You’ve done your research and have located the perfect spaniel breed for your needs. Now the little guy is tumbling around at your feet, and you’re wondering how to get started. Have no fear, the only thing you need is your healthy seven to twelve week old spaniel puppy and a strong desire to train him on your part. So, other than the necessary equipment, you’re set!
A quick note on the equipment: You will need a simple flat collar, short lead, flexi-leash, and some puppy-sized retrieving dummies. Training will be taking place in your home and yard.
Once you have your equipment together, you are ready to proceed with the training of your puppy. Remember, the more quality time you can spend with him regularly, the better relationship you will develop. You will understand him, and he will understand you. As you are getting acquainted with him, expose him to as many situations as you can that you foresee him encountering later in life. Choose a call name that is short, one to two syllables, and doesn’t rhyme with any of the commands, such as “Joe,” “Mack” or “Ray” as they sound like “no,” “back” or “stay.”
Since your puppy is still very young, most trainers begin with the play-retrieve. Start to teach the play- retrieve when the puppy becomes comfortable around you, and will happily pick up different things and tote them back to his “house” or “lair.” Once he is doing that by himself, place yourself between where he picks up the toy and where he takes it and playfully con him out of it. This conditions the pup that you are his “secondary lair.”
Familiarize your puppy with the puppy dummy. Hold him by the collar and show him the dummy, as it’s something new to him and it may be scary at first. Let him smell it and mouth it, but don’t allow him to run off with it. Don’t tease him with it; just let him get familiar with it. When he appears to be comfortable with the dummy, go close to his “house.” Tease him with the dummy, tap it on the ground, wave it around, talk excitedly, whatever it takes to get him really wanting that dummy. When he really wants it, toss it a short way off. If he goes after it, picks it up and goes by you, grab his collar and bring him to a stop. Do not take the dummy at this time! Pet and praise the pup enthusiastically for a minute or two, and then see if he will let you take the dummy. You don’t want to take it too soon, as he may run away from you next time as he feels that it is his and you shouldn’t have it. If he won’t let you have it, continue praising him and petting him until he’s ready to let you have it. Then toss it again.
Repeat this two or three times. Don’t over do it. You want to keep him excited and wanting the dummy, not tired and worn out. Keep it fun. With a pup that won’t bring it back, you will have to attach him to the flexi-lead and bring him back to you, with or without the dummy. You may also use a small alleyway where he doesn’t have a place to run except out and back. Do not take him off the flexi-lead until he is regularly bringing the dummy back to you. Otherwise, you may inadvertently train him to bring it to you only when he is on the long lead.
Once he’s reliably bringing the dummy back to you in front of his “house” go into your backyard. Continue to keep the tosses short, five to ten feet. Move around the backyard as he demonstrates a reliable return. If he doesn’t readily return to you, place him back on the flexi-lead and work with him until he comes back to you without you having to pull him back in.
Keep the sessions short. Three or four retrieves is plenty. You can have another session an hour or so later, but keep them all short. Work slowly and let him improve at his own speed . Once he is reliably retrieving with you in various places, he is ready to move on to the next steps. This would include teaching him a command for the retrieve, whistle commands, and introduction to cover, birds, gunfire and water.
The first step in field training starts in the house or within the confines of your yard. As soon as the dog is accustomed to his new surroundings it is time to play hide and seek. Playing games with the dog is an excellent way to begin training as it immediately associates training with fun. Put the collar and harness on the puppy, walk away from him and try to hide. Praise the puppy for following and finding you. Distract the puppy with a toy to get the puppy to focus on the toy and not you. Leave and hide just out of sight of the puppy, around a corner or behind something, then call the puppy and wait.
If the puppy becomes frustrated and cries, call him. If he can’t seem to figure out where you are, call him again or catch his attention by waving and then ducking down. Praise him for finding you. As he figures the game out make it more difficult. Have someone hold him back as you walk away, calling him, and disappear out of sight. Hide and then tell the holder to let him go. Call the puppy once and wait. Again, lots of praise and pats for the successful puppy.
Hide behind furniture, yard objects, doors, boxes or other objects. Make the game quick and fun in the beginning and gradually make it more difficult as the pup gets the hang of it. Move the game outside or to a bigger area. Once the puppy understands the game it is time to begin developing his skills by looking for strangers. You now move from being the quarry to being the handler.
