Regardless of how hard we try to teach each exercise correctly, mistakes will happen, and the dog may develop some peculiar habit which will lose points or cause him to NQ. By the time we get in the ring, the dog has undergone many hours of training, and this bad habit has become well entrenched. The dog does this possibly without really being aware of his error. We see the same situation in tennis or golf when we have developed a fault in a serve or drive. It has become a habit and something that has to be concentrated upon in order to correct.
When trying to correct these problems, we must remember that the dog has been doing this for a long time and will not be doing it correctly after only one or two training sessions. If the dog has a poor sit-front or finish, design an exercise which will isolate the problem and begin correcting it. Reward the position you want and ignore those that don’t measure up. Make your reward meaningful to the dog so that many repetitions can be done before the dog tires. Initially, you may have to accept a somewhat less than perfect performance, but gradually increase your standards.
Finally, don’t combine your problem area with the total exercise until you are getting a steady performance from the dog. This may mean several days of doing nothing but your improving exercises if you are having problems with a sit-front. You may find that the dog will do fine on these, but when combined with a recall, he does poorly. An alternative is to break the exercise off with praise before he must sit-front. This could have the added advantage of speeding up recalls and retrieves.
Problems are neither created nor solved over night. If we keep this in mind when we try to solve and correct them, our success is much more certain.
©1980 W. H. Morrison, III