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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just wanted to unload some of what I’ve learned during my first year of training for hunt test. This should serve two purposes 1) help guys that are just starting out like myself and 2) be a place where these thoughts and lessons are written down so I can come back to it when I get frustrated.

1. It’s difficult. It’s frustrating. But it’s worth it to stick to your plan and see the fruits of your labor. It’s amazing what these dogs can learn and understand when you put in the work to teach them. And that’s the first lesson. It’s TEACHING not forcing them to bend to your will. You can’t have high expectations for your dog and low standards for yourself. It’s a team game. Be a good coach.

2. Start as early as you can with concepts that you’ll use later. This one really helped me out more than anything else. I spent a lot of time watching training videos before I even got my pup. This allowed me to incorporate things that I knew my pup would need to know later into the treat training we did as a very young puppy. Things like casting every time you want them to go in a direction like into the kennel or back onto a place mat. These little things paid off huge dividends when I was teaching more complicated things later.

3. The e collar is a great tool to polish a concept but you absolutely need to teach the concept first. It needs to be 100 percent reliable on the check cord before you polish it with the collar. You read this all the time but as a first time trainer you want to move fast and it’s easy to convince yourself that they understand something enough to try to skip to the end and use the collar to reinforce. Im guilty of this one all the time. Be patient. Teach.

4. You have to know your dog and be flexible with your training program sometimes. I’ve been using Smartworks but I’ve had to deviate sometimes to better fit my dog. This is where this site has really helped me out. The search function has helped me get over some hurdles by offering some different teaching techniques to get to the same goal. Obviously the major components and schedule of your program need to be adhered to, but the little building block things can be taught in whatever way your dog needs to be successful.

5. It has to be fun for you and your dog. If you get frustrated STOP and take a break. You will not gain anything by trying to teach or handle your dog when you’re frustrated. But if you keep it fun and keep your dog excited to train they’ll pay you back 100 times over.

6. Keep an HONEST training journal. I wish I had done a better job with this one. I was really lucky and got a dog that naturally wants to do the work and is eager to learn. But I’ve messed up so many times because just didn’t know what I was doing or let my emotions get involved too much. Luckily my dog is pretty resilient. Keep a training journal and write down YOUR mistakes as well as the things that worked well. This way you can learn your tendencies and avoid future mistakes. I can guarantee this won’t be the last dog I train and the mistakes are better teaching moments for me than the wins.

7. Don’t be in a hurry. Train your dog on your/their schedule. I can’t stress this enough. If it takes 2-3 weeks to learn to sit on the whistle on the way to the pile then that’s what it takes. It doesn’t mean your dog is stupid or you’re a worthless trainer. My dog learned casting in an afternoon but took 3 weeks to even start to sit on a whistle on the way to the pile. They have quirks that you have to work through. It’s your job to help them through it patiently.
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