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Bahnemann Kennels

Training You

This is a supplement to the post below (‘Consistent and rigorous training’). I’ve been working with Frank for several months now and our 18 month Labrador bitch Poppy is doing well. Over the winter we’ve had the good fortune to go out several times on two local shoots with Frank. Poppy has picked up two or three easy marked retrieves (pheasants and partridges) most times we’ve been out and it’s been very, very instructive (and fun, too). Nevertheless, like any young dog Poppy isn’t yet completely steady and I’ve recently been working with Frank on this. The problem isn’t with the dog, of course – it’s with me. The timings of the commands I give is off (usually, too quick); the consistency with which I deliver simple commands like ‘sit’ or ‘heel’ is problematic, too. This is very basic stuff but it’s essential to get it right day after day, year after year – and so Frank has had me marching around the garden (more like a parade ground) counting out steps and gestures as I go. I feel like a complete chump….but the improvement in Poppy’s relationship with me is marked, and will now go on improving. I can almost sense the dog thinking ‘At last this bloody man realises how to talk my language – and of course I can already talk his’.
I suspect there are many gundog trainers out there who try to impress their clients with their (the trainers’) own skill. Frank has a different approach, one centred on you and what you need (and what he can see you need) as a gundog handler. This isn’t a matter of showiness: it’s an approach based on repetition, reliability, steadiness and trust all round. I’ve found it to be immensely helpful. As several other testimonila writers have said on this site, you learn a great deal (some of it disconcering) about yourself when you put yourself in Frank’s hands – but you and your dogs will be the better for it.
When I watch Poppy working now – and most importantly, loving her work – I can hardly believe how far she’s come and I suppose, how far we’ve come together, despite my imperfections. And we owe all that to Frank.