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Training Corner: Interview with Ray Cacchio
by the Roving Reporter

"I just want a hunting dog!"

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that to me, I would be pretty well off. Many successful spaniel field trainers of today's era started off wanting to have a well trained hunting dog and developed a passion for training a high level performance dog.

Our spaniel field trial sport has an infinite number of variables where we expect exacting results. This puts a burden on those that train, run and judge spaniels. My goal is to bring forward ideas, perspectives, and thoughts from some of the best trainers, breeders and handlers in the spaniel field trial sport and to help you become a better trainer, breeder and handler yourself.

Today I am interviewing Spaniel Hall of Fame trainer Jerry "Ray" Cacchio. Ray has been in spaniels for over 40 years and has trained two national open champions and countless field champions. He also has an extensive judging background, having judged nationals in both the US and Canada.

Spaniel Journal: Ray what do you see that is a necessary ingredients for success in field trials?

Ray: Train ability which goes hand in hand with biddability. Along with exceptional natural talent. Today's dogs should be trained to a high level if they want to be successful. I will say that the successful dogs of my era where probably overall better bird finders but that is a general statement. The best dogs of today are also bird finders but the overall group is not as strong. The balance between being a great bird finder and under control is a balance.

Spaniel Journal: Do you use an e-collar? Or What do you think about using e-collars?

Ray: Development of collar has also had an impact. Corrections can be timed and controlled. I don't understand the current e-collar programs. It was not how I was trained but I respect the use if used properly. I had an e-collar but did not have the finesse of today's programs. My best dogs had a high desire but medium sensitivity. I like this a lot which falls back on biddability. Genes always come though no matter what!

Spaniel Journal: What is the difference between weekend trial blue ribbons and the "big" blue ribbon of nationals?

Ray: Train for the national. Foundation is the key to the whole thing. A weakness will show up over the five series or water. Train for a consistent run. Train for consistency and keep a high standard. It is up to the trainer to bring out the best in the dog. No band aid fixes. They are short term and wont serve you well!

Spaniel Journal: Are these dogs any different from the earlier days of your career?

Ray: In the old days the dogs may not have had the polish, but they hunted. Because of the cover they attacked the cover. Head went down on scent. Speed but no power is more the norm presently. When you run in good natural cover the best dogs come out. I have seen a shift to running trials in poor cover which doesn't do the dogs justice.

Reward good behavior first rather than having to fix bad habits later. Building a dog through rewarding good behavior is a lot easier than trying to fix a learned bad habit.

Spaniel Journal: What is your advice to new trainers?

Ray: Dedicate yourself. It's not about fame and fortune, but how to be the best trainer. Become a student of the sport. Get to know those that are successful and try to figure out why they are being successful.

Learn and learn more. If you want to win take the time to figure it out. Get outside your comfort zone and train with a lot of different people, especially good trainers.

Training should balance free thinking and control. The best dogs have to be free thinkers meaning they have the ability to work out difficult tasks. They also have to be under control at all times and accept control.

Reward good behavior first rather than having to fix bad habits later. Building a dog through rewarding good behavior is a lot easier than trying to fix a learned bad habit.

Develop respect not fear. Dogs should respect their trainers and that they mean what they say. No means no. Develop boundaries for your dog and stick to it!

Training is a process not a task. Philosophy of training is paramount. Training starts the day the dog leaves the litter and ends when it leaves the earth. The process is the journey and the philosophy is the guidelines.

You have to have a plan. Training is not a cook book. Don't expect to be able to just figure it out by reading a book or watching a video. Hands on training is very important.

Foundation 100 percent!

Spaniel Journal: Thank you Ray, and do you have any parting comments?

Ray: Personally I would like to see entries go down. Big entries especially at nationals are challenging to judge due to the physical requirements. Should everyone that places be allowed to participate? It should be an honor to get their and compete!

Lastly field trials should challenge the dogs. This is not a 100 yard retrieve! Run in cover! Things separate themselves when you run in cover!

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