If you're anything like me, you spend as much time in the woods as you can get away with once the fall arrives. Likewise, if you're anything like me you may find yourself in a tree with a LOT of time on your hands to think about strange things? I'll be the first person to admit that I really cherish those opportunities to reflect on things. It gives me a chance to slow down, escape from all other distractions, and observe what otherwise can be overlooked in daily life and routine.
One of these things that I am reminded of every year, typically after my first few encounters with deer, is the fact that a whitetail has no measurable time constraints in the sense that we have become accustomed to. That is, they don't set appointments based on a clock. They certainly don't have to be to a specific place at a specific time to make a conference call or get to an appointment. There are instances where one deer may come down a trail at a blistering pace and be past your location in a matter of moments. At other times I've seen deer work through a section of woods at a snails pace. Browsing or milling around cautiously and literally step by step with long durations of time and seemingly piercing stares at "nothing" before making their next move. It's something about a whitetail deer that has impressed me since I was very young...how unbelievably PATIENT they can be. But then again, what's their rush, right?
How does this relate to a dog trainer? It's easy and rather simple to understand, once I took the time to realize it myself. Good dog trainers have the foresight to see that the process of training a dog is just that, a process. And the fact is, there are no "deadlines" or time restraints that dictate the steps involved. I have had the privilege to work with some great dogs over the years and one in particular, Whitetails Unlimited's official Mascot "Tailer" is shaping up to be just that. She is now a little over two years old and what I would call a very efficient game finder. She's proven herself as a "Deer Dog" hunting sheds for us now through two full spring seasons and has also recovered numerous deer in back-to-back bow seasons. She has excelled in flushing and retrieving everything from grouse and woodcock to doves and wood ducks, and in her "free time" she's working with kids at a local school as a therapy dog. Quite the resume' for her to date, however, as her trainer I realize there is, and will be, no point in her training where we will call her "finished" or completed as far as improvement possibilities. Her training will be a journey that continues without end.
I think that it is all too common in today's world to assess and base measurement of accomplishment as it relates to time. I regularly hear comments or am asked questions about training progress based solely on their dogs age or how many weeks they have been working on a particular skill set. Why is this? There are lots of places to send dogs to for professional training and they are typically set up and billed based on time. Three-month programs, six-month programs, 12-month programs etc....all defined by a list of "things" your dog will supposedly be capable of doing upon completion. I understand that this is a way to structure or package sales for a kennel, but the reality is that there is no way to ensure that all dogs will progress at the same pace or sequence. I personally train a limited number of dogs for clients each year here at DogBone and "time" is the reason for everything we do. The difference is that "time" as a measurement of duration in training does not exist. When we train a dog, it goes home to its new owners when they, the dog, and I are all ready for it. It might be anywhere from 12-24 months depending on how things go, but there I go again talking about measurable durations of time. Forget about that last sentence...they go home when we're all ready.
If you have followed along with WTU Tailer's training at home any of the articles in WTU magazine or on our television segment "Developing Your Deer Dog" on North American Whitetail TV, please don't think that your dog needs to, or even should be a mirrored image as far as progress. Instead, take the approach that your training journey is unique to you and your dog, and that as long as the progress continues to move forward, you will get there in the end...and that's really what matters. The great trainers realize the value and importance of PATIENCE and seemingly forget about idea of time when it comes to working with their dogs.
From both WTU Tailer and I, best of luck in the woods! -Jeremy Moore