Trainer understands dogs' natural 'language'

ALBANY, Ga. -- There's nothing wrong with working like a dog. As long as you're having a good time doing it.

In addition to managing Wynfield Plantation on Leary Road, Mike Osteen has spent 27 years as a dog trainer. On Tuesday, Osteen shared with members of the Dougherty County Rotary Club some basic keys to training any type of dog.

"It's just a matter of learning how to manipulate their natural desires to get them to do what you want," Osteen said.

While rewarding the animal with a treat can be effective to a point, Osteen sees this relationship as "teaching" and not a complete method of training. Eventually, the dog will find something he'd rather have or do.

"Once the dog is taught to be successful more than 80 percent of the time, we introduce a reprimand for each time he doesn't do it. Now he's reliable," Osteen said.

Reprimands, according to Osteen, can be as simple an eye or voice signal or can escalate to physical action, such as an electric collar.

"If a puppy is in a box," said Osteen, "and he bites his mother's ear, she bites him back. That's the only language he understands. It doesn't take long before he stops biting her."

Osteen started out as an all-breed dog obedience trainer, he said, but through the years has gained experience training dogs to retrieve, track, or to protect people. As manager of Wynfield, he's become an accomplished bird dog trainer.

He's helped train dogs to locate South Georgia truffles, small clumps of fungus growing around and under pecan tree roots. Similar to the sought-after European white variety, but with qualities all their own, pecan grove truffles were discovered in the 1980s.

"We searched 12 or 13 separate groves," Osteen said, "and found truffles in every one. We're thinking this could open up some new areas for revenue."

Osteen said he's even utilized a dog's superior sense of smell to warn of medical emergencies.

"I had a little nephew who was having some problems with diabetes," Osteen said. "I did a little research and found out that saliva goes through changes in smell. I could put (the saliva) on cotton balls and the dog could be very successful in telling me whether (the nephew) was about to have a seizure."

Perhaps Osteen's greatest canine contribution to society is the training of "bomb dogs" for the Marine Corps. The contract undertaking took him away from Wynfield for a time, he said, while he helped develop the dogs at a North Carolina kennel.

"It was intriguing to me that I could take something I'd worked with all my life and instead of winning a blue ribbon, I could save somebody's life," Osteen said.

According to Osteen, specialized bomb dog training is a blend of several disciplines to develop dogs which can run loose and free up to 200 meters ahead like a bird dog, make sudden stops and change directions while hunting (characteristic of a retriever), and find articles such as bombs or drugs while restrained by a leash.


Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

I recall a Far Side cartoon some years ago entitled "What We Say And What Dogs Hear". The owner of the dog comes home from work and says to the dog "How are you Suzy? What did you do all day Suzy? What do you say Suzy do you want to go for a walk?"

What the dog hears is "blah blah blah Suzy blah blah blah blah Suzy blah blah blah Suzy blah blah blah blah"


agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

I disagree with what Mr. Olsteen said: "It's just a matter of learning how to manipulate their natural desires to get them to do what you want". I think if a trainer keeps a dog crated long enough, pokes and prods them with an electric prod, puts an electric shock collar on them and zaps them enough, they will sooner or later become so manipulated and intimidated they will eventually give in. To me that is not "natural". What is wrong with giving a dog a treat as a positive reward? We do it for our children don't we and in many instances there are people's pets I would much rather be around than their children. Nothing wrong with positive attention, or what about gentle touch, what about gently stroking his ears, repeating the motion several times, telling him what a good dog he is when he has done something good but maybe a quick spray of citronella when he does poorly...who needs to shock a dog? How would you like to be shocked everytime you erred, unless you are kinky and into BSDM I guess. Mine is a 120 pound dog that was going to be euthanized I got from the local pound and is a wonderful companion and is well behaved and well trained by me with love and gentle caring. I got him at 7 weeks of age and he now heels, sits, comes to me on command and stays by my side when I tell him to. He sleeps by my bed at night but some nights I make him sleep in the hallway because he snores worse than any man and has gas from time to time. And no he does not have fleas, for he has regular vet visits for a bath and takes a monthly pill to rid him of fleas. He probably has better hygiene than half the popualtion of DoCo. Just sayin. He protects me faithfully and when someone comes to the farm he gets up and stands beside me and does not leave my side the whole time the person is here, unless I tell him it is OK, or he knows the person. I would hate to think of what would happen to anyone he ever thought was going to harm me. He has to be touching me, as he stands beside me, knowing he is protecting me. To hell with the shock collars.......try some kindness.


wino3800 2 years, 5 months ago

Wow....are you really this stupid...


mr_nobody 2 years, 5 months ago

Wow.... you obviously have never hunted with any dogs. Any lap dog worth its salt will behave within a few feet of you. That's easy to train. On the other hand, getting a high-motor hunting dog in pursuit of wounded game at 100 yards or more away from you to follow commands is a different story. But hey, I'm glad your lap dog is that well behaved.


agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

My dog will go out in a field and retrieve dove if my husband and I walk the field late fall after the peanuts have been harvested and shoot dove. As a matter of fact last November my husband got 50 dove from the field and we enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. It is not a lap dog, nor a high motor hunting dog, but a nice lab mixed dog, who enjoys a daily swim in the pond too, and follows commands very well, more than 100 yards away from me. Yes, he is very well behaved, thank you very much. No wino, I am not stupid. By the way, I once won $250.00 off a of a like minded SOB as yourself who thought an itty bitty woman like me would not be able to trailer some particularly "high motor" show horses at a show in Thief River Falls, Minnesota where my daughter and I showed our horses. He thought my training methods were awful too. He felt one needed to be rough when training horses. Pooh on that. He, being a loud mouthed man who used typical loud mouthed man methods, which included prods and whips and kicking the horses in the rumps, was convinced I would be kicked to hell and high water with my tiny little nylon lunge whip. Well I did trailer every horse, stallion and gelding alike, and he was poorer and looked like a fool.


Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Y'all don't mess with a_girl. She's da bomb.


Sign in to comment