When I started training I was young and green, there were not many training groups in my area to work with, just a few older gentlemen that got together once a month to train. I can’t complain because they welcomed a snot-nosed girl to train with them and I did learn a lot. The men didn’t change their training methods because I was there, not by far. If the dog made a mistake they were punished, usually pretty severely and for just about everything. I often heard, “you better get on that dog hard, you are letting her get by with murder and you are going to ruin her with all that petting you’re giving her. Don’t coddle your dog; you’re making a mess out of her”.
I will admit I didn’t know a lot about training my dog at that time, but what I did know was if she misbehaved it was not because she was being defiant. She wanted to do the right thing, you could see it on her face. It was the way she was geared. She was wicked smart and lightning fast and there was no defiance in her. She was a thinker and I have found out since then that these are the traits that I love in a retriever. I realized I needed to nurture the good and correct the bad. It was communication that I wanted, not punishment.
I look at it this way: my Dad took me fishing, hunting and scouting when I was very small. He never yelled at me or beat me for stepping on sticks and leaves which scared the deer and other wildlife. He never scolded me for talking to0 loud on a trout stream, which of course scared the fish. He explained to me why we had to walk quietly and speak in a whisper and he showed me how to do it and the reward paid off.
This is how I was taught, so why would that not work for a dog? You train them and show them what you want. If they make a mistake you give them a correction and show them again, maybe in a different way so they understand what you want. If you’re a dog and know you’re going to face severe ramifications every time you get out training or hunting are you still going to love it? No.
So, I took an approach of communication and education with that dog I was “ruining”. “Star” was a black Labrador Retriever and was one of the best hunting dogs I have ever owned; she would hunt duck as well as grouse and quail. She was never out of shotgun range on upland birds and it was never to cold or icy for ducks. She gave me 110% every time we stepped in the field. To say that she loved to hunt and train was an understatement. Did I do everything right? No. You’re never going to get it all right your first time out, but what I lacked in training she made up for with instinct and I must say that she was one of the best teachers I have ever had. I learned a long time ago that you have to trust your dog to do what they were bred to do and what you add to that with training, time and love is a bonus.