Stonebroke Kennels
100% Field Bred English Springer Spaniels

Stonebroke’s Tail Feathers – Blog

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August 15, 2016

Meet “Feather” (Stonebroke’s Tail Feathers). Feather was born June 14, 2016 and is out of my Sunrise Sage of Stonebroke and AFC Wind Dancing Royal Payne MH. I am going to try to keep a blog that will give an overview of how I bring a pup along. I’ll clarify right from the start that I am not a professional trainer by any stretch of the imagination. I do not field trial or do the AKC Hunt Tests. I’m a hunter. Period.

I’ll try to show and explain what I do with a pup at different ages as the training progresses. How I develop a pup is not the only way, obviously, and perhaps not the best way. I learn something new with every pup I work with….it’s a never ending process. Keep in mind that every pup is different and will develop at different rates… I never rush a pup. As time goes on I’ll try to post updates here weekly. In the next few days I’ll post a general outline/time frame of what I will be doing with Feather. You may like some of my ideas and want to adopt them, or you might totally disagree with how I go about things. It’s all good…. My methods are to develop a hunting dog. If you want to train your pup to be steady to wing and shot, I do not cover that aspect as I do not require that of my dogs. Over the years I’ve found that more birds are recovered by allowing a dog to break at the shot. That doesn’t mean my dogs are running wild and out of control.. They are trained to hunt in range and retrieve what goes down.

At any rate, follow along and feel free to e-mail me with questions or comments…

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Feather – the Early Days. 🙂

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AFC Wind Dancing Royal Payne MH – – Feather’s sire

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Payne 2016 Pawnee Trial Win

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August 16, 2016

So, what are the first things to do when you get your new pup home? I do pretty much nothing for the first few days. I just let the pup settle in and get comfortable. I spend a lot of time with the pup and let him/her get used to me and its new home. With Feather, it’s a little different as she was born here. I (along with the family and people who visit) am all she’s ever known. I’ll continue to take her for walks afield, which I’ve done with her and her littermates since she was old enough to get around. The most important thing to teach her (any dog for that matter) is to come when called. I’ll be using treats and a whistle and will work with her on that every day. If a dog doesn’t know anything except to come when called and is 100% reliable on that command, you can hunt with the dog. The recall is the basis for pretty much all training. I’ll also be crate training her, introducing her to other places and people, teaching her to “Kennel”, etc. I will not do any formal obedience training until she’s older. I’ll be able to tell when she’s ready for that by her attitude, but it’s usually when a pup is 5 to 7 months of age. I can teach an 8 week old pup to sit, but I can teach a 6 month old pup to sit in a fraction of the time. I’ll attach a light 6 to 8 foot cord (like parachute cord) to her collar so that when she’s out investigating everything I’ll have a long handle to grab in case I need to stop her from doing something or going somewhere she shouldn’t go. I try to keep everything positive as much as possible, but a pup needs to know what “NO!” means as well. It’s crucial to spend as much time with your pup as possible. You need to develop a close bond. Here’s a rough outline of what I’ll be doing over the next few months:

from now until approximately 6 months of age – – Walks afield every day, work with her on coming when called with treats, crate training, teaching her to “Kennel”, some play retrieving (no more than 3 retrieves per day every other day), introduction to new places and people, chasing a “Wing on a string”, introduction to water, teaching “No!”, and housetraining.

Note that I don’t do any introduction to gunfire until she is older, but from the time she was born she’s been exposed to a lot of different loud noises…trucks and motorcycles going by the house, trains, etc. I always bang the feed pan loudly when I feed pups. I also have a CD I have played since she (and her littermates) were about 3 or 4 weeks old that is supposed to prevent gunshyness. I don’t know how effective it is, but I’ve used it on the past 4 or 5 litters. I just put it on when I feed the pups and gradually increase the volume… I have a page devoted to preventing gunshyness. Please take time to read this page if you haven’t already..

Note: When teaching a pup to come when called I use a whistle as well as a voice command. I like the Acme 210 whistle. Any treat will do as long as it’s small and the pup doesn’t have to sit and chew it..small piece of hot dog, small piece of cheese, etc. are all good but I like the little commercial bite size treats I can stick in my pocket. Hot dogs and cheese are fine, but they are a bit messy.

