One of the most difficult problems faced by field trialers is the age-old one of respect from the dog for his handler. A professional can train both dog and handler separately but the
challenge comes when trying to put the team together.
owners love their dogs and want to feel secure that their dogs love them back. Dogs are so domesticated that they are predisposed to respect the human by their very nature.
however, humans needs and emotion gets in the way. When dogs are raised from puppies by their owners they get to know that human very well, perhaps too well. They are
around when the human is to tired, too lazy, too whatever, to make the rules stick; they are around when the human is angry, depressed or out of control. the dog tries to deal with
human needs and emotion but it is a tall order to fill and puzzling to the animal. human weaknesses are, therefore all too evident to the dog and can create a negative aspect to the
dog's image of that person.
When an older dog is bought for field trialing the new owner has a golden opportunity to start off right(on a respectful basis) with the new dog. however it is the rare human who
sees this opportunity and makes the most of it. As the saying goes: "you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression." In forming a bond with an adult dog the new
owner is frequently too eager to form an emotional tie through feelings instead of a proper bond built upon respect through proper training.
A professional can train dogs for their owners in an unemotional way and get a beautiful response which speeds up the training process and advances the dog easily. The pro
then tries to transfer the performing dog at his new training level to the owner but rarely is the transfer smooth. In the most challenging cases, the owner takes over from the pro
and the dog reverts to original behavior and months of training are concealed. This reaction is disheartening to the owner and difficult to accept. To accept the situation fully is to
admit being weak and out of control. In most cases, the transfer is accomplished with more manageable problems and the pro can make the transfer happen by applying
pressure to force the dog to respond to the owner. Thus, the dog had to pay (through discipline or pressure) for the human basic need to be loved.
Sometimes handlers can sense the ease of the untroubled relationship with dogs by working dogs belonging to others. In this process of making the dog mind them, they see
and understand rational, unemotional training and how joyful that can be for the team of handler/dog.
This is one of the benefits of working with a professional who allows owners to work the other dogs in the group. In fact, when presented with new drills or exercises it is wise to
learn on a dog not one's own. Then the new drill can be presented with confidence to the owner's dog and the dog will feel secure.
The most beautiful relationship between the dog and human comes after much work and is gained by mutual respect. The bond develops after many months of showing a high
standard to the dog and making the dog consistently meet that standard. Soon the dog takes pride in the work and knows when the performance is up to par. Words and emotion
interfere with the pride of the dog in correct performance. The bond between dog and handler is almost tangible; it can be compared to dressage in horses; it's communication at
the highest level. Although a daily respectful relationship can be attained, only through special work does the handler have the utmost level of communication and it does not last at
its peak. The goal is to polish and hone the dogs performance and attain the best possible bond for a specific trial or national competition. The kind of work necessary for this
peak level cannot be done over a long period of time without detriment to the dog. Dog's cannot live under a constant pressure (as cannot humans) and there have to breathing
spaces throughout training when a certain relaxation can occur.
So many instances can be cited where talented dogs and their handlers never could become a team because of lack of respect. For example, there was a dog in training who
exhibited freezing problems for the owner at the field trial and the owner had simply walked off line at three consecutive trials. After a year in training where the dog was handled by
rank beginners and had been flawless in bird delivery for many months, the owner came to see the dog. The pro handled the dog without a problem, the owners husband handled
the dog without a problem. However, on the first bird retrieved for the owner, the dog froze solid on the bird. There are many such stories and every professional has his favorite.
The most high-powered dogs are the most difficult to control, in general, and need to feel secure in the handler's commands. These dogs are frequently the ones with the most
talent and ability and need the highest level of respect. Therefore the owners of these dogs need to be especially on guard with his dog and this means keeping his emotions out
of the relationship with the animal. This owner must be in shape physically and mentally; he must attain a high level of confidence in himself and have the self discipline to be
consistent and in command at all times.
Gradually, through proper work, the owner will begin to feel the terrific feeling of becoming a team with his eager but responsive animal. Then and only then can the kind of love that
is based on respect will finally develop.