Team Wild’s dog training expert Sarah Hanson provides her top tips for successfully training and taking care of your Gundog.
Shooting season is well over and last month the Scurry season kicked off in a fine manner at Kelmarsh Game & Country Fair, if you’re anything like me you see the close season as an opportunity to retrain behaviours that may have gone missing or aren’t up to scratch after shooting season, to further the foundations laid last summer now a new dog has some experience under his or her belt and maybe to even compete, three months into the close season should see things polishing up nicely now, just incase they aren’t here are a few tips and ideas to ask yourself.
We know the importance of diet for children to be able to work and focus in school, dogs are little different. Feed him an appropriate diet, people get hung up on protein and fat content of foods when really we need to look at the sources of the proteins and nutrients, if you’re feeding low quality and cheap, don’t expect Fido to be able to concentrate in your class room, let alone be in it, especially if he is high on sugar and additives.
Is your dog in pain?
Just like us, dogs pick up injuries and niggles when working and playing, especially hard going gundogs who take no prisoners when chasing down a runner in thick cover. Gundogs especially have so much drive to hunt and retrieve that they will work, often well, even when carrying an injury. Even a good vet cannot always tell if your dog has an injury, just like your GP may not, find a chiropractor and get him checked? My newest addition, a German Wire Haired Pointer was slightly lame at full speed, our local vet could find no fault, our specialist veterinary chiropractor noted a cracked bone in her foot, ten days rest, another check and she’s bouncing again.
Decide what you are going to work on before you set out into the field, I have training diaries for all the dogs that come through my hands, for the sake of a 99p note book you can save a lot of frustration for the dog and head scratching for yourself, especially in multi dog house holds.
Set him up for success.
Take small steps and aim for success, set the dog up to succeed. If they could do it yesterday, it doesn’t necessarily mean he can do it again today. Something about the environment, the dog, you or anything else may have changed and thrown things out. Make the exercise manageable and build the dog’s confidence and always end on success. Even if you set out to do a 100yd blind and end up doing a 30yd memory, we all have off days.
Build up the length of training sessions slowly, don’t cover the same exercise in drill format over and over, you’ll kill the dogs drive and enthusiasm. Training is best done in short and productive bursts with time for the dog to snooze and rest between them.
Are they getting enough sleep?
Just as with us, dogs need sleep. How much they need, will vary between breeds, individuals, age and activities undertaken during the previous day or days. Adult dogs need between twelve and fourteen hours sleep a day. I know that given the opportunity my tribe will sleep most of the day and night when given the opportunity around the house, equally if I’m out all day, so are they. If your dog is in a crate or kennel box then they need to be able to lie flat to get the best sleep, even if, like mine, they choose to curl up in the most awkward positions.
Are you sure he knows what you want him to do?
When we teach a new behaviour we get it on cue. By this, I mean, we teach a word or sound that is paired with a behaviour the dog has been taught, e.g. ”Sit” means place your bum on the floor. Then we repeat this behaviour in many locations. Once we are satisfied the dog understands the cue we work on proofing the behaviour.
When proofing certain behaviours we work through the three D’s. Duration, Distance, Distraction and you use these to proof behaviours your dog has on cue and can consistently perform in an environment already. Typically we work on Duration first, so a sit becomes a sit for a moment, onto a second and so on until we have a dog that understands he holds this behaviour until released or cued to do another behaviour. What comes next will vary but I go for a splash of distraction using myself, I might shift my weight from on foot to another or put my hand in my pocket, it can be something as small as this. If the dog breaks the position you’re doing too much too soon. Reinforcing that you want to aim for success and the dog getting it right rather than correcting what you don’t want. Distance with something like a sit can be the distance you are from the dog or the distance you are from a stimulus or trigger such as a pheasant pen or in a domestic setting a football match.
Does he get chance to be a dog?
All work and no play makes Fido a dull dog. It is important your dogs gets a chance to express natural behaviours such as play, picking up their pee mail, chewing, digging and even bitching. Yep, even bitching. It’s part of being a dog, you can ask him all you want not to sniff that girl but you wont stop him wanting to and you’ll see that behaviour bleed into training and working. The same goes for other behaviours mentioned above and others I haven’t noted.
Click Here to check out the gundog world series championship with Skinner’s at the Kelmarsh Country Show.