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Augusts 19, 2016

Feather had her 9 week booster shot on Tuesday. She’ll need another booster at 12 weeks and 15 weeks and her first rabies at 4 months. It’s important to make sure pups get their booster shots on schedule. I also pay close attention to the stools of all my dogs. A loose stool for a day or so is not abnormal. Dogs tend to find and eat a lot of things they shouldn’t which can cause loose stools for a day or so, but loose stools for any length of time or bloody stools are indications of a problem that needs to be taken care of.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Feather. It’s important to establish eye contact with a pup. I like to hold a pup on my lap and hold their head so that they are looking at me. I then”sweet talk” them….I tell them how great they are, etc. while rubbing their ears, etc. Establishing eye contact is important as you want your pup to rivet their attention on you when training… I don’t overdo this. Puppies are curious and want to look at everything they see and hear, which is part of their learning process. The eye contact and time spent with the pup is all part of the bonding. It will make training much easier.

When I’m taking walks with a pup, I want the pup in front of me. I don’t want a pup walking along behind me. A gundog’s place is out in front of me. When I’m walking a pup if they decide to walk along behind me, I stop and face the pup. When they start to move I keep them in front of me. At this age, it helps to walk the pup in short cover. They aren’t ready for tall grass where they can’t see, etc. Most Springer pups want to be out in front, but every once in a while a pup will want to tag along behind. This is something to nip in the bud. later on planted birds will help keep them out in front of you.

I’ve also had Feather around my other dogs (one at a time). My daughter’s dog, “Ted”, is a very easy going dog so I’ve started out with her tormenting him. He’s very good with her, but puts her in her place if she needs it. 🙂

Ted letting Feather know the stick is his….

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August 30, 2016

Feather turned 11 weeks old yesterday. I’ve been taking her for rides (in her crate), letting her explore different places, etc. She’s very bold and sure of herself. I’ve been working on “No”, calling her to me (using treats), crate training, etc. I toss a small dummy for her a couple times every 2 or 3 days. I don’t worry about retrieving with these dogs…. I’ve yet to see a Field Bred Springer that wasn’t obsessed with retrieving, so I limit the retrieving until they are reliable at coming when called. It makes the retrieving to hand much easier. She’s starting to stretch out and get lean and wiry. She moves very well….very, very quick and agile. She eats up attention and just loves being with people…

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Sept. 9, 2016

Feather is 12 weeks old today. I vaccinated her this morning (12 week booster shot). She’s coming along very, very well. She’s been retrieving a puppy dummy, tennis ball, etc. to hand very well and very consistently, so I tried her on a frozen Hun today. She wanted to chew it at first but picked it up and ran to me when I pipped on my whistle. I gave her two more retrieves and then put the bird back in the freezer. I’ve been getting into a little taller grass and cover on our walks, but she’s still a baby so I keep the walks short (20 minutes) and the cover still pretty light. She loves racing through the tall grass. I’m using a whistle when I call her… She usually spins on a dime and comes running.. That will change when she goes through the “teenage” stage, but the groundwork is being set to deal with that. I take her with me quite often in the truck (she’s in a crate in the back seat). She never makes a sound…very content in the crate. I have her in the house every day also…like most pups, I have to watch her every second or she’s into something she shouldn’t be in to!

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September 21, 2016

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Feather was 14 weeks old yesterday. She’s growing like a weed and has a very healthy appetite. I think this age is where people aren’t quite sure what to do with their pup. It’s kind of that in between stage where pups have lost their “puppy cuteness”, but really aren’t old enough or large enough to start any formal training. Pups start figuring out a few things (like knowing they don’t have come come when called if they don’t want to). Pups at this age can be a challenge… they have a ton of energy and everything goes in their mouth. If it’s not nailed down, they think it’s a chew toy. Their attention span is very short. They will try your patience and then some, but this phase will pass.

At this age, Feather has a lead attached to her collar every time I have her out. I use a piece of parachute cord about 10 feet long….basically it’s a long handle. Pups at this age need a lot of exercise. I take Feather out 3 or 4 times a day and just let her run and explore. I NEVER call her to me unless I have my hand on the cord. I usually try to get her out for at least 30 minutes each time, so I work with her about an hour and half every day but most of this is exercise in light cover. When it’s time to quit, I make sure I have hold of the cord and walk her back. A puppy on a 10 foot check cord at this age is like trying to reel in a frisky colt, but it’s more about getting her used to pressure on her neck. I don’t expect her to walk quietly by my side. She’s getting better each day, but she still usually wraps the cord around my feet a few times on our walk back.

