Nov 12, 2018

Lessons from the Whitetail

The patience of deer teach us that time is an ethereal bitch, even when training our bitches to retrieve our dinner

By Jeremy Moore

If you’re anything like me, you spend as much time in the woods as you can get away with once fall arrives. Likewise, if you’re anything like me, you may find yourself in a tree with a lot of time on your hands to think about strange things.

I’ll be the first to admit I really cherish those opportunities to reflect. It gives me a chance to slow down, escape from all other distractions, and observe what otherwise can be overlooked in daily life as routine.

I’m reminded every year, typically after my first few encounters with deer, is that a whitetail has no measurable time constraints in the sense that we do. That is, they don’t set appointments based on a clock. They certainly don’t have to be to a specific place at a specific time to make a conference call or get to an appointment.

There are instances where one deer may come down a trail at a blistering pace and pass your location in a matter of moments. Other times I’ve seen deer work through a section of woods at a snail’s pace. Browsing or milling around cautiously, slow, steady steps over long durations of time and piercing stares at seemingly nothing before making their next move. It’s a trait of whitetail deer that has impressed me since I was very young – just how unbelievably patient they can be. Then again, what’s their rush, right?

Taking time with dogs

How does this relate to a dog trainer? Good handlers have the foresight to see the process of training a dog is just that, a process. The fact is, there are no deadlines or time restraints that dictate the steps involved.

I’m privileges to have worked with some great dogs over the years, and a few in particular stand out in recent memory. Tailer, who is the official mascot of Whitetails Unlimited – happens to be one of our personal family dogs. She is now a little over 5 years old and an efficient all-around game finder.

Tailer has proven herself as a “deer dog” hunting sheds for us now through several spring seasons and has also recovered numerous deer throughout the last several bow seasons. She has excelled in flushing and retrieving everything from grouse and woodcock to doves and wood ducks, and in her free time she’s working with kids at a local school as a therapy dog. Quite the resume for her to date.

However, as her trainer I realize there is no point where we will ever consider her training finished as it relates to improvement possibilities. Her training is a journey that continues without end.

Another dog worth mentioning is another one of our personal family dogs named Spry. Spry made herself well known after she became the focal point of a YouTube series called Live with Spry.

What started out as simply documenting a 7-week-old pup’s first time place training soon turned into a raw and unedited series of live recorded training videos on our @dogbonehunter Facebook platform. To date, there are more than 125 videos. We show the good, the bad, and the ugly in this series, and the ugly was what most people appreciated and gained the most from.

As an example of why I think it’s not important to worry about time is that it took us until Spry was over 8 months old to simply get a retrieve out of her. A lot of folks would have given up on her long before that point. If you want to see some frustration, just scroll through some of those Live with Spry videos.

After all that, could you guess what made it click with her? The answer is time – she grew up a little and I stopped worrying about it. Instead, we focused on other things until she decided the timing was right.

Cantankerous amalgamation

I think it’s all too common in today’s world to assess and measure accomplishment as it relates to time. I regularly hear comments or am asked questions about training progress based solely on a dog’s age or how many weeks they have been working on a particular skill set.

Why is this? There are lots of places to send dogs for professional training and they are typically set up and billed based on time. Three-month programs, six-month programs, 12-month programs … all defined by a list of results your dog will supposedly achieve upon completion.

I understand it’s a way to structure sales for a training kennel, but the reality is that there’s no way to ensure all dogs will progress at the same pace.

I personally train a limited number of dogs each year here at DogBone, and time is the reason for everything we do. The difference is that time – as a measurement of duration in training – does not exist. When we train a dog, it goes home to its new owners when they, the dog and I are all ready.

Over the years, we’ve used different platforms to document our training processes. With Tailer’s training, I wrote many articles for Whitetails Unlimited Magazine, and we recorded a series of training segments called Developing Your Deer Dog for North American Whitetail TV. Spry’s training has been documented candidly, and as I mentioned earlier, the mistakes have proven to be some of the most valuable lessons.

So please don’t think your dog needs to be a mirror image as far as progress. Instead, take the approach that your training journey is unique to you and your dog, and that as long as the progress continues to move forward, you will get there in the end. That’s really what matters.

My hope is that you’ll take time out of the equation when it comes to you and your dog. Instead, I hope you start enjoying the process itself rather than the end result. Great trainers realize the value and importance of patience and forget about idea of time.

Best of luck this season!

Jeremy Moore has trained dogs for more than 15 years. His approach to training is to maximize a dog’s potential without using force and bring out their natural abilities. He created the DogBone training products line, which is designed to allow all dog owners to successfully train their own dog by combining the right tools with the information to put those tools to use. Visit www.dogbonehunter or FB, IG, Twitter and YouTube @dogbonehunter for more information.