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Dave's Commentary, Jul. 16, 00

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What does it take to train my puppy? 

It seems that folks buy a pup and expect too much the first year out if they have no prior gun dog ownership experience.  These folks want the dog to hunt perfectly right out of the chute.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times.  Immediate results, now.  Or, maybe it’s just the old never-ending desire to produce game on each and every hunt.

When I get a pup in for training, the first thing I explain is what to expect of a first year pup with no experience.  Every trainer has their own ideas of how fast a pup should progress so my time line may not match other trainers’ time lines.  Keep in mind that my philosophy is to take it slow and easy in order to bolster the fire that’s instinctually there.  Too much too soon will put out the fire.

Of course training should be tailored to the personality of the pup.  Naturally bold pups can handle a bit more earlier than naturally shy pups.  I try to evaluate each pup individually so that I can use the correct approach for that pup.

A pup from solid hunting lines will probably hunt as well, that’s a given.  So it’s what you start with that matters the most to me.  All too often we get dogs with questionable bloodlines, usually from ‘back yard breedings’.  There was no plan for this dog when it came to bloodlines, and many times, the parents don’t even hunt, and if they do, they aren’t great at it.

So we start with a pup from proven lines.  My earliest recommendation to new owners is “Slow Down”.  Too much too soon is usually the problem.  I get questions like “My pup is 3 months old and I can’t get him to hunt birds” or “My pup is 4 months old and he won’t heel and whoa.  What do I do?”

My recommendation for young pups is generally this: Teach the pup its name in a ‘gentle fashion’, teach it that ‘NO’ means ‘NO’, and have fun playing with your pup.  Treat it like a baby.  Think of it as a newborn with big time limitations.

My favorite analogy of training a young pup is this: Would you hand your car keys to a 5 year old child and ask the child to drive to the grocery store for you?  No!  So don’t expect too much from your pup and you will be pleasantly surprised as to how fast he learns.

On the flip side, don’t go too slow either.  Again, it’s reading the personality of the pup.  If you just don’t know, seek the help of a professional.  I will say this though, many more times is the pup being pushed too fast than not fast enough.

The first thing we do here when a new pup shows up for training is take the pup to the pigeon coop and let the young pup smell live birds.  When he is interested/watching, we release the birds to fly away.  If the pup is already birdy, this will drive him crazy.  If the pup is not yet birdy, this starts the process of getting him excited about birds.  Sometimes we’ll take a slow starter into the pigeon coop and let him observe the birds – usually this gets the pups attention and he starts wanting to catch the birds.  This is the first crucial step in my opinion.  Getting the dog excited about birds Before yard work.

Next week I’ll be writing about a dog that was started and finished by me.  Thanks for stoppin’.  Give your pup a treat for me.

For “How to train”, read my training/FAQ pages at this website. 

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