Status the key to training dogs for field and home

Posted on: April 18, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

Dogs make wonderful companions, especially when they work together with their owner as a team.
Photo from Pixabay.

What’s the key to training hunting dogs, or really any dogs for that matter?

Status, says Rich Kerlin.

Operator of Kerlin Kanine Training in Aliquippa, has trained dogs for more than 20 years. One thing he’s convinced of is that every day, a dog is doing something right or doing something wrong.

It’s up to the dog’s owner to make clear which is which, he said.

“If you don’t teach it right or wrong, it will make up its own rules,” he said.

And how to do that?

Dogs are naturally pack animals, he said. That’s an extremely structured family unit.

The dog owner’s job is to make clear where in the pack everyone in the home stands.

“Good training is telling your dog you’re in the alpha position, and everybody else in your family is above it. It’s in the beta position,” Kerlin said.

“We want our dog to be in the beta position in our household. It’s actually critical. The reason is because the beta dog’s job in life is to work and please the alpha dog.”

It’s important the dog and its owners understand that at home as well as in the field, he noted.

Take the example of whether it’s OK to allow a dog in your bed. Some people say that’s fine. Others say it’s not.

The reality is it’s neither good nor bad, Kerlin said. What’s important is that the dog only gets in or out of the bed on command.

Consistency is critical, too, he added.

“What’s important is that everybody in the house has the same set of rules,” Kerlin said.

If mom doesn’t let the dog on the bed, for example, but the kids do, problems will result.

Here are some other dog training tips Kerlin offered.


If you want to make sure your new dog isn’t gun shy, it’s important to start training early and do it in a positive way, said Kerlin.

He introduces noise to his puppies almost immediately. He’ll tap a pan on a spoon while they’re eating so that they associate food – something they want – with a bit of commotion.

Later, when he takes the dogs into the field, he introduces a starter pistol to continue that notion: noise means birds.

Follow those steps and good things will result, he said.

“There’s no reason to have a gun shy dog,” Kerlin said.


If you’re buying a retriever dummy or bumper for your dog, think about color.

White, black or white and black ones stand out better in the field to dogs, which are color blind. That fluorescent orange one may seem brightest on the store shelf, but it will be harder for the dog to find.


If you’ve got a puppy you’re trying to turn into a retriever, start it off in your hallway at home.

Toss a dummy to the puppy in the yard and it has all kinds of room to roam. Running away from you with the dummy becomes a game.

In the hallway, Kerlin said, with the doors to each adjoining room shut, the puppy has no choice but to go straight to the dummy and then bring it straight back to you. It won’t be long, Kerlin said, until it learns to do that by habit.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.