Most of my experiences with bird dog trainers are their limited knowledge regarding new methods of training. Their training methods were handed down from previous trainers or their family which are considered by many as being cruel and producing a dog that performs out of fear.
The most effective upcoming approaches provide a positive relationship with their dog through a positive reinforcement reward system. A positive approach produces a good relationship with their dog: a dog that is eager to please their master and learns behaviors with amazing speed.
Positive principles of learning theory have been around since the beginning of mammals.
However, these approaches have only been understood and applied in a scientific method since the beginning of Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning and B.F. Skinners’ Operant Conditioning.
In 1985, Karen Pryor and Gary Wilkes developed the “Click and Treat” method of training animals. This positive method of training uses learning principles of Classical and Operant conditioning. The use of this training method develops a clear communication with the animal about what is expected of them. When an animal precisely understands what is expected and appropriate positive reinforcement is provided, then the learning time is greatly reduced. This method can be applied as early as 12 weeks of age with dogs.
The use of Click and Treat has proven to produce very precise and reliable behavior in all types of animals. These include behaviors with marine animals being trained to perform amazing tricks, work dogs to help the disable, law enforcement dogs sniff out drugs, perform search and rescue missions and detect diseases in people. Currently, there is only a hand full of people realizing these training methods can also be applied to gun dogs with tremendous success. I am one of those few that have been successful in applying the Positive Approach of Click and Treat in the field with bird dogs.
Dr. Dale Hubbard, Ph.D. – Animal Behavioral Specialist