Start the hide and seek game again but this time attach a lead to the puppy’s collar. Have the runner walk away, calling the puppy and stepping out of sight. Move the lead from the collar to the harness and give the puppy the “Find!” command. Release the tension on the lead and let the puppy go after the runner. If the puppy doesn’t start searching have the runner call him. When the pup moves forward give him the working command again and encourage him. Don’t pull or steer him with the lead, just keep it slack.
If the pup stops or gets distracted have the runner call him and make sure the runner gives the puppy a treat or lots of attention when the pup makes the find. Make sure it is a big deal so the puppy is willing to try again! Puppy trails should include some trails where the person is within sight of the puppy but further away so that all the puppy has do is run to them. Mix in some hidden runner trails but keep things fun and consistent. Be sure to start each trail with the command to work and encourage the dog along the way.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for a working dog is to have a handler that steers or guides the dog by using pressure on the lead. Remember that you are learning to follow the dog who is following the scent, something that you can’t see. You have to learn to trust the dog. In these early stages watch the path the runner takes, the jogs and the turns, and then watch the pup as he follows. Notice how closely he follows the trail and watch his body language. You will be learning the dog’s signals and how he may operate in the field.
Kady would signal turns and changes in the trail by changing the way she held her tail. This is very common. When the dog is on trail and working, the tail is held up; in areas of contamination or areas where there is a scent pool the tail drops to half-mast. Once the dog picks up the trail the tail goes back up and if the trail ends suddenly the tail drops. If the dog comes across a body or detects fear the tail drops and curls under the dog. some handlers refer to these tail movements as alerts or flags. Get to know how your dog signals trail changes.
Excerpt from On the Trail by Jan Tweedie
Spring is peeking around the corner, time for growth and new beginnings. At Alpine Publications, we are looking forward to bringing our customers new books that are useful, as well as enjoyable. While we have several unique books that we feel you will enjoy coming out this year, we would love to hear from you personally so that we can have a better opportunity to bring the right books to your bookshelves. Could you please take a few minutes to fill out this brief survey and let us know what you would like to see provided in a book? We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Take Our Survey!
Dog sports that have developed from mushing
In countries or areas with large amounts of snow, especially Scandinavia, Siberia, and Alaska, dogs have been used as a main source of transportation for many centuries. More recently, with the development of better and different equipment, as well as human’s desire to be creative and team up with dogs, there has been an outgrowth of ‘dog-powered’ sports that originate from the sled dogs of the past.
Skijoring, or “ski driving” in Norwegian, has been used in the Scandinavian countries for centuries. In skijoring, people were towed behind horses, reindeer or dogs on long wooden skis. In modern times, this practical use has turned into a popular recreational, as well as competitive, sport that people on cross-country skis can enjoy with their dogs. As only one to three dogs are needed for a team, those people in urban areas can participate in this activity. Races can vary in length, from the 270 mile Kalevala, held in Russia, the Road Runner 100 held in Whitehorse, Yukon, or the many shorter lengths offered by various mushing and sled dog clubs. Although not as well-known in North America, pulka racing has been popular in Europe for many years. A pulk is a small sled that is pulled either by the skijorer or the dog. This also dates back to early history as man traversed with their dogs throughout the snow season. Kick sledding is a lesser known sport that involves a small sled with long runners in the rear with a chair mounted on the runners. Since only one or two dogs are usually used with the kick sled, this also attracts urban dog owners.
Naturally, when people have dogs that are willing to pull them, the mode of transportation for the human can become quite varied. Bikejoring, bladjoring, dog scootering, canicross, and dryland mushing are activities that grew out of mushing. The first three sports are similar to dog sledding, but instead of using a sled the handler uses a bike, roller blades or a non-motorized scooter. Each sport includes a person and one to three dogs. The person wears a waist belt which is attached to a bungee cord or elastic line, which is then attached to the harness on the dog(s).Bikejoring pairs up a person riding a mountain bike with the dog(s), whereas bladjoring matches up a person wearing roller blades, and with dog scootering, the person uses a non-motorized scooter. Originating in Europe, canicross started as an off-season training program for mushers. A runner, using a waist belt and bungee cord or elastic line, hooks up to one or two dogs in harnesses, and the dog(s) pull the runner. The first Canicross World Championship was held in Ravenna, Italy, in 2002. Dryland mushing matches up a team with a three or four wheeled cart. Started as a way to keep a sled team in shape during the warmer months, it has grown increasingly in popularity, and now has its own competitive events.
