Trained as an engineer in England, Martin Deeley, 68, found his true calling when he got his first hunting dog.
By Leah Kircher
When he brought home his first gun dog, an English Springer Spaniel, Deeley tried training him according to a book. “I made a right mess of it, but I loved it. So I had to get myself a second dog. Then I started training dogs basically for hunting.” Soon, others asked him to teach their dogs hunting skills, as well as obedience.
More than 35 years later, he and his wife, Pat, train canines at their Florida Dog Trainer facility in Montverde in Lake County, where they also operate a school for dog trainers. Although they still train gun dogs, 95 percent of their business is obedience training for family pets. “Every dog is different, but unless you give it guidance and exercise and introduce good habits, a dog will make up its own habits and behaviors—not always the ones we want.”
The easiest things for dogs to learn, says Deeley, are commands like “sit” and shaking with a paw; the most challenging are “lie down” and learning to stay calm, depending on the dog and its instincts. The most common obedience problem he encounters is not coming when called.
“Labradors, I find easy, like Golden Retrievers. There are dogs that are more difficult, like some of the Japanese breeds and northern breeds like Huskies, Malamutes and Akitas. They tend to be more single-minded.”
Deeley utilizes everything from remote training collar systems to a traditional collar and leash, but he prefers to use his voice. “I like the dog to respond to commands, and because of that I don’t talk to a dog much other than to give commands and praise.
It’s not so much the word when it’s a correction, it’s the tone. A dog recognizes your face and body language, too.”
When he’s training, Deeley says it takes about four days until he’s working with what he calls the real dog.
Biggest challenge: “We are trying to get a dog to change in two weeks, and we’re trying to get their owners to change in the same amount of time.”
“I’ve been nipped by a dog, but not in a serious way. Most bites are caused by fear. You have to set guidelines and limits. The dog will sense that you’re nervous. You’ve got to build confidence in yourself so the dog has confidence in your ability to handle the situation.”
“I’ve been fortunate to meet the best in the business and learn from them.” Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan is a close friend; they’ve worked together on a DVD and several dog-training courses.
“Dogs have been my teachers. I can’t imagine life without a dog or without helping people get that relationship with their dogs.”