Bridget I've been kinda gnashing my teeth over this thread wondering if I should pipe up or not.
I read that horse jumper article.
I hope this doesn't come as to much of another dunking of ice water.
Like everyone else I got the feel good, rah rah rah, don't push, let it come as the horse is ready, go slow etc. I'm not saying that that's bad, but I want to say that's not the way for most of us to build a trial dog. It takes steady, step by step, dedicated work to turn out a trial dog and then there's no guarantee that the dog will be good enough to title. It's really not hard work, mostly just steady 5 or 6 days a week work, week in and week out. My feeling is if you go to slow through basic yard work you bore the dog and if you rush to fast through it the dog doesn't get it. With young dogs, I feel there's a rough window of time when it's best to go through the program advancing the dog through the basics and then transition. To slow and they're bored and don't get it, to fast and they've rushed through and haven't gotten it, not regular enough in your training and you are often starting all over again not advancing like you should. If you go through basics and transition with a go slow attitude, you'll put things off, miss days, not give your dog enough repetitions to get what you're working on. You'll be competing against some of the best bred dogs in the world with the best training that money can buy. You can't make lots of mistakes! The good thing is is that you can compete with those guys.
I think the best way to get a trial dog is to train with trial dogs. Train your pup to the level of the FC's in the group. Figure out the steps necessary to get your pup to that level.
The Lardy program gives the best framework I've seen so I suggest everybody bring their dogs through that up to the advanced stage. You'll have to read your dog adjust the program to your dog's progress but I don't think there is a better program out there, and you NEED the best. When training you've got to have the conviction that you can get your dog to the highest level. If you don't think you can make it, you won't.