We often get into a routine of doing things the same way. Developing routines allow or cause us to relax and loose focus in our day-to-day job, driving, chores, hobbies and yes even training. Have you ever caught yourself making a mistake because you were not focused due to routine efforts? How many of us have drove through a stoplight or stop sign and realized afterwards that we were not focused or in complete control? This takes place in our training program as well! Some times we go through the motions in our daily yard work and it becomes routine to both us the teacher and our dogs the student. The success in our training program began when we discovered that our students were anticipating the next move, making mistakes because of the lack of focus we created into our daily training. We will agree with those who would argue about consistency in training is most important, however we have learned that if we add some variations to our methods we will get improved results. When we discovered that our students were breaking commands because they were anticipating what they were to do next! We made the changes in our methods and have seen positive results.
Let's give you an example of what we are talking about. First we start our young dogs out with the basic yard work of heel, here, sit, and whoa. Then we move to bird work and steadying them up with launchers and pigeons. When the student establishes a point, in the scent cone, we give a soft "whoa" command. Once the bird is launched the student anticipates chase or fetch if we shoot the bird and gives chase. What has happened here is that the student has really broken the "whoa" command. Many people that enjoy wild bird hunting would say that breaking is okay due to their training or hunting desires. If that is truly okay then where do we stop with allowing our students to break commands? If a student is going to learn and obey each command we need to be very consistent and build focus into our training by becoming inconsistent with our training! What did I say?
In our yard work we try to get the student to incorrectly anticipate our next move and make a correction if they do. We do this in many different parts of our training and have found that this allows us to get to the Master level quicker, with less confusion, by keeping our students focused on our needs. We teach this during our first steps of training on a check cord or lead. We will heal them next to us and use the "whoa" command to stop them. Then we will command heel (tap our leg) and move forward. After several sessions we will not give the "heel" command but still move forward. Naturally your student will move forward with you as they anticipate the "heel" command. This is when we pick them up and set them back and give the "whoa" command again to teach them that they need to focus on us better and not anticipate the next command. We will use this technique in every phase of our training and once they understand each command they learn not to break them with anticipating. Taking retrieves away from them and being very inconsistent with giving the "fetch" command will steady up a broke dog with less corrections needed. Each command is instilled into the student by becoming more inconsistent in the day-to-day training. It is still very important to be consistent with the basic commands and corrections to enforce each command.