The Importance of Intelligent Disobedience in Task Focused Activities

If you ask trainers what dog and handler teams make the best teams in sport/scent activities (scent detection, nose work, gun dog work), it is often not the high scoring obedience teams, the dogs who never take their eyes off their handler, or the dogs that look to their handlers for direction.  Are these teams successful, most definitely.  Are there other teams that seem to pick it up faster?  The most usual answer is yes.  You see dogs that have a long history of not looking to their handlers for inspiration (I’m avoiding saying a long history of disobeying their handlers), are not afraid to think for themselves, and are not afraid to use their nose despite what their handler tells them.

 

Here’s the next thing to remember, handlers and trainers are human sometimes make mistakes, and in gun dog work, birds don’t always follow the training plan.  I have forgotten where I have planted a hide and on more than one occasion, a dog has found it in a different location than I thought it was planted.  I have seen birds planted that got up and moved, or buried themselves so deep that they would not flush.  If the dog was afraid to disobey me, there is a big risk that I would end up with a false alert or point, or worse a “blink” (dog avoids the area completely and pretends it doesn’t exist).

My best advice is this, your dog has the expert nose, not you.  If a dog false alerts, or does not follow your search pattern the way you want it, let your dog lead, and do not punish it.  There is only one thing that will pay and that is scent (or a bird).  In a blind search (or hunt), you are dependant entirely on your dog telling you where scent is.  If your dog is so focused on pleasing you and is afraid to make a mistake, they will give you the alert you want, but it might not be correct.  Let your dog disobey you and obey their nose. Celebrate when your dog does not follow your direction and makes a choice for themselves.  If they get it wrong, they just don’t get paid, but they did learn something (even if it is that their handler’s body language is not to be trusted.

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