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Yooper Laws

by Steve Rodock

Ya, der are even laws in da UP, a few anyway. Such as in late fall and early winter when cold northerly winds blow across the warmer waters of big Gitche Gume, bank management (snow banks that is) becomes a top priority.

Another yooper law is April snow showers bring May skeeters, black flies, deer flies, ticks and maybe even a few flowers. I have my own yooper laws for dog training as well. These laws hold true with any training program or activity you are training for. Following them will increase the rate of success for you and your dog.

1.) You must be recognized as the pack leader. Dogs still retain their sense of pack order, similar to wolves. There are many ways to become and remain pack leader. This does not mean you need to be the bully of the house. You need to have the dog look to you for leadership, so lead. The best advice is to be yourself, your dog will know if you are faking. You have one advantage over most breeds of dogs, you are taller. Dogs use elevation for higher status in the pack. If you are having any problem gaining leader status, make sure your dog stays off the furniture and bed where they are closer to your elevation. Personally I use obedience commands to keep the dog knowing who is leading the charge. I have them sit and stay for periods most days as well as sit at the door on their way outside and again on the way back in. Having your dog know where it stands in your pack will greatly reduce anxiety and confusion. You want the dog working for you instead of testing you.

2.) Be consistent. Always! Use one command for recall, don't use "come" today, "here" tomorrow, and "come here" the next day. Please try to refrain from giving them all at the same time. Stick to one command and it is best if you stick to one tone of voice. This is where the whistle is nice since its tone doesn't change, but your body language can. For example don't always crouch down to accept the retrieve in training then expect your dog to act the same when you stand erect at a test. When a problem arises always evaluate your own actions to see if you are being consistent. So when you are training for that next test, don't forget to train yourself to be consistent. Always!

3.) Dogs need to know what the correct response is, so set em up for success. Just as when you start a new job, you like to know what your duties are. Think about it, you’re at the new job with a huge boss towering over ya saying do the job right or else I'll chew your butt like a stick of Bazooka. Or would you rather have that boss say, here is exactly what I would like done, let’s go through it slowly together so you know what is right. I know a few readers might pick the first choice, but all of the dogs will choose the second. When you introduce your dog to a new task help them through and set em up for success. For example, you want to start your dog on double retrieves. DO NOT set up a 100 yard double in water at a 15° angle, in a cross wind. This is not following law #3. Instead I would go to a mowed area. I would make sure the marks could be seen easily against the background and at about a 180° angle. I would make sure the memory mark (1st mark thrown) can be easily seen on the ground when the dog gets close, and make the memory straight down wind to avoid any drift with your dog in a crosswind, or quartering into a headwind. I would keep these sessions short to begin with to build confidence and set em up for success. 4.) Dogs learn by repetition, rerun success. When you have success, rerun, but don't rerun until your dog is bored out of its skull. Most dogs enjoy success and can handle 2 or 3 reruns which should be sufficient at a training session. I like to limit any new tasks to one at a training session, all other activities are reruns. During these reruns watch your dogs confidence build. Try changing locations and gradually make the reps longer or more difficult. Pay special attention to the look in their eyes, how they are holding their tail and ears, as well as their speed and animation. If confusion or lack of confidence starts to show, backup and simplify. Dogs learn failure by repetition too, so keep this in mind when you encounter a failure.

I would estimate that 90% of the time you need to make the task easier to get success. Repetition is your friend, use it to your advantage.

5.) Let your dog be the teacher, you be the student. Yes, the dog is YOUR teacher, and humility is the first lesson you need to learn. Pay close attention and your dog will teach you how to train. As the student you need to be observant, constantly watching your dogs every move and action (read your dog). Is the reaction happy, confident, confused, bored stiff, or one of my chessy's favorite, that "you gotta make me" look. Pay attention to where the mark was lost, when was the bird passed, or why was the stop whistle slipped, and let your dog tell you why. Law #5 is how you receive feedback on how well laws 1 thru 4 have been followed. Training methods are just guidelines to follow while you are learning how to train your dog, with your dog as teacher.

Once more here are the 5 yooper laws to success.

I hope everyone is having a nice winter. The AWSFA field training sessions will be starting soon. Hope to see some new people as well as all of the regulars this year. Keep your dogs nose into da wind and outa da porky quills.

1. You must be recognized as the pack leader.

2. Be consistent. (Always)

3. Dogs need to know what the correct response is.

(Set em up for success)

4. Dogs learn by repetition. (Rerun success)

5. Let your dog be the teacher, you be the student.

(Read your dog)



You must teach your dog what you want him to do.


You must see that he does it at times when there is no counter attraction.


You must see that he does what you want at times when he particularly wants to do something else.


Ensure that in training certain words and signs on your part must be followed at all times. It is absolutely necessary that each word and sign have one meaning and one meaning only!


To a spaniels character, incessant thrashings are fatal, as under such treatment he either becomes cowed or case hardened. This varies according to individual temperament. Try not to quarrel with your pupil.


Do not expect your training to proceed with even progress, it is bound to have its ups and downs.


Never give a lesson unless you have your pupils full attention or continue when you have lost it.


Never give a lesson when you are in a bad mood.


Take advantage of every opportunity to develop his brains. Let him find things out for himself whenever possible.


For successful training, patience is more than a virtue it is an essential.


The three primary ingredients for training that must be employed at all times are time, patience and consistency.


To be successful you must be brutally critical of your dogs performance.


You can not teach ability. If your dog does not have it he never will.

The above notes are an excerpt from Jim Karlovec and Flushing Star Gun Dogs