I’ve spent years studying how leaders can diminish the people around them. But, after three days on a Texas ranch, I have to wonder if people can actually diminish their dogs!
Pete the Pointer. Let me tell you about Pete the carefree pedigree Brittany pointer bird dog that lives on a beautiful ranch in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Pete loves to hunt and point game birds for his owner, Darrell Stringer. As a pointer, he finds game birds on the ground and goes rigid, pointing in the direction of the covey of birds. When the hunter catches up, the birds are flushed into the air. Hunting guides from across the country have offered Darrell thousands of dollars and begged to buy Pete. Why?
Not only does Pete hunt for Darrell, he hunts for everyone in the hunting party. He hunts and points by instinct. In a hunting outing with 5 other dogs, Pete pointed 85% of the birds. When he went Woodcock hunting in Louisiana along with three professional guide dogs and their trainer, the three professionally trained dogs found and pointed one Woodcock and Pete found 11. Why? Because Pete was not over trained. He was merely trained to follow his instincts rather than obey numerous detailed commands. Darrell saw that Pete had a natural instinct for finding birds, so he simply allowed him to do it. He didn’t try to re-teach him what he already knew how to do, he just focused Pete’s efforts by training him to stay in close. And Darrell never punished Pete for making mistakes. . He just let him follow his natural instincts. In fact, Darrrell has a hard time getting Pete not to hunt. Once Pete and Darrell became separated for over an hour on a hunting trip in Montana. When Darrrell found him, Pete was still locked onto his target, pointing a rooster pheasant. Pete is free to follow his natural instincts and gives Darrell and others his maximum.
Diminished Dogs? While Pete refuses to not hunt, these other dogs will hunt only when told to do so. These dogs have been trained to respond to their trainer’s voices out of fear of punishment. They were over trained and are now afraid to make mistakes. These well meaning owners, having stripped them of some of their natural instincts, just may have diminished their dogs! And, as a result, what do they get from them? The minimum.
The Texas saying, “That dog don’t hunt” is a reference to people who just don’t get it. I admit I have said it a time or two over my career. But could we sometimes be guilty of training the natural intelligence out of our people?
Multiplier Practice. Instead of over training or attempting to homogenize our staff, focus on finding the unique, native genius in each person and allow them to follow their natural instinct to be smart. Your job? Focus them on the right targets.
From Stringer Ranch
Sulphur Springs, Texas