Training Methods and Physical Tools

There is a host of information out there, especially now thanks to the internet. This provides a double edged sword for many. There is a huge amount of conflicting advice and information. Everyone argues about what is modern, what is outdated, what has been scientifically proven to work and not to work or damage a dog (on this, just a brief personal observation here. The more forward and modern dog training seems to be going, the more problems and problem dogs there seems to be). 

There is a lot of nonsense out there too. There's also a lot of gimmicks. Manufacturers too have jumped on the training bandwagon and the array of just lead mechanisms alone (clip leads, harness, slip lead, figure of 8, haltis, etc.) never mind treat bags, poo bag carriers, etc. is crazy. 

Then people argue which lead is best, which lead is cruel, etc. Who do you believe? Who is right? Who is just in it for the money? Some people will tell you that if you are training your dog and you are not treat training, then you are being cruel (yes, I kid you not, this is a true statement I have heard many times. The new modern society).

If you want every tool at your disposal, great, go for it. Tools are great and they all have their place. When you take on that rescue dog that is so afraid of everything and everyone in life because it was so cruelly treated, then treats are an excellent way to help you create contact with the dog (but so is your body language, your tone of voice, the way you move, etc, these things are hugely important to this terrified dog and every other dog). But like life, you can gather a heap of tools and hardly use them, or not use them properly or actually confuse your dog, or yourself, with all these tools.

Every tool has a place in training, but so many dogs in bygone years were so well trained, had wonderful relationships with their humans and a very happy life, before modern society told you that you needed all these new tools.

Some actual training methods today whether classed as Obedience Training or Gundog Training based around physical tools (which one is right for you):
  • Clicker Training
  • Treat Training
  • Placeboard Training
  • Gemstone Training (really?)
(We are talking methods based on a specific physical tools, not about the minefield that is operant conditioning, classical conditioning, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, etc here).

All training requires the use of some tools e.g. something to lead the dog with, something to throw for it to retrieve, a whistle to blow so your dog can hear you when it's blowing a hooley and your voice is sent to the other end of the country by the wind. But do you really need all these other things like your clickers, placeboards, etc? 

So where are Craigelachie Gundogs in all of this then? Which of these kinds of tools do they use?

A recent new client came who I asked about his training. Within the space of 1 minute, it went a bit like this ........."so I used the placeboard to tell him to stay which he picked up really well.............when he heeled well I gave him a treat............I pressed my clicker when he lay down" etc.

Now this is a perfectly normal thing we hear. No, we are not anti treat, anti placeboard, anti clicker, etc., despite how you may interpret anything you read on this website. Everything has a place. So what's the problem Kay? Why are you even writing this and adding this page to your already huge website? What is the point?

The point? The point is, results?

Everything we do in life needs results, of course it does, or else what's the point. We go to work to earn to keep a roof over our head. We educate our children so they can hopefully have a better future. We change the dogs food because the last one didn't agree with him. We train our dogs for results.


I think, if I were to make this black and white, this is where my problem is. ?????????? Results!

So many 1000's of people have come over the years to learn. But isn't that what all Trainers are meant to be teaching, actual learning, not just how to get results? 

So many people have already done training with other training methods with other training, either with this dog or a different dog but it seems to have always been based solely on results.

People come and I ask them to do a little demo, nothing exciting, just a 2 or 3 minute version of e.g. sit, stay, come, retrieve/fetch, heel, just to see where their current training level is. But really, more importantly, to see how they train, how they view training, what they think training is, how they respond to the things their dog does regardless of whether it's a good or bad behaviour.

When their dog does something during their Assessment session, or future sessions, I often ask 'why did he do that'? Unfortunately the answer 99% of the time is 'I don't know'. This is sad, especially if they have trained dogs before, either with or without the help of a Trainer. Today training, and modern society, seems hell bent on everything being solely about results.


So my website crashed after I continued to write some lovely speel explaining a great deal of what this page is about. Now frustrated and running out of time, I will improvise and write a much shorter speel. This does mean the more detailed explanation and examples will now not be shown, but hopefully, the understanding is there.


You and your dog are your tool and the method. Or at least, you can be. That is what our training is about. You and your dog. You learning to read your dog. To learn to think a little bit more like your dog does. To see the training exercise or question through his eyes, not your human eyes. Some people actually naturally already do some of this but don't even realise it. The names Layla M and Callum L spring straight to mind here. Some people need to learn right from the start. Some people struggle with this. Some people pick it up really quickly.

If you can do this, (and trust me, you can, you don't need a degree in canine psychology to understand the basics of how your dog problem solves or thinks), then you can ask the same questions of your dog, but this time, you're in 'his head', you're seeing things through his eyes and this is what will help you to make his answers to your training questions more successful. 

It is also part of building a long and trusting relationship together. It also means that no matter what your dog may have to face in his future years, you have the knowledge, skills and tools to understand how he sees 'the issue' and to help him through everything. 

Having a basic understanding and knowledge of how he thinks means that you can then learn that how you stand, when you bend, how you look at him, where you position yourself, which way you are facing, etc., can all affect the result of the question you gave your dog. You just need to listen (look) to him and talk to him through your tool, you.

Tools can be very useful, but please don't base and build all of your dogs training on physical tools, gimmicks and gadgets. For most people, except for exceptional circumstances, you and your dog are the only tools you really need. See your dog.

If you set up a slightly more difficult retrieve to further his training, and you line him up, read him before you release him, he'll tell you before he even leaves your side whether he's going to give you the correct or incorrect answer to your question. Now you can talk to him (through your body language) and position your body in a way that will help him to give you the correct answer. The more times he give you the correct answer to your questions, the more times he learns how to give you the correct answer, therefore the more reward he feels, his sense of accomplishment (yes, dogs feel it too), the more he enjoys his training, the happier you both are and the quicker you can get those results we all strive for.

