Last weekend Patty and I were fortunate to be able to attend a Hunt Smith Foundation Level training seminar at Quail Point Hunt Club here in Northern California. Rick Smith brings decades of experience with thousands of dogs when he visits from his home base in Virginia. It is a pleasure watching him read and handle dogs. Of course Rick is adept at reading and handling the owners too.
A weekend seminar with HuntSmith typically starts with a welcome dinner on Friday night followed by two full days of hands-on training. In the morning, the first step is getting the dogs to accept their time on “the chain gang.” The more experienced dogs just lay down and wait while the pups often fluctuate between youthful exuberance and puppy pouting. It always amazes me that what starts as a loud and ruckus throng ends up as an orderly line of quiet students.
Rick’s seminars are aimed at hunting dogs and primarily, although not exclusively, at upland hunting dogs. There are typically a lot of Pointers, GSPs and Brittanys along with a few Setters, Wirehairs, Pudelpointers and this year, three Drahthaars.
All of the owners learn from working their own dogs. But there is a lot of additional value in watching 20 to 30 other dogs and owners going through their paces. Every dog is a little different but even a novice trainer like me begins to recognize common behaviors.
By Sunday afternoon we were all suffering from information overload. I was looking for a few simple rules to hang on to and Rick obliged. He always preaches calmness and never lets anger be part of any training session. He simplifies every complicated hunting problem and goes back to basics and foundation level behavior training for solutions.
But this year, for me, the most important take-away was his call for consistency and follow through. In a weekend session we might repeat an exercise with our dogs a handful of times. Rick would often exhort us this way. “You can already see the behavior changes after we’ve done it only a few times. Imagine the results if you repeat this every day for a year.”
Rick’s seminar calendar along with products and training tips (from a real professional) are all at the HuntSmith web page.