July 13, 2014

What makes a good handler

Luckiest Man Alive put on a seminar with Pat Burns this week-end at our place in Colorado.  Pat Burns is a very well known Field Trial trainer that has retired from training dogs and is now doing seminars around the country full time.  He has trained many famous dogs and is known as being a great dog man.

One of the round table discussions at the seminar was "What Makes A Good Handler".  It made for very interesting and lively discussion.

One thing that was at the top of the list was a handler who knows how to deal with adversity.  What happens when the dog goes for a different bird than the one you sent for?  How does a handler deal with a dog that didn't take the cast(s) on the blind?  How does the handler deal with the "red zone"...or the last 10 or 20 yards of the blind?  What does one do when a dog wants a different bird next then the one he/she SHOULD go get in order to complete the test more easily?  How does one pull out a bird that the dog didn't see thrown?  These are all examples of dealing with adversity when running a Field Trial.

I remember a trial I ran in Kansas where I was in the last series with a dog named FC CFC Backwater's Boomer.  It was a big water quad and a test that I felt was right up Boomer's alley.  Boomer will get his own blog post one day.  There were 2 long birds, a short retired bird and a flyer last bird down.  After picking up the flyer, I sent Boomer for what I thought was a fairly straight forward short retired and he decided to go out, after I sent him, and get one of the difficult long retired birds.  This is where I had to deal with adversity.  I had to think on my feet and decide which of the two remaining birds to get with Boomer.  LMA has taught me to generally "leave my problem for last" and I chose to satiate Boomer's need to punch and picked the other long retired bird to get third.  He proceeded to get that bird nicely and we just had the short retired left to pick up.  I did not give up, but beared down and decided to get to work and convince Boomer he now had to check down after punching 3 times...and Boomer LOVES to punch.  I set myself up on the mat correctly, used the mat to my best advantage and talked Boomer into that short bird.  He went out and pounded the bird.  Boomer and I placed in that trial (I think fourth?) and it was a success.  But I remember that moment because when I came off line, LMA said to me "you're now a dog handler".  That made me proud.

If your dog doesn't see all the birds...don't admit defeat, but bear down and pull that bird out.  If your dog isn't winding the end of the blind where you think he should, get to work and put him in a position to wind it.  If your dog isn't giving you the cast you want, what cast can you give to get it?

Can you think on your feet?  Can you pull it off when everything doesn't go perfect?

Think about that next time you go out and train.

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