NAVHDA   Toronto Chapter


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New to NAVHDA?

So you decided to join NAVHDA but do not know what to expect. I went through this experience in 2011, my first year. In January at Sunderland my husband and I went to the Annual general meeting. We met several people who were welcoming and friendly. We met a few that were difficult to get to know. All of the members are very wonderful people. We went to the Valentines dance that our club holds yearly and still had not really made any true connections. Training was not offered as all of these members were experienced. Our second year we were uncertain but chose to renew our membership and being as vocal as I am raised a few of the issues I felt were of concern to new members. I am now in my 3rd year with our Chapter and have become the treasurer. A lot has changed within our club and we now offer training, we have a group of dedicated individuals who are willing and more importantly able to advise and assist with understanding your training and dog. We are first and foremost a Club that is here to support NAVHDA whose purpose is to foster, promote, and improve the versatile hunting dog breeds in North America; to conserve game by using well trained reliable hunting dogs on both land and water; and to aid in the prevention of cruelty to animals by discouraging nonselective and uncontrolled breeding, which produces unwanted and uncared for dogs.


As a newer member and breeder who promotes NAVHDA as part of the hunting dog training experience, it dawned upon me that new members might not know the goals, what they can achieve or what they can do during a training day. This would be the advice I would give to a new member:


Things to bring to a training day:


- checkcord (if you don’t have one please ask we can advise you on where to purchase this)

- choke collar

- chair

- appropriate attire for the weather (orange vest etc.. for you and your dog depending on the level your dog is at)

- drinking water for you and your dog

- insect repellant

- an open mind, a willingness to learn, and questions about the training methods.


In addition, if you would like to obtain the "Green Book" (NAVHDA training guide), we will be glad to get one for you.



Tips for the new trainer

Ask questions:


There are no dumb questions!

Asking people with the experience can help you out with ways you had not conceived. Every dog has it own personality and will require some training differences. The basics are the same but the approach may be different. Getting a few different viewpoints will give a trainer different options or techniques that maybe suited to his/her dog. The many times when I have asked questions I was left saying to myself, “That is so simple, I did not even think of that.”


Simple tips like whoaing the dog before you feed them or putting them in “down” with a t-shirt that you have worn and walking into other rooms, gradually increasing your dog’s steadiness while you are gone.


(Honestly the T-shirt idea is great. It allows the dog to know you are there but not there. It will give your dog comfort and will lessen the amount of times you will need to do this…keep early sessions short and increase the time as the dog is successful.)



Ask the handlers to walk behind in the gallery to watch how they handle their dog:


Experiencing and seeing how different handlers work a dog can give ideas of how to work your dog. Also, you will see firsthand different training philosophies and styles. Sometimes there are little tips you will pick up on that the handler/trainer has now taken for granted and has forgotten they are doing it… ask if you are unsure if these things you notice are deliberate. You will be surprised, as this will help both of you to recognize and learn.


Get involved during the training day:


This is crucial for a new member because you are showing an enthusiasm to learn and help out. This could involve learning how to plant birds or drags, planting birds, being a gunner, or anything else the handler could need during his training time. We have all done this and it is a great way to show how appreciative you are for the time these people are donating. Trainers are unpaid and have finished dogs and are taking time and gas money to help you.


Keeping an open mind:


You will find out that there are many styles of training a dog. You will need to know what your style is and what works best for training your dog. The forced fetch (also known as the Trained Retrieve) is one thing that some people will do and others will not. I felt that force breaking the dog helped my training the first year. The Force Fetch has many different methods if you are uncomfortable with how it is approached and will not be able to follow through, ask if there is something else you can try instead.  There are always alternative methods.   


Keep up with the training at home:


This is probably the most important because if your dog is not being cooperative at home then they may not be successful in the field. Working with your dog 10 minutes at a time, twice a day will impact your dog training dramatically. My dog looks forward to this everyday. She knows when I put on my boots or grab certain training aids, what is about to take place. They aim to please. This is also important because as you train you will find that there may be subtleties you have missed and things are not going as expected.  Don’t get frustrated! Instead, just move onto something that is successful and ask at the next training day or if needed call one of the members you are forming a relationship with. This is a club of hunters and dog people; we have a lot in common.


Turn your back when the dog is going on the retrieve while out with different handlers:


The dog may come to you if you are facing the dog or to close to the handler while helping out in the field.


Reading your dog:


This can be hard for a new person, especially for me, but knowing when your dog is picking up scent is important. This way you can get ready for whatever your next step in training is like grabbing the check cord on point, whoaing the dog, or any other steps that may need to be worked on.  Note: a dog may pick up a scent and then stop briefly move his head around and refocus on the scent cone.  Be alert for this and let him move in to where he knows the scent is. This is not creeping, but is the first sign that the dog is in the scent cone. 


Expect to make strides in the training but also expect to have set backs:

If you take 2 steps forward, you can expect to also take a step back at some point. Reinforce what types of things you have done in the past but keep pushing your dog when you are training. Expect your dog and you to make mistakes. Training is learning how to do something and learning to correct the mistake. Many of us hear that something is handler error; this is not a put down or to make someone feel bad.  It is so we can recognize that the dog is reacting to something that we did inadvertently. Accept this as constructive, correct it and move on.


Being consistent:


Whether you are training at home or the field, be consistent in your training. This will help you and your dog out while training. Your dog will pick up on the way you handle them.


Do not train mad:


I have seen this happen to the best handlers and have even done it myself. You are not thinking and you maybe the one making the mistake. What I have done when I get mad during training is put the dog up in their crate and come back to them later on in the training day. This way I can think about what went on and ask other people their advice on what to do in the situation. If you are able to, try to do something successful that the dog knows well and end on a positive note. A dog will remember the last thing that happened and you would prefer it not be a negative. You are working on building a companion, a hunting buddy that will never say he is too busy to hunt.  We don’t like to be around people who make us feel bad and dogs are no different.


End your training on a good note with the dog. Keep training positive:


Remember to always end your training sessions at home on a positive note.  Make sure the dog has done something correctly before calling it quits.  If the dog can’t get something right and you want to quit for the day, ask him to do something you know he or she is capable of.  Praise them for a job well done and maybe even throw their favorite toy to reward them.  This will keep your dog on track and wanting more. 


Whether the member is twelve or fifty, this will give you some basic information to get started. This method gave me a better understanding of how to train successfully. There are many resources at every NAVHDA Chapter. The worst thing to do is waste all that knowledge. Everyone is there to help out since we are one big NAVHDA FAMILY!