When Tassla was a puppy, I didn’t know much about hunting with a spaniel. I was completely wrapped up in competitive obedience with a growing interest in hunting, but I had no idea of which qualities or foundation skills I wanted in a hunting dog. However, Tassla was amazing. She was smart, fast and a dream to work with – such a little perfect dream baby. Reaching champion class in obedience a couple of years later, my interest in hunting had taken over and I no longer had the inclination to train obedience to degree that I needed to make a real go of it.
My knowledge base was a lot bigger when Quling was a puppy. I could recognize stuff that I liked or that I didn’t appreciate fairly early on. And I worked quite a bit with skills that I knew that a bird dog of spaniel kind would need. We were delayed in our work since we had a turbulent first year and Quling was also ill for quite a bit.
As Flippa has joined our family, I know pretty well what I like and what I want and need, in order for her to become a hunting dog. And almost everything is just coming along so easily. She’s got so many innate qualities that are easy to capture – as in reward – and then she’s just got it. She learns everything at lightning speed.
Take for example the stop whistle. I tried blowing a stop when she was quite close to me, and she immediately pulled up and looked at me. I rewarded this a couple of times out on our walks, and then tried it in a training situation. And yes, the puppy managed to sit down at the stop whistle at 10 yards distance, without me having to pair the whistle to the behavior or introduced distance. Wow!
This all sounds well and good. But there’s one drawback. Since there hasn’t been any foundation training of the skill in question, there’s nothing to fall back on. Should we run into trouble one day, there is no foundation, no building blocks that have built the behavior step by step. No parts to split the behavior into, parts that you can work on should the behavior need some fixing.
So, after having been very pleased with how easy everything is with Flippa, I’ve had to begin working on some foundation skills. My entire training system will collapse without them. What would I do if something went wrong, when I don’t have any building blocks to return to? Being a reinforcement-based trainer, I need specific behaviors to reinforce. And there’s usually always at least one part of the behavior that can be strengthened and developed in order to get a solid finished goal behavior.
No, I don’t think there is such a thing as too easy 😉 . But there is such a thing as too fast! Fast and in the long run, unhelpful. And I actually really enjoy working with foundation skills, so now I’m going to teach Flippa the stop whistle, starting at the beginning, even if it feels a bit odd to work in the reverse order. But that truly is just a luxurious problem to have to deal with! 😉