By Kevin Tate/NEMS Daily Journal
Whether you want the new puppy at your home to grow up and win field trials or simply grow up and quit chewing the remote control, training begins with letting him know you’re the top dog. For some of us, this kind of training takes a good deal of concentration and will power. For guys like Booneville’s Hoyle Eaton, though, the work and training come naturally.
“When I’m training a dog, I want the dog to be happy and enjoy what he’s doing,” Eaton, 80, a lifelong bird dog trainer said. “He should be excited and look forward to training time and think of it as a game.
“The person doing the training should be firm, but no firmer than he absolutely has to be, and there should be lots and lots of praise. Praise and pet when the dog does it right, be patient and keep working when he does it wrong and, if he has any genetic potential at all, he’ll pick it up sooner or later.”
Bird dogs do some amazing things in the field due to their inherent genetic makeup, but they’re all taught three basic commands to begin – three commands that would be of benefit to any dog in any situation regardless of breed.
n Here:“The first thing you want to do is teach them to come to you when you call,” Eaton says, “because you can’t catch them, and that can get to be awfully aggravating very quickly. That needs to be done at a young age.”
From the very beginning, you should make every effort to help the dog learn his name. Then, beginning when the dog is around 12 weeks old, Eaton says, slip a collar on him and attach a long, lightweight nylon cord. Sit or kneel on the ground and let him walk away from you a little bit.
Then, call him to you. If he comes right to you, lavish him with praise and petting. If he doesn’t come right to you, gently but firmly reel him in with the nylon cord, then lavish him with praise and petting anyway. Then let him go walk a little farther away and do it again.
n Heel and Stop or Whoa: “I say ‘heel,’ putting the dog at my left leg and making him stay there,” Eaton says. “Then I’ll walk around the yard with the dog at my side, repeating the command ‘Heel’ and tugging him back when he tries to pull ahead. After I have walked him around in the yard like this for a few minutes and with him at heel, I give the command “whoa,” giving a tug on the collar at the same time, then making him stand still for a couple minutes, repeating the command “whoa” all the time. I repeat this procedure several times in a workout.”
Without fail, Eaton says, praise and patience are the key to everything, because if you’re not enjoying the work, the dog won’t be happy and, like people, the dogs who enjoy and are happy in their work turn out best.
To learn more about dog handling and to read the story of one of the most successful field trial dogs that ever lived, pick up a copy of “The White Knight Story,” by D. Hoyle Eaton. It’s available from the author himself by calling 728-4852.
Read more outdoors coverage in Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal each Friday.