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!
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!
A recent study done by the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program has left me with more questions than answers. I think most of us, when we encounter a dog, automatically attempt to categorize the breed or type of dog. This may be partially a reaction to make sure that we are safe with that dog in the same proximity as ourselves, our kids or our dogs, or just a natural instinct to categorize it into something known and familiar. But are we right? Even though we have studied dog breeds for decades, we need to ask, are we right in our assumption that what we see in front of us is definitely such and such a breed, or is it something different?
They asked over 5,000 dog experts, varying from veterinarians, breeders, trainers, shelter personnel, and groomers, to give their opinion on what breed(s) of dogs made up the dogs in the photos. In viewing the 119 dogs, they noted what breed(s) they thought made up that particular dog. The University of Florida Veterinary staff then did a DNA test of all of the 119 dogs, and matched up the tests with the guesses provided by the dog experts. The results are very interesting.
Take a few moments and look at what they came up with. http://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/library/research-studies/current-studies/dog-breeds/dna-results/#!prettyPhoto/73/ Do you agree with what the dog experts guessed? Or do you agree with what the DNA showed? (Notice most of the DNA does not add up to 100%, so it’s hard to say what is missing from the picture. There is no further explanation, that I could find, of the actual DNA tests and why they don’t add up to 100%, but, it is interesting nonetheless.)
The breeds that seem to be more obvious and ‘guessed’ correctly are the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and of course, the Basset Hound, but many of them do not look at all like what their DNA says. Doesn’t Dog #4 look like a Pyrenees Shepherd or Catalonian Sheepdog? How did the little puppy, Dog #93, get such a fuzzy looking coat, or Dog #25? All of the breeds in their DNA are smooth coated. Dog #114 doesn’t look like any one of the four breeds that make up what the DNA says he is. Dog #102 would be automatically classified as a Border Collie/Labrador Retriever mix without a second thought. Dog #94 doesn’t look a thing like any of his ancestors, none of which are smooth coated, and Dog #81 is just all mixed up. How did Dog # 79 come up with a smooth coat of the color pattern that he’s showing? And Dog #66 would be a Lab cross at any shelter. Where did Dog #33 pick up the black and white coloration, or Dog #18 get the coloration of an Australian Cattle Dog type? Dog #22 looks like it may be an Am Staff cross, but isn’t, so what of all of the breed specific legislation? He would be outlawed, but he isn’t a bully breed.
The result of the study opens up so many more questions than it answers. It definitely shows how unpredictable genetics are in the canine makeup, and how what one may think is obvious is not so obvious. This presents a challenge to shelter staff when placing the dogs, as the dog may look like a Lab cross, and they may think that it is going to be a fun-loving happy go lucky dog, but instead it’s a Cane Corso cross with high guarding instincts. Someone who wants a herding dog could end up with a bird dog.
What do you think of this study? How do you think the dogs may have inherited a fuzzy coat, or Irish markings, when their DNA shows no heritage of the breeds known for this? Or how did the dog grow large, or small, or have drop ears, or any number of things? How might this relate to our ‘pure’ bred dogs? We obviously can’t tell the personality or temperament from a photo, but judging a dog by its physical characteristics may be much more complicated than may first be considered. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
Nights are cooling down, there’s a bite of fall in the morning air, and some of the trees are starting to take on that brilliant array of colors. You’ve bought your license, cleaned your guns, pulled your cold weather clothes out of the closet and your hunt camp supplies are packed and ready to be loaded in the truck. You are ready for the bird hunt. Then you notice your faithful bird dog is watching your every move with great anticipation, the tip of his tail wagging hopefully each time you go to the door. And it occurs to you that with all of the summer activities, your hunting buddy has gotten a bit out of practice and isn’t as sharp as he could be.
One of the best ways to make sure that your dog is as ready as you are for the hunt season is to do training drills. This will remind him of what his part of the partnership is and tune him up in anticipation of the hunt. Author James B. Spencer covers drills for both marking and blind retrieves in two of his books, Retriever Training Drills for Marking and Retriever Training Drills for Blind Retrieves. Both of these activities are excellent to refresh the dog, as well as you, and allows both of you to reconnect with each other to be a fully engaged team out in the field. He emphasizes drills as the best way to train and refresh the dog, as the repetition enhances the natural abilities of the dog, so that when he is out in the field, his actions become more automatic.
In Retriever Training Drills for Marking, Spencer covers the single mark, the double mark and the triple mark and how to work them. In Retriever Training Drills for Blind Retrieves, he explains lining drills for land and water, stopping, casting, combination, “suction,” and transition drills. Both books explain the concepts and the steps to take for working with that particular drill, prerequisites for that drill, and several precautions and pitfalls. He accompanies many of these lessons with photographs or detailed sketches to give a clearer picture of what he is describing.
You can very easily skim through the table of contents to find an area where you feel your dog could improve. For example, if you have a dog that likes to eat the birds before he reaches you, then you would turn to Chapter 3, page 33, in Marking and read how most hardmouth dogs are created, and then read the cure for it. Here Spencer discusses the various reasons the dog may have become hardmouthed, and how he fixes it. Did you know that if you re-use a dead pigeon or upland game bird on water, then it’s possible to inadvertently teach your dog to eat the bird? This is because the feathers fall out easily, skin is exposed, and fresh meat is right there for the taking. Did you know that “stickiness” is mostly due to either previous training errors, incorrectly timed corrections, pulling the bird from his mouth, over training or, quite understandably, the dog knowing it’s his last bird of the hunt and doesn’t want to quit yet?
Both of these books are peppered with personal experiences and stories that are entertaining and bring a more personal touch to the book. Spencer has been there and done that, and rubs elbows with those who also have been there and done that. He also brings in much humor from these experiences and puts it into the training text. For example, on teaching the dog to ‘sit’ on the whistle command, he mentions that “before electronic collars, slipped whistles and slow responses were a plague for most trainers. If the trainer ran out to the dog, the dog would probably sit long before the huffing and puffing humanoid arrived, so immediate correction was impossible.”
Each book has excellent information for those who would like to train or improve their hunting dog’s performance. Even if you just use parts of it now, you may find that later on you need another section. By applying what you will learn here, you can develop into an awesome working team that will impress all of your friends in the field and home. Find all of James B. Spencer’s books on Alpine Publications’ website.