I said That !!

Instructors are the ones on the front line of Dog training. But do you really listen?  I teach at a local college all my students pay  the college to come to my class.  Towards the end of the semester I tell my students that we will be having a special guest soon.   That guest is one of the Dog Obedience teacher at one of the local training schools.  My guest speaker talks to the students about what our class is about. Having a different person say what I have been teaching drives the point home.

Most of the time we don't listen to our parents. BUT let one of our friends tell us what our parents have been saying for years, WOW that friend is so smart.. Same in dog training  I tried for a long time to teach one silly trick to Star, I just could not get it done. Mom told me to think of a different way to teach it 'maybe Star is right handed"  Sure Mom. Several weeks later  I was at an agility event when one of my agility friends was watching me working hard on this one silly trick. He said "try the other foot maybe Star is  right footed". Well Star got it the first time, what a smart friend.

I invite other instructors into the class I teach to give the students a different point of view. Some times we all need a different point of view on dog training. I travel to as many seminars as I can to hear that different point of view and to learn. Seminars are a great place to get that different view . I was attending a Gerrie Brown seminar several years ago near Austin that was about agility. I was new to the game and wanted to learn as much as I could so Star and I could become a better team. I had worked with two obedience trainers in Tyler who stressed the flat work and basic obedience skills. I mostly thought just go fast and run hard that is what agility is about.  Gerrie watched our dogs run a course  then took the dogs performance and our skills apart.   During our time on the course I had a tough time getting Star on the table and 'sit'. We did the course in a good time but we lost precious seconds because of the table.  The first thing Gerrie said to me " you need to work on your flat work and obedience skills". Wow that came from the current AKC world champion and he knew my name.

I came away from that Three day seminar with a new interest in obedience. I took his advise an worked hard on 'sit  down come and stay." The basic of dog training.  My two teachers  back in Tyler were just in shock when I showed up at the next class with a wonderful sit down come and stay.  What was different about our training ; nothing just a different way of saying  the same thing.

When Lucille my rescue border collie came along  I had a good grasp of agility obedience training by this time. She had so many problems from her former life on the streets I spent more time on social skills and focus that   I forgot to give her a good  'sit down come and stay '.  Lucille is fast -super fast- I am talking rocket fast, I had a very tough time controlling her. The speed just seemed to be to much for me. I began to panic became frantic with my handling, and was just over whelmed.

I entered an agility event in Houston with Lucille. I traveled far from my home wanting no one to see me doing my best to control this wild out of control speed freak. Our first course of the day was jumpers with weaves. I was so excited as Lucille had learned the weaves in just three days; and was good at them.  I lined up Lucille for our first ever run in agility Her eyes were as big a softballs My heart was about to pop out of my chest, I walked out to the second jump turned to see Lucille taking the fourth jump  and continuing on the course with out me. She was so fast I had no way to slow her down , Stop her or at least get her attention so I could be part of this team. Finally I caught her in the weaves ,for a moment, then she went over to the side of the course did three jumps that were just leaning against the fencing around the course plus the A frame. Finally I called her and she did the last two jumps to cross the electronic eyes to stop the timer.

That was the longest 17 seconds of my life!

I sat there near the exit gate amazed at the speed, desire, and wondered how am I ever going to control this amazing speed freak.
Over my racing heart pounding pulse I heard this voice " did you forget your sit down stay and come when you trained this dog?" Gerrie Brown was there standing over me like my mom did when I was much younger. He looked down at me an I melted into a pile of rubble knowing I had forgot the most important part of training.

Gerrie said that the next time he saw Lucille and me  I better have a good sit down come and stay.  Couple of months later I saw Gerrie in Monroe Louisiana. I showed him our great sit/stay at the start line, our awesome down on the table, and our come into the Aframe.

Now several years have passed and now  I teach.  I stress those four basic commands. As they are the foundation for all things dog. The speed of Lucille still makes my heart race but I have good flat work that helps me control the speed. I listen and read as much as I can about dog training  go to seminars and travel with both Lucille and Star. Many people ask me  ' how do you get your dogs to do those things" I tell each one you must have the basic skills of 'sit down come and stay' . And the response that I get is 'you know that is what my teacher tells me'

I just said it a different way. Be positive, listen, and train

bill mcfarlin


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Positively Expert: Bill McFarlin

Bill and his dog Star are the National Spokesman for the American Brittany Rescue, and were contestants on the CBS reality show "Greatest American Dog." Bill has been training dogs for over 20 years, and enjoys teaching his dogs sports like agility, herding, and frisbee. He and his wife are active volunteers in the dog rescue community.


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