I think the most common comment I hear from people when they come is 'that makes sense when you say it out loud'. When their dog does something and I explain why it did it then, but not there, it's like that lightbulb moment for them. 'Now that you've said it, I can totally see it. Why couldn't I see it before'. Honestly, I don't know the answer to that. Conditioning I think. Modern society conditioning. As the world moves forward and we are all meant to move forward with it, sometimes things get lost, or left behind. A bit like when you move house. Unfortunately, some of these things that are being lost or left behind are actually very important. Some parts of dog training have got lost in modern societies strive for new this and new that so a lot of people never get to see or hear about some of the most basic and fundamental but hugely important parts, of dog training.

It can be the slightest little thing that you didn't notice that made the difference to the success or fail of the question you have just asked your dog.

Dogs Lying Down

People ask the dog to sit while they do a stay/wait exercise, or perhaps, steadiness work e.g. the dog sits while the owner throws e.g. dummies around the dog. Some dogs will lie down, why? Ask the owner why and you will usually hear either 'I don't know', or 'because he's tired' or 'because he's bored'. Yes, that can be the reason, or they are just not focused on what you're asking of them. BUT, did they, or you, know there are other reasons. Quite often in those scenarios the reason is the same for this behaviour. When I explain to the owner why their dog has laid down and not stayed in the sit the reactions are usually of 2 emotions. 1. complete surprise and almost disbelief. 2. elation, happiness but then sometimes, tinged with guilt, because 'how many other things does he do that I have misread'.

Now that is a very simple example of just one thing. But if you can understand a little more about what is going on in your dogs head, then this can affect your training massively. Over the years with my own clients, I have found that those who have appreciated this and worked with it, their training has then suddenly moved onto another level and their end goal/'result' has been achieved much sooner.


Humans Talk with Their Voice and Some Body Language

We talk and communicate mainly with our voice and some body language. We can talk to someone 10,000 miles away and clearly not be able to see them. Dogs can't do that.

  • Dogs talk mainly with body language, and some voice.

I am not saying you can't teach your dog human commands, of course you can. But just because we love them like they are human because we recognise a lot of human emotions in them, happiness, stress, excitement, grief, love, etc. I'm afraid this does not make them human. We don't go around chasing pheasants, eating sheep poo, peeing on every tree or lamp post to scent mark, showing our teeth at the neighbour we don't like, etc. As humans, we tend to cater for, interact with and only pay attention to the emotions of the dog, the human part we can see. This part of the dog is only a very small part. The rest of the dog is pure canine and that is the bit people are not training, noticing, communicating with.

Whether you realise it or not, your dog is reading you, they are reading your body language. Whether you’re sending them for a 300 yard retrieve over the hill or talking on the phone, if they are watching, then they are reading your body . During all the stages of training your dog, your body language can have a huge impact on how well your dog does. If you don’t realise and appreciate just how important body language and their associated behaviour is, you could be correcting or praising your dog for completely the wrong thing and all that will do is confuse the dog more and, potentially, encourage the wrong behaviours without realising it. 

Set up an exercise with a dog in training eg recalling the dog and stopping him half way. Once the dog has mastered this with the recall whistle and bending down and then on using the stop whistle on standing up. Do the exercise again, without the whistle, just using the same bending and encouraging body gestures you did when you had used the whistle, then when he’s half way, stand up, using the same flat hand signal and body language you had used earlier, and see what happens. 

Just start to notice what happens in every exercise when you massively change your body language. Then you will see how important body language is to a dog and their training. 

Sheep, etc.

Most dogs have a desire to chase, whether that be birds, rabbits, sheep, cars, whatever. Apart from the obvious problems with this, the fact is, your dog can legally be either shot or put to sleep because of this. I don't think a lot of people realise or even believe this is real. I think some people think it's an old wives tale. It is not. You are responsible for everything to do with your dog. You must train your dog. Again, a lot of people don't realise that even when they think they aren't actually training their dog, often they are, and often it is bad behaviours. Every time you open your car door and you let your dog just jump out, you have trained that behaviour. It is a lot easier to train the wrong thing than the right thing, but again, I believe part of this is because people don't read their dog. It is always just seeing results e.g. that bad dog has just jumped out that car again, my dog sat really well,I praised it and off he went (I won't go into the second one here, but again, there is often a problem there).

At some other time, I may add another paragraph here of a real life example where real emotion is involved and the outcome, with tragic consequences.


When you’ve asked your dog to do something and he’s done well, hopefully you can/will praise him. The amount and way you praise him can determine whether he stays being ‘a good lad’ and stays focused, or he goes off on his jollies.

Testing the Humans

A bit further on in your training here, I regularly set up either deliberately separate, or it is actually just part of that training exercise, little tests for the humans. I'll set up the exercise and ask the human what is your dog going to do here and why? Is he going to jump over the rail and into the box for the retrieve? Will he jump out well with the retrieve? (a lot of people answer this very differently to what the dog actually does).What are you going to do? Yes, this is a genuine exercise for the dog, but more than anything, it is to see where their human is in terms of understanding how their dog thinks. 

Some people really don't like these more theory or technical type exercises because mentally they find them difficult and sometimes people don't see the point. But that is exactly the point, because they are seeing the exercise as the human, not through the dogs eyes, and seeing through the dogs eyes is often difficult until you learn how to think a little bit more like your dog.

So on the outside, our training looks like most other gundog training, whether your dog is a pet, a worker or to compete in Working Tests or Field Trials. Our training just involves a little more of helping you to understand 'why' your dog, and 'how' you can help teach him, and not just 'how' to get your dog to give you the results ...