that our bird season is almost over, it might be time to take a hard
look at how some of our off season dog training paid off for this
season. By and large, a bird's dogs performance and usefulness as we
hunt throught the season is largely the result of just two factors.
One, the dog's natural ability, and two, the dog's grounding in basic
The only one of these factors
that we can directly control once the pup is home with us is the level
of basic obedience training at which the dog will perform.For all
pointing dogs there are just three obedience commands that are required
to ensure great field performance as our dog goes about her duties.
These commands are "come", "whoa"
The only other thing that is necessary is that the dog be broke or
acclimated to the report of the shotgun. Over the next few months I
will cover each of these areas one at a time.
The first command that we need
to teach is "come". Without unfailing obedience to this command, our
hunting days, will be filled with frustration as the dog will spend
more time doing what he wants to do resulting in more time with you
looking for him. Spending the afternoon looking for the dog is HUNTING
but it is not exactly the type of hunting that we have in mind. Too
many afternoons of this and the hunter will take up golf and the dog
will become ignored or worse.
In properly training from
puppyhood, we can build a relationship with our dog that will serve us
to perfection in the field and serve as a springboard to advanced
training.Ok, enough intro...here is how you do it.
Starting when pup is 8 weeks
old, the basic idea is to train the pup so that his whole world
revolves around his desire to be where you are.
In this early stage, make the training light-hearted and even a bit of
a game. With pup in a confined area, get down on the floor with him
several times a day and call pup to you with a light voice, and soft
"fweet, fweet" whistle with your mouth. As the pup comes in to you,
extend your arms out in a funnel in front of you and welcome him in as
he comes. When he gets in, make a big fuss over him, give him a treat
and just make him feel that this is the best part of his whole day. It
goes without saying at this point that just
keeping the dog with you and your family as much as possible as you
just go about you business each day is very important. Some folks even
recommend tying the dog to your waist with a light cord in the first
few weeks so that he must go everywhere with you. Anything you can do
to help the dog believe that his "place" is with you is beneficial.
This helps to establish the dog's "pack" instinct with you as the pack
leader. Keep this early training short and sweet, so that pup really
comes to look forward these little sessions. Don't over do it and stop
well before pup has lost interest.
I cannot stress enough that the
responsibility for the dog's
response to this command lies
completely with YOU.
Do not take the dog out if you are not
on any given day to enforce this
command and do not
give the command once you are out with
the dog unless
you are fully prepared to go enforce it.
By this I mean that if you and the dog
are out for
a session and he is hunting away from
you and you want
to have him come in, if you call and
he does not respond, you MUST hoof it
to where he is ASAP...
Once you have this going well,
attach a short, light lead to pups collar and when you call him in
these sessions, command "come" and give him two quick, little "pops"
with the lead as you whistle "fweet, fweet". As before, hold you arms
open and welcome him in and make a big fuss over him as before. Don't drag him to you, he
must come on his own at this point. Once he has obeyed and received his
reward release him with "ok", this means he is now free until you call
him again. He will learn that if he comes, he will be rewarded and then
be allowed to go on for a bit.
You should now move the
session into the yard once in while. Use a regular walking lead on the
dog and let him drag it around as you play with him in the yard and on
your little exploring trips afield. Once in awhile, when he comes near,
grab the lead and call him to you as before. It is important that in
his mind, that the lead come to symbolize your bond with him. At this
point you may have to apply a bit of pressure with the lead.
Again, DO NOT drag the dog to you! Call him, give
the whistle as you pop him lightly, if he fails to come in, whistle and
pop him again and repeat until he is on his way in to you. It is
important to keep making a fuss over him each time he complies as we
want him to believe that the best thing in the world is to come in to
you when he is called. He will soon want avoid being called again and
getting another pop with the lead. It is important to give the command
when you know the dog can hear you and is likely to respond. Don't get
into a tug of war with the dog when he is distracted.