Coming when called: Pups quickly learn to read us.. They know when they are being called to be put in a kennel run or crate and when they are being called to be given a treat, to be petted, etc. When Feather is out exploring, I call her up to me 4 or 5 times and give her a little treat or just pet her and rub her ears. I don’t just call her when it’s time to go in her run. She’s already figured out that when we get close to the gate and I call her, fun time is over and she tries to bolt for the door to the house or back toward the pasture. That’s why I have the 10 foot cord attached to her collar. I just grab it and tell her “Here”, and reel her in and put her in her run. I always give the command “Kennel”, when I put her in her run or in her crate. All of my dogs know this command and obey instantly. It’s been instilled in them several times a day for their entire lives. The general rule of thumb is to call a dog to you 4 times to give praise or a treat for every time you are requiring the dog to do something it would rather not do (like go in its run).

I’m not doing a lot of retrieving for now. She’ll be losing her baby teeth soon and I want to get her more consistent on coming when called before I do more with her retrieving. I know she has the desire.. She has to be carrying something around most of the time.

I bring her in and have her sit on my lap until she calms down. It doesn’t take long…she loves being on my lap. She still wants to chew on my hands, but she’s learning what “No” means. I just wrap my hand around her snout and so “NO”!

Another problem that often crops up about this age is the pup wanting to jump on people. I personally cannot tolerate a dog that does this… I drives me nuts, so I nip this in the bud early. When a pup jumps on me, I dump them over backwards with my knee. I don’t kick them and send them flying, I just give them a good bump. I don’t look at them and I don’t say a word. I just look the other way and give no indication that the puppy has done anything wrong. Quite often after this happens a few times, they’ll start coming up behind me and jump on the back of my leg (they learn coming in from the front or side isn’t a good idea). When they come in from behind, I catch them with the back of my heel… Same thing, I don’t kick them hard, but the heel lets them know that jumping from behind doesn’t work either. This can be a little dicey as you don’t want the pup to fear coming to you, so be careful not to be too rough. As the pup learns to hup, I have them hup when I call them to me. I do not praise them or reward them in any way until they sit in front of me.

All in all, she’s coming along very nicely. I’ve not had her out with any of the other dogs. She’s too small and I like for pups to learn to explore on their own. If they are with an older dog, all they want to do is chase the older dog around.

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October 18, 2016
Feather is 17 weeks old today. Shots are current except for rabies, which I need to get done soon. She’s about 20 lbs. now. She’s eating like a horse… very healthy appetite, but she runs it off. She’s kind of tall and lean right now. Our walks are getting longer. She’s able to pretty much keep up with my other dogs now. She’s learned the “Kennel” command quite well. I hold off on the “Sweet Talk” until she is in her kennel. As soon as I tell her “Kennel” and she runs in, I call her to me and rub her ears, tell her what a good dog she is, give her a biscuit, etc. She sees her kennel run as a good place to go by doing these things. She’s quite good at coming when I call her, but she’s reaching the stage where at times she thinks she can do as she pleases, so we’ll be working on that. She’s definitely birdy. She notices my pigeons every time they fly from the coop, tweety birds, etc. She’s a very sweet puppy…she just eats up attention. As she grows and gets bolder I’ll be taking her to new places, in heavier cover, etc. The main goal right now is to continue to develop a strong bond so she’s ready for more formal obedience and training down the road…

Taking a short break on one of our walks….

