Stonebroke Kennels
100% Field Bred English Springer Spaniels

Training Tips

I found this link below recently in regards to the importance and understanding of time when training a dog (or any animal for that matter). I wish every animal owner would read it and memorize it…

https://nancytanner.com/2016/04/11/the-misunderstanding-of-time/

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Wings and Tim - 1996

I’m by no means an expert on training, but I’ll share a few things I’ve learned over the years.

What to Expect When You Bring Your Pup Home

While this isn’t a training tip, per se, if it’s been a while since you brought a puppy home or if this is your first puppy here’s what you can typically expect. Puppies have very sharp teeth!!! Everything goes in their mouth.. It’s how they learn about their world. Most puppies will want to bite your fingers and hands. This isn’t aggression….it’s just how puppies are. When you have your pup on your lap and he/she wants to bite your hand, just tap them lightly on the nose or grab them around the snout and firmly say “No”!!! Pups usually grow out of this in a couple of weeks, but they need to understand that it is not acceptable.

Pups want to be with you. When you take them for a walk they will be underfoot most of the time, grabbing at your pantleg and shoelaces, etc. Be very careful during this time so that you don’t step on them. It helps to put them on a leash, but they will still probably get wrapped around your feet. Eventually they will start to explore and won’t be underfoot, but it will take a couple of weeks.

Your pup is going to cry whenever you leave it by itself… Don’t run to its rescue. Let them learn that being alone isn’t the end of the world. Only go to them when they have quieted down. Reward them for being quiet….not for whining and barking. The travel crate is your best friend. Pups are fun but they can also try our patience. When you need a break from your pup, put him in his crate. The general rule of thumb for housetraining is that the pup is either being directly supervised every second or it is in its crate (or kennel run). Your pup will probably need to go out during the night at first… Be prepared to get up and let him out. Put him out whenever he wakes up from a nap and after he eats. This will prevent a lot of accidents in the house!!!

Introduction to Gunfire

I’m including this near the top of the list as I feel it is the most important thing a person does with their puppy. It doesn’t matter how hard the dog hunts, how well it retrieves, etc. if you don’t introduce the pup to gunfire properly. A gunshy dog is absolutely worthless in the field. Dogs are not born gunshy….they become gunshy because of improper training. There are many methods to introduce a dog to gunfire. I’m not going to cover them here. Every book ever written on gundog training covers this. My only advice is to follow whatever procedure you decide on precisely. Do not rush this aspect of training.. It takes as long as it takes. Do not take your pup to places it will be subjected to gunfire until it is conditioned properly. Our dogs come from a very long line of some of the finest Field Bred Springers in the world. Thousands and thousands and thousands of birds have been shot over the dogs in your pup’s pedigree but that doesn’t mean your pup doesn’t need to be conditioned to gunfire. You still have to go through the process step by step.

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E-Collars

I’m going to start by saying if you’ve never trained a gundog before, don’t buy an e-collar. I’ll repeat that…DO NOT BUY OR ATTEMPT TO USE AN E-COLLAR IF YOU’VE NEVER TRAINED A DOG BEFORE!!! If you decide to train with an e-collar, read everything you can find on the subject. Watch some videos or talk to a pro. An e-collar is a great tool in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. Used improperly, you will not only risk ruining your pup but it is a very cruel device.

I resisted using an e-collar for many years. As a matter of fact, it’s only been the last year or so that I’ve used one. I just didn’t feel that I had the expertise to use one, but after talking to a few professional trainers I decided to give one a try. I made sure I understood exactly what I was doing before I put the collar on a dog. As a matter of fact, I put the collar on my arm so I could feel the different levels of stimulation so I fully understood what the dog would be feeling. To be honest, I couldn’t force myself to hit the button past level 4 on my collar, but I hate electricity!!!

There are a multitude of collars available today with all kinds of features. I like at least 16 different stimulation levels and a tone button. Some collars come with both tone and vibration features. The vibration mode does not give electrical stimulation…it merely vibrates on the dog’s neck. Some collars have a beeper feature that allows you to hear where your dog is up to 400 yards away, according to the advertising. Other collars come with a bark limiter feature for when your dog is at home in the yard. Other collars even have a GPS so you know where your dog is.

Train your pup with traditional methods until you are absolutely positive the pup understands the commands you are using. There is no substitute or shortcuts to properly training your pup. It takes time and patience and tons of repetition. Once you are certain your pup understands the commands you are using, you can then reinforce WHAT THE DOG ALREADY KNOWS with the e-collar. I’m not going to cover the the training methods in detail…there are plenty of books and videos out there that do that. In regards to Springers, a field bred Springer is very intelligent and generally speaking tend to be on the soft side. My dogs respond to the lowest setting on my collar (a Tritronics) and after a couple of nicks, all that I ever need is the tone button. Every dog is different.

