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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.


I was just advised that one of my students in my upcoming spring Basic Handler’s Course is the son of one of my previous students! 29 years ago his dad and I trained his marvelous GSD for the Sheriff’s Department where they work. He had a great K-9 career and eventually moved up the ranks into administration from where he retired. His son is following in his footsteps.
So, the question that has come to me is whether this new young handler will get the same education that his father had. The answer is unequivocally NO!
Let me explain, over those nearly three decades since his father went through my course, and the multitude of workshops and certification events (I have always followed up with my students and this particular department is one that has decided to continue to do ongoing education twice a year for a week to keep a top notch program) I did with his father, I also was going to school. I attended countless training seminars and workshops myself, I trained in those years hundreds of dogs and dog teams, and I was working the road with several dogs myself in my own Sheriff’s Department. I demanded growth for myself in the dog training arena where I titled SchH dogs and competed in SchH as well as WPO (International German Police Competitions). I also gained deployment knowledge and technique as well as tactical training. Above all I began to move through the stages that many instructors do. I really had to think about what I taught and how I taught it at first. Ultimately, through many many courses and introspection I began to be able to simply see what needed to be done and get it done, both with prospective handlers and dogs.
This autopilot approach has great benefits, but it also is a trap. The instructor MUST stay vigilant or poison creeps into the work. Just because it was good for me does NOT mean it is good for everyone. The worst trap is the old and necrotic attitude expressed as “it was good enough for me, so it’s good enough for them”. That is a fail. Though I still teach I am no longer hunting bad guys and their contraband myself. But, I do my very best to not let old ways cloud my judgement or obscure my ability to help the newest generation move forward, improve, and benefit from my mistakes. If I don’t it is time to done with this!
To keep me fresh, I train. In the last year I have raised two dogs from puppies and placed them in programs, those along with many I purchased. But, those I reared and trained keep me attentive to the foundations of the work. It causes me to innovate and improve.
I also maintain my law enforcement credentials, I go to training, I go to the range, I even occasionally put a uniform on and go out on patrol with the K-9 handlers I have taught. It keeps me fresh, it keep me centered.
I also go to dog training seminars and workshops and conferences to keep the wheels turning. I have a long list of credentials, yet, if I do not challenge what I know…or think I know…I will not grow, improve, and I will loose the spark that makes me think. Makes me think “I am not just right, but am I moving the bar higher?” , “Is there a better way, and if it appears to be better where is the test, the proof, I need to know”.
So, as I head into a class with a second generation of my handlers, no he won’t get the same education, he must receive better, or I have failed.

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