Join us next week as we delve into dog sports that are non-competitive!
Dog sports that have developed since the 1960s and 1970s.
In our two previous blogs, we discussed two different aspects of dog sports. The first of which developed out of the work that dogs were involved in using their natural instincts, mainly hunting and herding. The second area developed from work where people used the dog’s strengths, either as guard or protection dogs or draft work. More recent sports have developed out of these older dog sports. They began to show up sometime in the 1960s and 1970s. Several of them, especially agility, have become quite popular and draw a wide array of competitors. A large advantage to most of these sports is they do not require a certain type of dog, just a willingness from the dog to partner up with his owner, so anyone can join in the fun.
Agility, a very popular sport, was first seen in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. After a demonstration at Crufts in 1978, spectators were intrigued and wanted to try their dogs on it. From there it grew to local, national, and then international competitions, with standard equipment and rules.
A lesser known event is flyball. Started in the late 1960s, early 1970s, this fun sport began in the Southern California area, and has now grown to over 300 tournaments a year across North America. This is an adrenalin packed event pitting two teams of four dogs. Each dog races over four hurdles, hits the box at the end for the tennis ball inside, then returns over the hurdles in a relay.
Rally Obedience was developed to encourage participation in obedience while offering a class that emphasizes fun and a more natural way to show off a dog’s obedience skills. A new sport, recently developed in Germany, is Treibball. In this sport, the dog must ‘herd’ eight balls into a soccer-type goal with only whistles, verbal commands or hand signals being allowed from the handler. This was developed especially for those dogs that love to herd, but have no access to livestock. Nosework, where the dog searches for certain scents, was developed in southern California by a team of professional dog trainers that specializes in detection dog work. They wanted to offer the same opportunities for scent work to companion dogs that their detection dogs had in scent work, offering a dog a chance to use his innate hunting and scenting skills. Agilure is a new sport which combines agility and lure coursing where the dog races after a lure that goes through a course similar to an agility course.
Several fun activities that are becoming quite popular are dock diving, and musical canine freestyle, also known as canine dressage or heelwork to music. Dock diving probably started when some guy boasted that his dog could jump out further than the other guy’s dog, but officially took off in 1997 when the Purina sponsored Incredible Dog Challenge used the dock diving as a filler and received a more enthusiastic response then they expected. Combining obedience training, tricks and dance, Musical Canine Freestyle began simultaneously around 1990 in several different countries. There are two different types of musical canine freestyle; freestyle heeling where the dog stays in a variation of the heel position, and musical freestyle that requires the dog to do a combination of tricks and obedience maneuvers.
Join us next week as we explore the many fun sports that have come from mushing!
Dog activities that developed from working dogs.
As we became a more industrial society, with extra time to do different activities, and dogs were less of a work only animal and more of a companion, dog sports began to develop throughout the world.
The most common sport, obedience, has been a long recommended activity for dog owners, even if only to teach their dog basic manners. Many owners get hooked on it and find themselves entering the competition ring. Although the history is not clear, obedience appears to have come about sometime during and after WWI when the military required dogs to serve. As the dogs needed some type of formal training, the military developed certain exercises to help create the type of dog they wanted. A Colonel Konrad Most from Germany also had started training dogs for police work in 1906. As his students immigrated to other countries, they brought their dog training skills with them. Helene Whitehouse Walker, a breeder of Standard Poodles in the 1930s, was instrumental in establishing the AKC version of the Obedience Trial. Her kennel manager, Blanche Saunders, trained under Josef Weber, who was a student of Col. Most. Today, there are thousands of obedience trials throughout the world with a large following.
The sport of protection dogs began in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These include Schutzhund, French Ring Sport, Mondio Ring, Belgian Ring, and KNPV. Schutzhund is probably the best known of the various protection dog sports. With the industrialization of Germany, fewer German Shepherds were used for their original function of sheep herding, but were being used instead as police and military dogs. Concerns of breeding inferior dogs were raised. Thus, in order to maintain the integrity of the breed, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, developed a test whereby the dog’s performance could be tested and rated. Today, any breed of dog can compete in Schutzhund trials, although certain breeds, such as the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Belgian Malinois and other herding or guarding breeds are more suited for it.
