When we wrote the book “Retrieving for All Occasions” it was very important for us to spread the knowledge that it is possible to do gun dog training with positive reinforcement methods. (With positive dog training we mean that you train your dog without physical and/or verbal corrections that can be perceived as unpleasant for the dog).
We want to continue to spread the knowledge that this is possible, we feel that it is almost a mission for us – to spread the word! That’s why we would like to publish an interview with Eva Bodfäldt who is an excellent instructor and dog trainer and she will answer a couple of questions and give you a couple of tips about gun dog training. Enjoy!
Name: Eva Bodfäldt
Lives in: Stockholm, Sweden
Experiences with dogs: I have worked with dogs since 1982. Three Obedience Trial Championships, a FCI World Championship 2015 for tracking, two dogs in elite class for searching, two Swedish Championships in obedience, one World Cup in obedience, three dogs in elite class cold game field trials, one rescue dog. I was educated by Anders Hallgren at Stora Sofielunds Dog School.
Company: I run the company Eva Bodfäldt Education AB in which I focus on the interaction between human and dog. I have classes for dog owners at all different levels, from ordinary dog owners, handlers who compete at various levels, and hunters to service dog handlers.
Dog now: Zakk, a six-year old Labrador. Elite class cold game field trial, practical hunting, and elite class tracking.
Why do you do gun dog work?
I love the dynamics and fascination of cooperating with Zakk during non-specific conditions. This puts high demands on me as a handler, which is both terrifying and pleasant. The balance between an independently working dog, who at the same time is ready to be guided by me at all times, is a constant source of self-reflection and reassessment.
What is the philosophy behind your training method?
I have described my philosophy in my book “Follow me”. The book is the basis for everything that I do in everyday life, as well as when I train tracking, obedience, and gun dog work. It is important for me to focus on three things when I build a relationship with my dog: that the dog wants to follow me, passivity training, and the feeling – both the way my dog feels and how I feel. Often our feeling is more important than the method of training when it comes to if the training will be pleasant or unpleasant. All methods can be perceived as aversive depending on how we feel that day.
Why do you train the way you do?
Because that way I maintain my joy and enthusiasm, year in and year out. I want to be happy about the teamwork I have with my dog!
Are there any disadvantages?
Oh! That is a difficult question. Not for me personally because this type of training is a part of me. Perhaps it can sometimes be difficult because of the pedagogical structure, but it usually resolves itself when the results become visible to the dog owner.
What role models or sources of inspiration do you have?
I have great respect for people who are passionate about what they do and believe in it, but at the same time are not dogmatic, and generally I prefer people who are more interested in questions than answers.
How do you regulate your dogs level of arousal in your training?
The answer to that question is: How do I control my own level of stress?
But the answer is also to have balance in my training schedule. We never turn away from something but rather turn to something. That is my basic idea to avoid incorrect levels of activity. I am also aware of my own feelings when Zakk is near me.
If you are only allowed to choose one thing that you think is most important to train in order to get a dog to perform great in field trials or in the gun dog work, what is that? (What is on the top of your list?)
Thank you very much for this interview, Eva! Good luck with all training and trials in the future.
We hope that many of you have been inspired by the interview with Eva. We will continue to interview interesting dog trainers. Tell us if you would like to know more about somebody.