by Chad Love
If someone asked you to name the most important training tool you own, what would it be? Bumpers? Check cord? Whistle? E-collar? Wingers? Good training grounds?
It’s a hard question to answer because dog training is a completely subjective and individualistic endeavor. What works for one guy won’t work for another. What one person considers important, another doesn’t bother with. Different goals, different methodologies and different philosophies mean there is no single, overarching right answer for anything.
Having said that, I will now, of course, completely ignore the above statement and give you a single, overarching right answer for the original question. I believe the most important training tool a guy can have is a partner or a training group. And before all you lone wolves out there start howling about how you prefer to train solo, let me state that that I am as genetically inclined to misanthropy as any of you.
I’m a loner by nature, and I do the majority of my hunting, fishing, thinking, drinking, dancing (don’t ask) and dog-training alone. But that doesn’t mean I’m a better trainer for it. Far from it. A training partner, or better yet, a regular training group, has a number of big advantages over training alone.
First, it’s a source of motivation. Knowing there are others who depend on and expect you to show up motivates you to actually do so on those days when you’d rather just be lazy. And as a corollary to that, nothing will motivate you to keep up the training schedule more than seeing your training partner’s dog perform circles around your dog because you haven’t been showing up and he has.
Second, it’s great socialization for you and your dog. Hermits are grouchy for a reason. So are their dogs. Interaction with others of the same species, human or canine, makes us more likeable, agreeable people. Usually.
Third, you are exposed to different ideas, approaches and methods. We’re human. We tend to overlook our own faults and often fail to recognize not only when something is not working, but why it’s not working. Problems benefits from extra eyeballs, and if you and/or your dog’s progress are stuck in a rut, a fresh perspective or word of advice can often help you get out of it.
Fourth, it makes for easier, faster and more effective training. When you’re alone it’s time-consuming to set up and throwing marks, or plant birds and/or bumpers. Especially if you have an interest in advanced training requiring multiple marks, etc.
Fifth, sharing resources makes training more affordable. Splitting the cost of gas and birds and sharing equipment with partners or a group can take a big bite out of what is admittedly a sometimes-expensive pastime.
And finally, it’s fun training with others. You get to hang with like-minded people and watch good dogs do what they love. What could be better than that? Have I covered all the bases or are there any other good reasons for training with a partner or group?