The Wildrose Training Methodology
As we launch our blog further introduction is in order. This is a getting-to-know-you session on the Wildrose training methodology. Read up, post your questions as comments, and we’ll do our best to answer them.
If you’re new to OutsideK9.com, you’re probably wondering what The Wildrose Way is, and how it’s different from all of the other training methodologies out there. First, you’ve got to understand what my trainers and I aim for in finished dogs, here at our kennels outside of Oxford, Mississippi. When potential clients inquire, the first thing I ask is, What do you want from your dog? Over the years, the answers to that question have gradually focused into two main categories—both companions for a sporting lifestyle.
- The first, we’ve taken to calling the Gentleman’s Gundog. Once finished, these dogs are capable of hunting and retrieving multiple types of game plus serving as a fantastic companion for the family.
- The second, we call The Adventure Dog. These are dogs that will retrieve game but have additional training specific to other activities like boating, biking, skiing, camping, fishing, etc. These are loyal and obedient dogs that complement a family’s sporting lifestyle.
The Wildrose Way, then, is how we get to these two outcomes, which, as it turns out, share a lot in common: Heeling beside a bike is very similar to heeling beside a mounted rider on a quail hunt. Sporting lifestyles place dogs in some of the most demanding and distracting situations for even the best-trained canines. These include working off lead, sometimes at great distances from the handler, and often in the face of enormous enticements like wildlife, hikers, other dogs, and gregarious humans. We’ve tailored our methods specifically to these situations.
There’s a lot of animal psychology out there that relates to dog training, but theories alone don’t add up to an incremental training method that produces finished dogs. The Wildrose Way applies a blend of operant conditioning and pack leadership (the theories) to a series of training drills (the mechanics) and an overarching philosophy for interacting with our dogs to get us to those end points. Our ultimate goal is to help people form strong bonds and greater understanding of the dog for the smart, social animal it is and not the baby in a dog suit it’s so tempting to imagine.
The Wildrose Way avoids the use of force—heavy-handed techniques like toe and ear pinches, heeling sticks, e-collars, and check cords—in favor of positive reinforcement that rewards dogs for correct responses. Positive reinforcement isn’t just less mean from a human point of view, it brings out the natural ability of the dog by encouraging him to offer behaviors without the threat of pain. There’s a time and a place for force, namely as a last resort to stop unsafe behaviors like bolting after wildlife or other dogs, but we believe behaviors are best shaped by consistent reinforcement to the point of habit formation. We structure our relationships with dogs as a pack hierarchy and train owners to do the same.
Our unique drills, exercises, techniques and conditioning are primarily reward-based, all designed to entrench the desirable behaviors and skill sets necessary for control, performance, and civil conduct. We build a strong foundation of obedience—critical for every dog, whether a hunter, service animal, or house pet—and then slowly layer on specialized skills for a wide variety of situations. Follow along, ask any question, and check in often.
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