Whose Job is it, the Breeder's, Yours, or the Trainer's?

By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs

The dog has both inherited and acquired traits. Inherent traits are the breeder's job. That's what you are paying for when you purchase a pup. Acquired traits are the trainer's job. It is the trainer's responsibility to develop the dog to its fullest potential. But why does it take longer for the same trainer to develop desirable working habits in one dog than it does to train another? Usually it depends on the genetic makeup of the dog or certain inherited traits.

Good inherited traits are the breeder's job. We know that not all dogs are created equal, not all can become champions, but good breeders are always trying to improve their stock. They want to provide their puppy buyers with the best inherited qualities possible.

There are four inherited qualities that you want bundled into the genetic make-up of that cute pup you just bought:

  1. Physical soundness
  2. Desire
  3. Willing Temperament
  4. Intelligence

Physical soundness includes all the desirable physical traits we want in our bird dog and is often referred to as functional conformation. Good functional conformation includes such qualities as good feet and running gear. For example, a bird dog should have feet more like a coyote instead of a Labrador retriever. One set of feet is designed to excel at running and the other at swimming. Without feet for running the dog will sore up or jam toes and will not be able to work two days in a row. Physical soundness also includes the endurance to do the job he was bred for, good nose, eyes and a proper coat for the breed and work he is intended to do.

Desire in a bird dog is that inherited "birdiness" we all want. That inner urge to go find birds and the instinctive tendency to point. It just is not fun to try and train a dog that does not want to hunt and has no instinct to find birds

Willing temperament addresses the attitude of the dog. Is he tractable and willing to be compliant to you? Will he willingly obey when he understands what it is that you want instead of being resentful about what he is being told to do? Bird dogs are naturally more independent than close working retrievers and spaniels after all they are supposed to go out and find birds. But if they have no desire to work with you training will be a constant battle.

Intelligence in a dog is the ability to learn lessons with minimal repetition and the ability to remember the lesson without undo maintenance. A dog that does not have average intelligence will take the trainer much longer to train than the other dogs he is working (if it can be done at all).

The breeder will also start the pup out right by socializing it with people. So when you get the pup don't put it in a kennel for six to twelve months and expect it to reach its full potential. Incarceration is not a good start in life. No matter how good the genetics such a start may keep him from ever reaching his full potential.

It is important to continue with the dog's education by getting him out into the field to learn about the "hunting environment" and of course to look to you as a leader. Working with the young pup will continue to develop the inherited traits that you spent good money on, especially where tractability, intelligence and desire are concerned.

Acquired traits are those that the dog learns. Whether you do the training or a professional trains the dog for you, it is the "trainer's" responsibility to finish developing the dog to his full potential. The trainer will teach the dog to come when called, hunt at the desired distance and pattern, not crowd birds, be steady to wing and shot, honor and to retrieve (if desired). If the breeder, you and the trainer have all done their job, you should have many hours of enjoyment in the field with your dog.

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Dobbs Training Center
9627 Spring Valley Road
Marysville, CA 95901
(530) 741-0375 - FAX (530) 741-0242