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November 16, 2016

Well, Feather turned 5 months old a couple days ago. She weighs right at 27 pounds. She’s big enough now to go with the big dogs when we take our daily walks. She loves to torment Sam for some reason. He puts up with her. She’s definitely going through the teenage stage. She’s becoming more independent and is reaching out further when we take walks afield. I’m busy trying to fill my deer tag right now, but as soon as that’s done I’ll be starting formal obedience with her. Right now she comes when called if she wants to…that will change. The one thing I insist on in a dog is that they come when called. She’s very smart. It will not take long to get her squared away on that. Oddly enough, when I toss a dummy for her she does great. She races out and picks it up on the fly, spins around and brings it right back to me. Most of the Springers I’ve had have not done this… it’s taken some work to get them to deliver to hand. She just loves retrieving, but I still keep it to 3 or 4 retrieves a couple times a week.
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December 6, 2016

I started formal obedience training with Feather on Sunday.. By formal, I mean the standard heel, sit, come training. Some people call it “Yard Training”. There is no “right age” for starting this training. I prefer to wait until a pup is 5 or 6 months old. Some people prefer to start a pup as soon as they get it home. I like to give a pup time to be a puppy. I like for them to have a lot of exposure to the field and various other sights and sounds. I also believe a pup needs to form a strong bond with me….it needs to not only like being around me, but it must trust me and want to be with me. An 8 week old pup can be taught to sit, of course, but I can teach an older pup to sit in a fraction of the time it takes to teach an 8 or 10 week old pup to sit. That’s not to say I do nothing with a pup up until it’s 5 or 6 months old. During that time I’m calling it to me, praising it up, using treats as a reward, etc. I’m teaching the pup to “Kennel. I’m crate training the pup, getting it used to riding in a vehicle, etc. Teaching “No” is something we seem to do automatically (like teaching a pup not to jump on us). I will have done some play retrieving, but not a lot. When a pup reaches 5 or 6 months of age it usually starts to become much more independent and will start ignoring me when I call it to me. It understands the command, but has never been forced to comply so the pup will usually come when it wants to, but not necessarily when I want it to. This is the sign for me to start formal obedience.

I limit each session to about 10 minutes.. I’ve found that’s about the extent of a pup’s attention span.. Longer than that and they get bored. They start looking around, start responding slowly, etc. Plus 10 minutes is about my limit also. 🙂 One 10 minute session a day will get the job done….two sessions a day is better.

I start obedience training where there are not a lot of distractions. I’ve trained pups in the house, in my garage, in a quiet location on my lawn, etc. I trained my old “Rosie” pretty much during my lunch break in the house. I’d come home at lunch (it was winter) and after I ate a sandwich I’d do 10 minutes of obedience and then go back to work. Training with distractions comes later, but for now the fewer distractions the better.

there are a lot of different methods for teaching these commands. Most are basically the same. I start with a 6 foot slip lead. Some people use a choke collar (chain collar), but a slip collar does pretty much the same thing. I like to take a pup for a walk before I put the slip lead on. I usually take Feather for about a 10 minute walk before I start. A pup will usually do one of two things when you first put the slip lead on.. It will either run and buck, twisting and pulling until it figures out it can’t get away or it will either lay down or want to jump up on you. Both of these responses are escape techniques the pup will use to try to convince you to set her free. Some will act timid and scared, but don’t buy it….just ignore it. Feather started by pulling and jumping around like a rodeo bull. That didn’t work so she came and tried jumping up on me with her tail wagging (That didn’t work either). I told her “Down” and started walking. She went back to trying to pull like a sled dog, so I gave her a couple of firm jerks and changed direction. I did this 4 or 5 times and each time I told her to “Heel”. It took about 5 minutes and she was walking quite calmly by my side. She’d try to lunge ahead every now and then, but a quick jerk reminded her to not pull. I’m not talking about yanking so hard you knock a dog of their feet.. Just a couple off quick jerks is all that are needed. When she was walking by my side like I wanted her to, I sweet talked her a bit…telling her what a good dog she was. I walked her 3 or 4 times for about 10 minutes before I started teaching her to sit or “Hup” (spaniel term).

Teaching her to sit was as simple as pushing down on her rear while pulling up on the lead and saying “Hup”. I had some small treats in my pocket and as soon as her butt hit the ground I gave her a treat and praised her. I phased out the treats after 2 sessions. It literally took one 10 minute session to teach her to sit. Some people don’t use treats, but I’ve found that a treat every now and then really pumps up a pup’s enthusiasm….they look forward to training. Even when my dogs are adults and trained I carry treats in my pocket every now and then and call them up to me and give them a biscuit.

