To train your hunting dog, you must be a leader

Murph looking for leadership

Your hunting dog already knows what to do in the field, but he or she looks to you for leadership.

photo by Paul Fersen

Some of the most interesting things about working with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels—I was taking a dog-training course and writing a book with him at the same time—are the subtleties that are far beyond the actual mechanics of running drills. Perhaps the most important premise (and the thing that most people simple don’t get) is that dog training is more about training yourself how to train the dog.

If you buy a proper and well bred hunting dog, the dog instinctively knows what to do. What is needed is the ability to channel that knowledge into a working relationship with you, the hunter. While the dog is genetically programmed to point or retrieve, you are not genetically designed to train the dog.

The reason many people think training a dog is difficult or fail to get the desired result is that they expect the dog to understand us as humans, as opposed to learning to communicate with the dog in terms he can understand. This is where training yourself is so important.

One of the first things Mike teaches is that dogs are pack animals and respond to pack behavior. Dogs will look for a leader, and if they can’t find one, they will attempt to become one. Until you understand pack behavior and learn to communicate as the leader, through body language and leadership behavior, you are going to have difficulty. Yes, you can simply take the shortcut and zap the dog with a e-collar, and he will respond to avoid the pain But that’s not training; that’s forcing. And as soon as the collar comes off, you have a different dog.

Does this mean you must get on all fours and act like a dog? Of course not. What it means is you need to interact with the dog the ways a pack leader does. You need to learn to lead, and the dog will follow.

There is a great book that Mike recommends called Leader of the Pack by Nancy Baer and Steve Duno. This book is a great way to begin to understand the proper relationship hierarchy that is so critical to getting your dog to respond to you.

One thought on “To train your hunting dog, you must be a leader”

  1. Very much enjoy this – and I can see the “How this relates to humans”.

    My first few days as a “New Physician-like figure at a Multi-specialty physician practice in Houston Texas (long ago)” – I was given a “Medical Assistant”. She had one year of training post high school – I had 13 additional years of education (4 college, 4 medical school, 1 Internship, 3 residency and one fellowship – during all of which of the medical – we lectured and trained each other – the older in the class trained the younger and we cross trained in the specialties).

    I was told she was to “allow me to see a new patient every 20 minutes to 30 minutes and follow ups in 5 to ten minutes”. Although initially – I had negotiated for an hour for new patients and thirty minutes for follow ups when contracted.

    It was a disaster. She did not respond as the people in the 13 years of training. I asked her to stay with me at my side so she could see what was needed. She “got bored” and would leave the exam room – or interrupt to tell the patient “Oh I know what you mean – when my mother says…” – so I could not get signs and symptoms in a timely manner – and would leave the room to answer her cellular phone – then not come back in because she wanted to play on the computer in my office while I “was busy” – and since there were no chairs in the exam room for the physician or the medical assistant – (since we were to hurry hurry hurry as we had HMO contracts as well as other insurances) – one day she just sat on the floor in the exam room.

    I was confused by her behavior. She was clean and friendly and pretty and nicely dressed in the required scrubs.

    I asked her to keep track of the “medication levels” and X-ray tests and other pending lab results – and she did not – even as I showed her how to do so – and when I asked why not – she said “You do it better.” I asked her to…

    It got worse and worse.

    Of course – she was about 19 years old (a young person) and I was not that young.

    Every time I hear that “my mid-level practitioner is so empathetic” – and “Patients prefer mid level practitioners because they have more time to listen” – I just now bite my tongue.

    Because I was sort of replaced by them. They order less tests and are more time effective.

    And most of the “contracts” changed yearly – so not diagnosing an illness until late stages when the patient lost their insurance and was out of the HMO system and insurance system and into the Medicaid or Not Insured category – worked for the work place – that paid the bulk of the premiums.

    Then I was asked to sign the pay requests for reimbursements of a “migraine clinic ran by a physician assistant”. That person was very empathetic – but did not do any examinations and wrote long notes on social problems and ran no tests. She counseled on diets and triggers of migraines and relaxation techniques – but I was taught that if headaches persisted after no response to those things – a full interview and examination and repeat MRI of the brain with and without contrast was to be done.

    So – I ordered all those things. And was criticized because “these are all known old headache patients (not to me! I had only been there six months)” and then given a list of all the MRI tests I had ordered and told I was to (not during my clinic time as I was given no time to actually see these patients since the mid-level was doing that) go through and write on each one why I ordered it “over the weekend.” I got no “compensation for the supervision” because technically it was the “job” of the “head of the department” to supervise the PA. I refused. I was on call in the hospitals for three physicians that weekend (four or five counting me and the part time doctor – and three separate hospitals miles apart from each other) – so I really had no time to write out “how to be a doctor”.

    I quit that system after one year – and when I left – at the “exit interview” – I was criticized for failing to train my medical assistant.

    I said “I was never taught how to train a medical assistant.”

    Seems that they should have already been trained.

    That was my first lesson in the idea that I had no management skills.

    I asked the Multi-Specialty head when I was given the list of MRI tests and first criticized – if I could get some management training so I could someday do his job.

    He said, “No.”

    So – about ten years later – I paid for me myself to get some Physician in Management Training.

    And decided to do anything but be a “technical worker known as a physician” –

    An easy decision as we had essentially been replaced by Medical Assistants and Mid Level practitioners.

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