Study circle gun dog training

We found out that Jessica hade participated in a training group based on the Retrieving for All Occasions Study guide and of course wanted to know more about that – so in this blog post she’ll share her thoughts.

About finding a group of people to train your dog with, and awesome training buddies. This isn’t all that easy when you are new in the gun dog training world. Or any other dog sport for that matter. Have you ever felt like you needed a context, other people, dogs and feedback from other handlers? When talking to trainers who have been in the game for a while, they agree on one thing. Good dog-training friends are priceless.

I cannot be alone in this feeling. You show up to a course, or training with others, and your dog has left 90 % of her brain at home. It was all going so well at home, in the garden, or just you and the dog in the field. Everything worked! But training with 8 other dogs and handlers, in a new environment, this is the training our dogs really need. How do we make it happen?

My name is Jessica and I have been training retrieving for a little over a year. My training buddy Julia and I, eager rookies, are head-over-heels about all things gun dog training related. With our golden retriever boys, we train frequently and coach each other. Although, quite quickly that other dog wasn’t much of a distraction, and we needed more people and dogs to really get the gun dog-training to prepare us for trials, open training sessions and so forth. So, we started searching for a larger training group.

Now, I have to give a certain amount of praise to my friend Julia (aka the project manager) for being the one who did the ground-work in getting the circle started. A few emails and phone calls with the “Study association”, and we were started.

In Sweden we have something called “Studieförbund”, which translates as “non-formal adult education”. Through these associations, anyone can start a “study circle”, for the purpose of, with a group of people, read and train a subject together. All you need is a group of people eager to develop in a skill or hobby, a book and a workbook or study guide.

We chose the book Retrieving for all occasions – for it’ beginner-friendly exercises and the study guide which was used for each training session. The study guide is divided up into 8 chapters, so we decided on 8 training sessions. The participant’s responsibility was to study and read the exercises for each chapter before the sessions, and we would then train together. We would also have a “Swedish fika” (coffee/tea and some cookies) after this, and finish with training whatever the participants wanted to train. This is what’s nice about a study circle, we could follow the study guide but also train what we wanted to.

I would really like to express how awesome it is to start a study circle, with a finished study guide like Elsa and Lena’s. It is such an easy and fun way to, with other dog-training-nerds, evolve and help each other forward. Everyone has their thing they need to work on, and more than often, someone in the group has solved the problem you are sitting with now. A lot around (gun) dog training is not just about teaching the dog, but learning how to teach the dog. In surgery, they talk about the “see one, do one, teach one” learning model. So, learning by seeing, doing and teaching someone else. A study circle is not only great for you and your dog, but also for your development as a dog-trainer. Even if you and your dog already know the exercises for this training session, you will learn simply by helping the others. And, you get new buddies, contacts and a sense of community.

Elsa and Lena’s study guide for their book Retrieving for all occasions was a perfect start for us in the beginning of our training. We even finished our study circle with a “fake trial”, with a judge, shooter and shots, in which we got to see how much each handler and dog had evolved. So, each participant could see just how far they had come in their training. There’s  also a study guide – part 2 – intermediate which can start an entirely new study circle. So, what are you waiting for? Start a study circle!

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