For me the biggest advantage of an e-collar is safety.. If a young pup flushes up a bird, deer, etc. and heads toward a road, I can stop the pup. In a nutshell, I can keep my dog out of trouble with the e-collar. Snake proofing can be done with and e-collar as can training your pup to avoid porcupines. I’ve not done either of those yet, but I’m going to.

Retrieving:

It seems like most training problems people encounter involve retrieving….usually it’s a problem with a pup running off with the dummy, parading, or not delivering to hand properly. You can start play retrieving as soon as you get your pup home, but don’t overdo it. 3 or 4 retrieves with a knotted up rag or puppy dummy every other day is plenty. You want to keep you puppy excited about retrieving… you don’t want him to become bored with it. Most puppies will want to run off with the dummy. You can help prevent this by doing the initial retrieving in a hallway where the only place the puppy has to run to is back to you. He’ll try to run by you, but just grab him and pick him up. Don’t take the dummy away from him immediately. Let him hold it in his mouth while you praise him. After 10 seconds or so tell him “Drop” and gently take the dummy from him and toss it again. Most puppies love this game. At some point you may want to put him through a force fetch program. This is covered in most books. One of the best programs I’ve seen is the one James Spencer uses. He uses a gentle approach. His method is outlined in his book “Hup – Training Flushing Spaniels”.

Dollys Pup - April 29   2013 010

Introduction to the Field:

You can (and should!) take your pup for walks daily. You can do this as soon as you get your pup home. Keep the walks short for the first few weeks (20 Minutes is plenty for an 8 week old pup) and take him in light cover. Start with short grass fields and gradually get him into taller grass and other light cover. Eventually you’ll want to get him into the type of cover he’ll be hunting when full grown….willows, cattails, etc., but he’ll need to be big enough to get through heavy cover before you start (5 or 6 months) and keep the sessions short until he’s done growing.. Again, 20 minutes or so in heavy cover is plenty to start with. Get down in the brush with him….don’t skirt the edge and expect him to bust the cover. Get down in there with him and he’ll learn much faster. When you are out in the field with him, do not be constantly calling him in, tooting on your whistle, yelling, etc… Leave him alone. Do not distract him from learning. He needs to explore and learn about the different scents, where birds live, how to negotiate brush and barbwire, etc. and he doesn’t need you interfering… Eventually you’ll build in the control, but that’s not what you’re doing now..

Keep your pup in front of you… You don’t want him tagging along behind. This is usually not a problem with a well bred Springer from field lines, but if your pup starts tagging along behind you stop and turn around so he is in front of you. Stand there until he moves and then follow behind him. Sometimes when a pup starts to follow you and not get out and investigate it is an indication that the pup is tired… Keep that in mind.

If you have an older dog, leave him home!!! Your pup needs to learn on his own. Another dog is a distraction and the pup will be more interested in playing with the older dog, chasing him around, etc. Plus you will need to focus your attention on the pup…you can’t be worrying about what another dog is doing. You can take your pup out with other dogs later, but for now take him out by himself.

Buckshot at about 6 months of age..learning about heavier cover!

Buckshot - March  2014  P1000182

Range:

The key to killing birds with a Springer is keeping them in shotgun range. Of course, training your pup to come on command and sit immediately is the basis for keeping him in range but there are some other things you can do to help your pup. During your pup’s first season in the field, hunt him in tight cover….don’t hunt him in open fields. He will want to be with you and by hunting heavier cover he is naturally going to want to keep tabs on you. You’ll need birds to train your pup… Pigeons are as good as any. Another thing I do to keep a pup close is to have 2 or 3 pigeons in my vest. When the pup starts to get out of range I pip on my whistle to call him back and when he gets near me I toss a pigeon out from behind my back. It doesn’t take long for the pup to learn that you know where the birds are and he will spin around immediately and come back to you when you pip a couple times on your whistle. Don’t overdo this. Don’t release a bird every time you call him back. Eventually he’ll figure out what range you expect him to hunt at.

Water:

Springers love swimming, but like introducing them to gunfire you need to gradually introduce them to water. Wait for a hot summer day and give them a run. Assuming you are near a lake or a pond, wade out a few feet and encourage the pup to follow you. Some will wade out but will turn around when their feet can’t touch bottom. Don’t force the issue… You can hold the pup in your arms and gently put him down and let him swim if you are a few feet from shore. He’ll probably thrash the water at first, but it won’t take long until he’s swimming smoothly through the water. Don’t toss him in and let him thrash about and don’t take him out in a boat and push him over the side!!! It’s the rare Springer that doesn’t love the water, but let them learn at their own pace. A word of caution: When your pup takes to the water and loves swimming, don’t let him do it for long periods of time. Many will swim for hours if you let them, but they can take on water and actually die from water intoxication… Please read this link: http://thebark.com/content/danger-water-intoxication

0-TedsFirstSwimmingLesson010
Springers swimming - Sept 2013

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