• Oliver Ringrose

What the Vizsla taught me

What the Vizsla taught me

I’m pretty young in the world of Vizslas, my oldest is approaching 13yrs old my youngest is just over 2 now and they are both Wire Haired Vizslas which are a different breed to the smooths but they do share a few similarities.

That said I was born into a multi animal household but until I got my first wire I did not train the dogs as I do now.

Interestingly I had a different approach with our horses and cows, large animals that are well capable of swatting the teenage me, I approached them with far more respect than I did the dogs I lived and worked with.

Well Briar took me to school all those years ago, as an adolescent dog we spent a couple of years struggling with his behaviour, instead of working with him I used my tried and tested pressure approach and tried to exert my control over him to which he rebelled, it didn’t help it made things worse and I remember one day trying to push too hard and he stood up for himself, he gave me a look I am familiar with because I used to train utilizing aversive methods, that look meant stop or I will stop you and it has the potential to destroy everything and diminish that final thread of trust your dog has in you.

I did not get a dog to have a battle with it daily, there had to be a better way and there is with positive reinforcement training, but its not easy, it can look easy but really it isn`t because it requires a totally different approach and whole new mindset, it requires us as humans to manage our expectations and our patience and to understand there is no short cut, before we train we need to understand the dogs we work with and build a relationship of trust with them, we need to understand that every behaviour has a purpose to our dogs.

The hardest part (possibly) is to analyse our own behaviour and to accept coaching from people that think very differently to the old standards of dog training, the two schools are vastly different and it’s not enough to sit in the middle ground, you have to make a commitment to yourself and to your animals not to give up and except that often we will not target the dog with coaching but we might target you on how to coach your dog.

Its hard for humans to do that while staying relaxed and fluid I’ve worked with some interesting dogs and each one is a joy to me but not always to their owner but that is the first thing that needs to change before they can move forward.

You have to learn to be observant, to get your timing right, to understand what you’re training and be adaptable, you have to understand that failure is never failure, its information to use for your next attempt and if something doesn`t work don`t be afraid to change it.

Don`t think you can just throw treats at a problem and all will be well, reinforcement is far more than that, it took me one vizsla to work out that training methods we use need to be taught before we can use them properly and that the foundations we set are the most important behaviours we will ever teach so they must be taught well and we should not reach for the fancy stuff to soon.

I already knew emotions could be tag along with behaviour but I learned that they are just as important in the eustress side to the dark side of distress that I had previously been taught to take advantage of, set good foundations and build from them and understand behaviour is more than what something looks like.

You must learn to enjoy your dog’s whomever they are, dogs are here to make our lives better it’s always been their sole purpose to us, enrich theirs and they will enrich yours. They may be challenging at times, but they do not do these things out of spite, they are eternal children.

We must commit to practicing, a skill cannot be developed unless it is practiced, we should push past the edges of what we can already achieve and understand we get out what we put in.

We must commit to managing our lifestyles for the need of our animals, it takes a vizsla roughly 3yrs to mature, in that period there can be some challenging times, let us not pick battles with them and set each other up to fail but choose the environments and challenges we put them through wisely.

We must commit to understanding dog are not people, our world is not self-explanatory and we cannot place human expectation upon them, they are remarkably adaptable animals but they have limits.

We must learn to split our attention and always keep a “virtual” connection with your dogs, they don`t just go into standby mode when you stop to chat!

Even the wisest dog trainer can get a dog that challenges them and it that we must commit to ask for help when we need it.

One of the ways I changed to help me to squash my bad habits I had learned, is to use how I interact with humans to how I interact with dogs, I converse with them, every cue is a question, I acknowledge their attention when they offer it, they have the power to get me to behave when they need me to and start the conversation, conversation works both ways.

But importantly you are asking your dog if it can do something rather than telling it to, this is why we cue behaviour and we don’t command it. The response is always important, but it guides us, it doesn`t make us angry.

  • It used to be that your dog earned your trust, its now very much you earn the dogs trust, and you must deserve it, and you treat that with the utmost respect.

  • · It used to be that we took control but now we look to how we can we give our dogs some control?

  • · It used to be they do as you commanded but now we ask, can you achieve what I ask and if not what can I do to help?

  • · It used to be stubborn, stupid, head strong, now it is why not, what can we change, where am I going wrong?

  • · It used to be don`t do that, now it’s what can I give you to do instead.

  • · It used to be “do this and do that, no, now and why!” now we know it pays sometimes to step back and look from another perspective.

  • · Its used to be dogs in general, now it is this dog, this individual, this emotional being we choose to live with.

You are a partnership, a tour guide through our human life, your responsibility Is to protect and provide, to explain and to educate, to be everything your dog would like and needs you to be.

Together you can achieve great things.

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