A bit about praise and punishment (corrections). Keep praise low keyed. Don’t go nuts telling your pup what a great dog she is to the point where the pups is laying on her back, squirming all over the place, etc. When Feather sits promptly, I give her pat on the head, tell her “Good Girl” and then immediately heel her a ways before I tell her to “Hup” again. I keep her guessing as to when I’ll have her hup.. I might go 5 yards one time and then 40 yards the next time. Corrections: Springers tend to be a bit soft. Very few require more than a firm “No” and a little shake when they disobey. When you are first teaching a pup to sit, do not discipline them until they understand what you are asking of them. You are teaching them. Just push down on their rear and pull up on the lead until they are sitting. If they try to lay down, pick them up and put them in the sitting position and praise them. Only discipline them when you are sure they understand the command and refuse to comply. Sometimes a pup will just stand and look at you when you stop and say “Hup”. When this happens I bring my right foot around behind the pup (assuming the pup is on my left side) and bump their rear with my foot. This almost always gets them to sit immediately. Right now I’m not asking Feather to sit for any length of time. As we progress I’ll have her sit for 10 seconds, then 30 seconds, a minute, etc. I’ll probably do the heel and sit routine a couple times a day for about a week and then I’ll start having her sit by my side for longer periods. Like most Field bred Springers, she’s a quick learner and very eager to please.

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January 16, 2017

Feather was 7 months old on January 14. I weighed her and she’s right at 33 pounds, so I’m guessing she’ll be 38 to 40 pounds when mature. The weather here the past several weeks has made training a bit tough with temps down to -33 and wind chill temperatures lower than that at times. We just can’t seem to get a break in the weather as it’s been very cold since the first week in December. We still manage to get out every day a couple times and do a little something. I’ve been working on her recall mostly. Sit and heel is convenient, but making sure a dog will come when called is by far the most important command. I’ve been putting the e-collar on her when we go out, but it’s turned off. She’s not ready for that yet. I have it on her just to get her used to wearing it. Her retrieve to hand is coming along very well. I’m really pleased with her progress in that respect. I’m using a dummy with a wing attached. She’s proving to be a fast learner for sure….typical of the breed. All in all I’d say she’s ahead of schedule in her training. Temperamentwise, she’s very sweet… Busy, as most pups are, but very sweet and gentle..

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February 16, 2017

Feather turned 8 months old on the 14th. We’ve been continuing work on her obedience, although with the cold temps we’ve had sessions have been shorter and more sporadic than I would have liked. Her recall is very good with the whistle, but not so good when I call her by her name. I use the whistle almost exclusively when hunting, but she needs to come when I call her by name also as I don’t always have the whistle with me. Her retrieving is solid with the dummy and the wing. I’ll be starting her on frozen birds soon and eventually freshly shot pigeons. Owls have cleaned me out of my homing pigeons again, so I’ll be needing to find some pigeons soon to use. Lately I’ve been working with her in different locations. She needs to learn to obey regardless of where we are, so I’ve been taking here to a few different places. Day before yesterday we took a walk out at the golf course. A hen pheasant got up out of the shelter belt about 30 yards from her that got her attention, and there was lots of deer poop on for her to investigate as well. She’s still learning about all the different sights, smells, and sounds so when she’s investigating I leave her alone. She’s still young enough where she wants me in sight all the time, so having her run wild isn’t a problem.

I haven’t weighed her since last month. She’s still lean and wiry. She’s not going to be a large dog, which is fine with me. It’s very wet and sloppy around here right now with the warm weather and all the melting snow. As soon as it dries out some I’ll be staking her out with the other dogs on the “Chain Gang” to start introducing her to gunfire. I’ll also be starting training with the e-collar soon. With our place being so close to the highway, I want her trained to respond immediately to the recall if she starts toward the road. She does very well, but I’m afraid if a bird should fly across the road or if there were a roadkill she scented that I wouldn’t be able to stop her…

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March 14, 2017

Feather is 9 months old today. She weighs right at 36 pounds. She’s lean and wiry, but I expect she will fill out some as she matures. I’m pretty much just continuing what I’ve been doing the past couple of months, so there’s really not much to update. I’ve not encountered any problems, but I’ve not had her on birds yet. The owls cleaned me out of my training pigeons. I’ve always kept homing pigeons for training, but the owls cleaned me out a couple years ago and they’ve cleaned me out again this winter. So, I think I’ll just buy some pigeons later this spring and not try to keep homers. I’m really not in any hurry. It’s only March and I have all spring and summer to get the things done that I need to. I’ll be introducing her to gunfire on my “chain gang” when it warms up a bit. I’m not concerned that there might be an issue….living near the highway and railroad tracks there’s a lot of loud noises, although they are not the same as shooting over a dog.

