainer but also to call him my mentor and friend. Over the past 4 years, Rick has changed my outlook on dog training and has changed the way I train. Rick’s knowledge of canine behavior, his explanation of physical cues that the dogs show us, and his training techniques are truly incredible and he has opened my eyes to so many things as a dog trainer.
Photo by Kate Lussier, Rick Smith with Quinebaug’s Sweet Filly in the Ferns, 9 weeks
The most profound change that we have all learned from Rick when he comes to mentor myself and my trainers is to watch for all of the body language cues that the dogs clearly show us. The subtle signs of softer eyes, slow blinks, relaxed jaws, yawning, licking their lips, tail set and relaxed loose muscles are all clear signs that the dog is acknowledging our training and accepting our training.
Personally, the teaching I get from Rick is that “It can always be better,” and he pushes me to step up even more to look for the slightest signs where my dog is not following my cues, commands or leadership. These lapses in communication between myself and my dogs identify the holes in our training at times. This can mean the difference between blue ribbons or ‘tail between the legs walk back to the truck” (by me!) when it comes to field competitions.
We had a good turnout for the Foundation Seminar on Saturday and Sunday with plenty of new clients coming to learn Rick’s techniques as well as many return graduates of his previous Foundation and Intermediate Seminars coming back to practice their skills. Rick offers a wonderful option to all graduates of BOTH Foundation and Intermediate students to come back, no charge, to any Foundation Seminars to practice, demonstrate to other students and to gain more knowledge. Every time I attend a Foundation Seminar I learn new things!
The Foundation Seminar focuses on patience training for the dog, teaching them to accept being tied to the patience chain by being calm, relaxed and ready to work. This gets them in the frame of mind to concentrate and prepare to learn! Any dogs that are barking, whining, digging, growling, or carrying on with any undesirable behaviors are not mentally in the frame of mind to accept our leadership and teachings.
Once the dogs learn to accept the down time and relax, the leash work begins and students learn how to effectively walk their dogs and use their bodies to cue the dogs to respect human space. The teaching of the chain work teaches the dog to respect leash pressure on the neck, and the transition to walking a dog on leash becomes a much easier and clearer task to both dog and handler. The result is a dog that learns to follow on leash and be still when we stop. In just short time we had birds out and were doing steadiness drills with dogs that, just hours earlier, were wild hoodlums barking, pulling and carrying on!
Day 2 of the Foundation Seminar worked more with leash work, patience chain work, whoa post work (teaching to be still) as well as field and bird work. The entire focus is much more about teaching the owners how to understand their dogs, how to learn to be more effective leaders and how to learn proper leash work. Students walk away with lots of information and many new training tasks to practice in order to get their field dogs and family pets to learn the basics of obedience, leash work and following handlers as leaders.
On Monday and Tuesday following the Foundation Clinic, we offered an Advanced Handling Clinic for the first time. We had 7 client participants as well as QK Lead Trainer, Jordan Wells, and Gun Dog/Obedience Trainer, Joe Lussier, and myself, all handling our dogs. We had a special use permit to work at Sugar Brook Field Trial Grounds for the 2 days and we got a lot of great dog training in! The participants were all very serious dog handlers looking to improve their skills and fine tune their dogs specifically for field competitions. This clinic was all about the details. From mastering the chain work, finessing the leash work, coordinating better check cord field work to finally off leash e collar work, we grilled ourselves and our dogs on drills with birds. The work was tedious, exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and rewarding. I think that each of us learned that we can ALWAYS improve our Foundation training by paying better attention to details. As Rick says, “When you take your time to get it right, it goes more quickly in the long run.” This is so true as most of us found ourselves still lacking in the basics, and the ‘holes’ in our training were very evident once we really got into field training, bird work and backing drills. The dogs did not lie… their behavior clearly demonstrated our deficiencies as trainers. It was enlightening, frustrating, and eye opening all at the same time. I think that each handler learned to pay better attention to details, basic leash skills and clearer communication with cues. The entire two days were awesome!
We hope to see you at our next seminars!
As our friend and mentor, Mr. Rick Smith, says: