Mavuanga. We’ve all seen the videos, we’ve all heard the rumors, and some of us finally got to see Herve in action. In March Herve came to Southern California with his family for a few weeks of fun and dog training. SoCalMal and Philippe Belloni co-hosted a weekend seminar, then the following weekend another seminar was held in Northern California by the BARC club. Philippe also acted as interpreter for Herve at both seminars, with help from Jean-Jacque in Northern CA. Saturday dawned sunny and warm, and I went to the first seminar, dogs in vehicle, with the same attitude I approach any seminar with a trainer I haven’t seen before. I signed up for working slots, my dogs were with me, but I would watch the seminar giver work 3 or 4 dogs before I brought mine out of the vehicle to work. Part way through the first dog I already knew I’d be working my dogs. Herve is not only an excellent decoy; he’s an excellent teacher, with a real desire to teach. Add to that, he’s funny. In between working dogs there was dancing, practical jokes, and a little more dancing with some singing to top it all off. Machine is another word I would use for Herve. He worked dogs all day, and never showed any signs of tiring. As one dog left the field, the next dog walked on. If there wasn’t a dog waiting at the gate, Herve was hollering for the next dog to come out. Dogs at all level of training were worked, from puppy to FRIII, and a variety of breeds. Not just the usual Malinois. Each dog was worked as an individual, and Herve was very quick to see the dogs strong and weak points. He showed us his methods for building entry, working through stick and/or hand issues, teaching each of the protection exercises, and starting puppies. Every dog I saw walk on the field improved in some area and most improved in all areas.
Herve’s style of training is firm, but fair. Corrections were balanced with praise, and the decoys heard on a regular basis “praise more”. The techniques we were shown involve heavy decoy interaction with the dog. It is the handler’s job to give the commands, but the decoy does a lot of the guidance and corrections. They also praise the dog and are responsible for keeping the dog in a higher state of drive. Many dogs were taken back to the foundation, to work on basic techniques such as pivot/esquives, how to go through a barrage, the return after an esquive, and bite placement. The long line and bungee were used a lot, with all the dogs working on a harness. Each day the seminar participants included club decoys from clubs in CA and AZ, and they got to spend a lot of time in the suit. This is important in my opinion, otherwise there is nobody to continue the work Herve started once he leaves. He spent as much time showing the decoys how to work the dogs, as he did working the dogs himself. After 2 days of training, I was tired but jazzed, and I decided to take a trip to Northern California for the BARC seminar the following weekend. Leri Hanson and I loaded up our dogs on Friday and headed North. Unfortunately Chaos had injured her shoulder during the week, so she stayed home. But her half brother Havok got to go instead. Saturday was one of those days, overcast and cold. Perfect for the dogs and decoys, not so much for the spectators. It was a new set of faces, but the same good training. Jean-Jaque Gerardo was available to help with the translation duties, and Herve’s real love of teaching was readily apparent. We were able to spend a lot more time talking training theory, although there was also plenty of hands on training taking place. Once again there was a wider range of dogs, from puppies to FRIII and Malinois, GSD, APBT, and AmBulldogs. There was also a wider range of sports represented. Most people were training their dogs for French Ring, but there were also people preparing dogs for Mondio ring competition, PSA, and one dog being raised with Schutzhund in mind. Herve worked all of them, regardless of the sport, and even gave the MR handlers a few handling tips. Herve isn’t just a successful FR decoy/trainer, he’s also trained a Rottweiler to 2nd place in the World Championships for MR. Sunday started even more overcast than Saturday, and we drove through rain on the way to the field. But it held off for us, except for a couple of very brief sprinkles, and we got in one more good day of training and learning. As we were packing up to leave, the rain finally started. Leri and I spent the long drive back to S. CA talking about all the information we had acquired in the last two weekends, and how we would begin to implement it in our own training programs.