In the house she’s a very busy little girl. She’s basically an outdoor dog, but I have her in the house from time to time. I think she’d crawl inside my jacket if I’d let her. She’s crate trained, of course, and just goes to sleep after a bit when I put her in her crate. She’s a very sweet pup, gets along well with other dogs, etc…
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May 1, 2017

Well, I’ve gotten behind on this blog. Between working with Feather and the other dogs and Zena’s litter, I’ve been pretty busy. Lizzie is due the end of this month, so I’ll be busy again for a few weeks.

For those who have a littermate to Feather, her sire, “Payne”, earned his FC recently so he is now both an AFC and an FC. He is qualified to run in both the Open National Championship and the Amateur National Championship this fall. Payne nearly died this past winter from a grass awn infection. He had several surgeries and they didn’t think he was going to survive, but he pulled through and is doing well.

I took Feather to Billings last week for her first CERF exam. Her eyes are normal. There are no veterinary opthamologists in Montana, but one (Dr. Roberts) comes up to Billings and Bozeman a couple times a year, so I take my dogs to him when he comes up. Feather is a good traveler. We went down on Monday and stayed overnight and came back on Tuesday, so she spent a lot of time in her crate in our vehicle. She never made a peep…

Feather is coming along. Her biggest strength that I see right now is her retrieving. She has a beautiful pick up and delivery to hand. She marks extremely well. I can’t take credit for any of this. What she does, she was born with. She just naturally delivers to hand. I see this in the majority of our pups, but not quite to the extent I see in Feather. Zena was a lot like this as a pup as well. The owls cleaned out my pigeon coop over the winter, so I’ve not shot any live birds over Feather yet. I’m in the process of trying to locate some more birds, so her retrieving has been with feathers taped to a dummy and a couple of frozen birds I had in the freezer.

I’ve started introduction to gunfire with her. I’m using the “Chain Gang” for that, as I do with all of my pups. So far I’ve just used the training pistol with .22 blanks. She’s shown no reaction and I’ve worked up to firing the pistol within 20 yards of her. I’ll be introducing the shotgun soon.

She’s starting to reach out more during our walks. We’ve flushed up a few pheasants on our walks, but it’s been mostly by accident. She hasn’t actually scented a bird yet and drove in and flushed it, but that will come. She chases a bit after they flush, which is a good sign. We’ve also flushed some ducks out of the slough behind the house and she is VERY interested when they get up off the water.

I’ve had two close calls with her on the highway. She has gotten on the road twice and ignored my whistle to come back…. The second time a car slowed to almost a stop and laid on their horn and it scared the hell out of Feather and she came running (scared the hell out of me also!). She’s not showed any desire to go near the road since. I’ve introduced her to the e-collar, but she hasn’t quite connected the dots yet, so to speak. By that, I mean that she doesn’t connect the stimulation to the command. She also seems to have a fairly high tolerance to the stimulation. With my other dogs, the lowest level on the collar has all that has been necessary. With feather, I have to go up to about the 3rd level before she shows any reaction. I find that a bit odd as she tends to be a bit on the sensitive side. She’s not overly sensitive by any means, but she’s a bit more sensitive than I like to see in a pup. This usually passes as a pup matures and it’s usually more of an issue with the females than the males, or at least that has been my experience. It’s just one of those things a person has to be aware of and to train accordingly (going a bit slower, giving a pup more time to mature, more praise, etc.).

I’ve not weighed her lately, but I’m guessing she’s still around 36 or 37 pounds. She’s quite lean and has a lighter frame. She’s very, very quick and agile. She runs effortlessly. She gets along well with the other dogs. She loves to wrestle with Sage, her mother. I don’t know if she knows that Sage is her mother, or if she just happens to like playing with her but she doesn’t do this with any of the other dogs.

So, based on what I’m seeing right now my goal is to continue working with her on her recall so that she’s 100% responsive at all times. I also need to get her into some planted birds so I can evaluate her flush and retrieve on real birds. I’m really not worried about her introduction to gunfire. I’ll continue to go slowly with it, but that aspect of her training is not a concern.

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