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PICKING A PRO - PART 1 Picking a Pro

In May of 1999, my Labrador Retriever, Zowie, and I ran our first derby together. Four years later, we were finalists at the 2003 National Amateur Retriever Championship in McCall, Idaho.

People often ask me how it is that I was able to accomplish so much in so little time. My answer: 1) a wonderful dog; 2) hard work, and; 3) a terrific professional trainer.

The first is a matter of grace. The second is up to the you. The third? In many ways, it is also a matter of hard work - in deciding what you need, finding the right person to fit your needs, and then working with that person to become a good handler and trainer yourself.

Here are my thoughts on finding the right pro for you.

Decide what you want.

Many people come to a pro without a clear idea of what it is that they want. The first thing you need to do is decide what you want.

Do you want a pro that will train your dog for - Hunting? Hunt Tests? Field Trials?

Very few professionals do all three. Many pros will train dogs for both hunting and hunt tests. However, those pros who train field trial dogs, often do so exclusively. Consequently, what you intend to do with your dog will influence who you should hire to be your pro. For example, I have no doubt that Mike Lardy would be an excellent trainer of dogs for hunt tests. However, that is not what he has chosen to do. Mike wants to train dogs for field trials. If you want to get your dog trained for the Master National, Mike is probably not the right trainer for you.

In addition, you need to ask yourself how much instruction you want from your pro. If you want your dog trained for Hunt Tests or Field Trials and have no intention of ever running your dogs, then it really doesn’t matter how good the pro is at teaching humans. All that matters is that the pro is good at teaching the dogs.

On the other hand, if you intend on training and handling the dog yourself in the field, at a hunt test, or at a field trial - as most of us do - then you need to assess the pro’s skill not only at teaching dogs, but also at teaching humans. I have heard many pros say “It’s easy to train the dogs, it’s training the handlers that’s difficult.” Well, I would add as a counterpoint “It’s easy to find a pro that is good at training dogs, it’s difficult to find a pro that is good at training handlers.” Again, consider Mike Lardy. The National Opens that Mike has won attest to his skills as a trainer and handler. However, I am more impressed with the success Mike’s clients have had. To me, that is a testament to his skill at teaching dog and handler.

Let’s assume that you want to learn how to train and handle your dogs in Field Trials. How do you go about finding the right pro for you?

Location, Location, Location

There is no getting around one simple truth - no one becomes a good trainer (or handler) without a lot of time in the saddle. Nothing beats the experience of experience. If you want to become a good trainer or handler, you are going to need to spend a lot of time with your pro. This means that your pro needs to be close enough to your home to allow you to spend the time with your pro that is necessary for you to improve your skills. This distance varies between individuals. The question you need to ask is this - is the pro close enough to me that I will train with the pro on a regular basis?

Location is also important because good dog training requires good training grounds. When you are considering different pros for your dog, make sure that you are also evaluating the training grounds that they use. The pro you want will have variety of different land - and mostly importantly, water, available. A pro with limited land and water may be limited in what he can teach you and your dogs.

Messy Desk, Messy Mind

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Block, used to say “Messy Desk, Messy Mind.” For one reason or another, that saying has stuck with me.

One thing I always notice about a pro is whether his or her facility and truck are clean. Are the kennels clean? Are the runs washed off daily? Is the water in the runs fresh? What about the dog truck? Are the holes in the truck clean? Or does the truck have the lingering odor of stale urine and feces? The kennel facilities and dog truck do not need to be brand new. However, for the comfort and health of your dog, they do need to be clean.

Moreover, and this is strictly my opinion, a pro who does not keep his kennels and truck clean lacks a certain pride in his product. I wouldn’t hire someone like that.

Ted, your web site is extraordinary, IMHO. I have been very pleased to see an excellent product such as this, which has been produced by yourself and Kristie. How can I get ahold of Kristie, I need a website of this caliber for my training business. Again, this site is most impressive. Matt P.S. If you are ever trialing out my way, feel free to stop and air dogs, or whatever. No need to call, just show up.
Matt Erkert (Email) - 16 02 05 - 09:19

Matt, I totally agree with you. Kristie and Ted have done a fabulous job and Ted’s consistent additions are interesting and entertaining. ;)
Vickie Lamb (Email) - 19 02 05 - 17:23

Good site. Congratulations.
Peter (Email) (URL) - 14 05 06 - 14:03

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