Style drive and speed are crucial
Training is a 24 hour a day job
Dogs think literally
Dogs are incredibly sensitive to body language
You and your dog must become a mutual admiration society
Straightness is all important
marking must be predominant
The meat and potatoes of Bill's training philosophy can be summed up as “get it right the first time” and “put your dog in a position where he is likely to succeed all the time” Bill believed that there is great skill in setting up a test for a dog and the bottom line is something Bill continually emphasized ‘the dog must get it right for the right reasons” Tests that a dog can fluke or get lucky are poorly designed and teach nothing. Bill believed that a run must be only be put on for a purpose. That purpose must be to enhance an already learned skill or to develop a new on. He oftened looked on in horror as I designed and executed a run which he believed had little validity.Consequently Bill was not a fan of the happy bumper to relieve pressure that is so prevalent today. Many of Bills runs were exceptionally short. He believed that the distance was relatively minor and irrelevant to conceptual teaching. Consistency was at the forefront of Bills philosophy. A dog must never be allowed to acquire training and a non-training mode. Even around the house or in his kennel a dog must never discover a sanctuary from training For example sitting straight at meal time must always maintain the same standard as when in the field or between the pegs Most trainers at that time trained with what he considered to be a double standard. Never allow your dog the opportunity to become confused was another Bill Bailey core belief. Part of never allowing your dog to become confused revolved around giving your dog the minimal commands necessary to complete the task at hand. Bill prided himself on giving no commands between the pegs with the subtleties of lining being controlled by merely shifting his weight. I remember being flabbergasted one day to be told by Bill that I had given 27 commands on a run I thought gabby and I had performed almost flawlessly. Retrieving well is all about creating a perception, and by the time Bill had counted up all my heel, heel, fetch, give, fetch, give, heel, heel etc I was staggered to learn how often I opened my mouth unnecessarily
Bill's philosophy was applied equally across the board whether we were working on marking line running or handling I can illustrate Bill's meticulous methodology using the example of his approach to handling. We began by putting Gabby in the Blind I would always walk back and heel her out to the pegs. She would be put in cover, near marks that she had already retrieved and out of site. She was always on a rope. Gabby never broke from a blind either in training or in a trial. Recalls followed a similar pattern and the stop whistle was introduced on the way in. The reward for stopping was always a prompt cast to a known bird. Bill was a great believer in literal casting, he did not approve of my use of angle backs as is so common today. Bill taught gabby to stop because she wonted to please and because it was her habit The system was taught in a mini run format as opposed to a repetitive drill. Gabby was never allowed to get it wrong and many days she would go home without a correction. Bill maintained that being a human being carried with it the responsibility of being smarter than your dog although with most trainers that he competed against that didn't always appear true. If your dog fails your test it is in fact a testament to your own lack of ability to correctly access where your dog is at this point in time .If in doubt simplify. Good habits win retrieving trials. Good habits come from getting it right the first time and every time Correction requires change. . Change is the opposite of habit Correction means you got it wrong in the first place you are an idiot!! Thoroughness in controlling the variables prevents such situations from occurring in the first place. This all sounds fine if you have an ultra sensitive and very biddable young dog with a high retrieving drive, but what if your dog doesn't happen to fall in that category? Well Bill's answer is that he is only interested in training one dog and that he is looking for a method that works for that particular animal. The fact that m y dog was temperamentally very similar to his probably meant that his methods worked for me.
Bill taught straightness on blinds as a logical next step. He did not believe in pattern blinds. Every blind was a cold one and every blind was meticulously set up so the dog would have absolutely no idea where the dummy was. This may seem self-evident but Bill maintained that most dogs managed to get some clue as to where their trainers had placed the blinds prior to running. Competing in retrieving trials is the art of running on other people's tests. Your dog will get used to the way you do things some repetition in your methods is inevitable. The early blinds were very short. A line would be established with a dummy placed every 20 metres or so As long as the dog stayed on the line it would magically run into another dummy. Hazards were gradually introduced. Cover demanded another command to commence hunting. Bill would use the cue “easy” to let the dog know that she was in the area and down wind of the bird if possible. Easy had been introduced much earlier but on marks in our quartering and team hunting sessions. It was relatively simple to transfer this command to now mean break off the line and commence to hunt but come back straight and sit straight to deliver.
The line was worked on from puppyhood by recall and habit as discussed earlier. Straightness was a way of life The landmark presented a new set of challenges. Bill believed that dogs have a photographic memory. The ability to lock in that photograph became crucial to Gabby's future marking ability. Whilst my training partners threw doubles and simple triples for their pups Gabby only retrieved singles until the age of 13 months. Locking in on marks became second nature. The level of technicality was constantly pushed right up to her proficiency level and occasionally beyond. Displacement marks began at about 10 months. This refined the photographic image that the dog had and taught her to interpret and think. Recognizing scent areas, scent funnels, and finding birds took up a lot of our training. Bill had a team mark concept where we would put reasonably complex marks over the crests of hills or into thick cover. I would leave the dog and run out and pretend to attempt to retrieve the bird myself. When nearing the fall area I would yell back to gabby to fetch. We would inevitably arrive at the fall area at about the same time but carefully downwind of the bird. We would then hunt the area together until she found it.This exercise developed solid methodology in the hunting pattern coupled with great enthusiasm.
Sagacity was a quality that Bill liked to foster in a dog. Much of this was done by monitoring the ratio of marks that the dog had to hunt out without the possibility of assistance .Out of sight marks are not lucky dips and a dog needs to be able to apply perseverance, and ingenuity to the task. . Bill would often have marks fall in the heaviest cover available. He was known to draw diagrams of the dogs hunt pattern and file it for future reference This made the facing of hazards in the future less of a hit and miss affair.
Memory building became high on the agenda. Bill devised a drill that eventually blurred the edges between marks and blinds. Gabby was taught to almost always pick birds up in the order that they were thrown. Initially they were always retrieved in this sequence. With this method gabby learned to count. Bill would ask gabby ''where is it?” whilst she was facing him. She would turn her head in the direction of the first mark thrown and lock in. When Bill was satisfied that she had locked in correctly, he would confirm and send. She would sit in they middle of a multi featured park and watch up to 20 marks thrown from anything from 10 up to 100 meter's in length. Gabby would then proceed to pick them up in order .To remember 20 casted birds taxes the memory of even the greatest markers. Occasionally she would forget one and would need to be lined. This almost always produced a hard running stylish blind leg. Gabby came to believe that a blind was only a mark that she had forgotten. This helped both her determination to watch more accurately next time, and her confidence in the belief that there is definitely something out there. Just stay on that line and it will magically appear
Bill's training techniques were a product of his time. He was a pioneer in his methods and was largely self taught. His dog was not reacquired to run 300-meter blinds and the degree of technicality in the runs overall was more forgiving. He was a great motivator of retrievers and he had a great capacity for detail .I'm sure that Bill would have adjusted to the modern era .He still takes a keen interest in modern trialling and just maybe we will see him back in some capacity one day.