Early archeology points to the invention of dog sledding in the Canadian Thule sites at some point between AD 1000 and AD 1600. There are also historical writings appearing in Arabian literature from the 10th century and mention of them in Marco Polo’s accounts written in the 1300s. Racing probably occurred frequently between mushers, but one of the first initial races was held in Alaska in 1908. Today, there are thousands of various sled dog races throughout the world, being run by a very wide assortment of breeds.
Weight pulling most likely started in the Alaskan Gold Rush days, where miners would compete against other miners, betting that their dog was stronger than the other dog. In the early days, it only included the larger freight or sled dogs, and later on, the pit bull type dogs and mastiffs. Now, it is open to all breeds, from small to massive, with each size pulling weight in relation to their size and body weight. This sport has grown to include pulling weights on a sled on snow or a cart on dry ground. Recognized by several club registries, there are events now going on throughout the world.
Carting or drafting with dogs is also from ancient roots. Because of the higher cost and maintenance of horses, dogs were frequently used as draught animals, especially in Europe. Many of the large working breeds were used to help the farmer, baker and others bring their produce to market by pulling a wheeled cart. During war times, they were used to pull carts with ammunition or machine guns. Although it appears that most competitions are available only through certain breed clubs, this is an event that many dogs can compete in and enjoy.
Join us next week as we cover the newer sports that have developed since the 1960s.
Competitive and Non-Competitive Dog Sports & Activities
Part I – Working with the dog’s natural instincts
As people have more leisure time and dogs are no longer required to work for their living, the natural desire to interact with dogs and to compete has grown exponentially.
Did you know that there are now over 40 different types of dog sports that you can participate in with your dog? A large percentage of them any owner and their dog can enjoy, regardless of breed type or size. Others, such as Schutzhund, herding, retrieving or mushing, require a particular type of dog.
Competitive dog sports that have evolved from centuries of dogs working for humans include herding, field trials, hunting with hounds, earthdog trials, mushing, weight pulling, carting, and lure coursing. Other competitive and non-competitive sports have developed through our interaction with our dogs and the creative imagination of dog owners.
Using the dogs’ natural instincts, humans have developed special types of dogs to help in day to day life. Farmers and ranchers have used dogs for herding their livestock for centuries. Today, herding trials have been developed to show off the talents used daily at home on cattle, sheep and ducks. Dogs have long been used for bird hunting and with the advent of the gun, competitive trials soon sprang up. Field trials are open to all sporting breeds, broken into the different hunting type; retriever, pointer and spaniels. Hound breeds have been used the world over to hunt game other than birds. They usually hunt in a pack, and are well-known for their musical baying as they trail their quarry. Terriers were developed to exterminate rodents, but in more modern times, there are fewer rodents for them to kill. Several groups worked on establishing a ‘go to ground’ program, but it wasn’t until the American Working Terrier Association developed one in 1971 that earthdog trials really began to take off.
Dog racing is an ancient sport, dating back to the Egyptian Pharaohs. Although today dog racing is done on professional race tracks, the average owner can still test his dogs’ speed in lure coursing, terrier races, or weiner dog races. Lure coursing is a sport that owners of sight hounds can enjoy with their dogs. In this sport, dogs chase a lure that is attached to a moving string pulled by a motor. Although other countries had some type of lure coursing even over a century ago, actual lure coursing competition was established in the US in the 1960s-70s. Chances are that terrier racing started out with the “my dog can beat your dog” attitude. There is no record of when it started, but it has grown in popularity, especially in England where terriers are frequently raced at the horse shows. Weiner dog, or Dachshund, races, are a way for people who own Dachshunds to get together and have a fun time with friends and their dogs. It is slowly growing in popularity, with the formation of several Dachshund racing associations, especially the Weiner Nationals sponsored by Weinerschnitzel, with the final competition every December in conjunction with the Holiday Bowl.
Join us next week as we cover the sports that work more with the desire for dogs to work as a team. Be sure to take our poll!