I hate regret. Unfortunately, it seems to be another unavoidable part of life. One thing I regret is not being a smarter dog owner. Living with my English Pointer Puck has been a learning process, and that process has been full of stumbles, bone-headed mistakes, and just plain stupid moves. I’m fortunate that my little girl doesn’t hold grudges like I do.
Something I messed up from day one was how I used a check cord. The check cord is that long piece of rope trainers always have with them. In the right hands, it’s a powerful tool telegraphs a tremendous amount of information to you about your dog. Martha Greenlee talks about his in the latest post on her excellent Steady with Style blog:
“Check-cord tension is one of the most important forms of communication between your dog and you. How much tension is too much, or to put it another way, how hard should a dog pull is a question that is often asked but hard to answer. It is like asking a race car driver how fast is too fast. It depends on the car and the track. Same thing with a dog. It depends on the dog and the situation…” Read the whole post here.
What could be simple than a check cord? It’s just a chunk of rope. You attach it to your dog and train away. Of course, it’s not that simple. There are right and wrong ways to use this training essential. Here are a couple articles that point out some of those dos and don’t. If you’re training a bird dog, both are worth a read.
“Sometimes the more simple the tool, the harder it is to understand. The human mind seems to like making simple things more complicated. Maybe simple is more complicated. Take the check-cord. There are few pieces of training equipment as simple, yet this short piece of rope is the single most important tool you will own, and it is vastly misunderstood. Unlike a leash where the dog walks next to you, a dog should hunt in front of you while walking on the check-cord…”
“…In every dog’s training, there comes a time to ask the dog to work out away from us at a distance. This is best accomplished gradually and in small steps using a valuable tool called the check cord. Using a check cord gives us control over our dog’s movement at an increasing distance, reinforcing how and where we want the dog to work when hunting in front of us. This is simply an extension of the previous step, the command lead. If the lead work was done thoroughly and correctly, and we’ve developed a point of contact on the dog’s neck, then the check cord work will go easily. If it does not, it means more time is needed on the lead and development of the cue on the neck…”