Dogs are social animals who live in packs. When you introduce a new puppy into your home, as the provider of food, shelter and company, you instantly become the pack leader to that dog. It is your responsibility in that role to set boundaries for acceptable behaviour through kindness, affection and discipline. A dog who knows its place in the hierarchy of a pack is a content animal.
Forming a strong bond between you and your new puppy is the foundation stone to later training.
Traditionally people say training should not start until the dog is Six months old but personally I believe that basic training should begin from the first day the puppy comes home. The early days of a dog’s life are its most formative and as the handler you can guide your puppy towards good habits in play rather than developing bad habits which later go on to become disobedience issues. All too often I see behavioural problems in older dogs because those early boundaries were never set.
Young puppies love to play and what you are aiming for is a desire to be around you and please you. Play is paramount for their development and done in the correct way is invaluable. Too intense a training at a young age can cause the dog to become introvert and they will then lack the confidence to investigate and learn.
To build a good bond between you and your dog spend lots of time together on a one to one basis. This is especially important if you have other dogs.
Handle your dog as much as you can, stroke and talk calmly to them regularly as this will make them at ease with your company.
When you begin play training use your garden or small short grassed area with no other dogs or people around. You need to get the puppy’s full attention on you with no other distractions. A maximum of Ten minutes at a time is sufficient to begin with, as like children, a puppy will lose concentration quickly and you want each session to be positive.
Consistency and regular routine is the key to training so they become a habit :-
Playing, walking, feeding, sleeping, even being put out for the toilet should all be routine driven.
I am always repeating to my clients that training is simply creating good habits so that when you ask your dog to sit, stay, come, get down etc these commands are just habitual.
As a trainer you achieve the command by being the pack leader and enforcing your request. Correction of bad behaviour should be calm and consistent. You must not be loud or overly physical but just be able to let your dog know you disapprove of its actions.
Think of how a bitch reprimands her pups with either a low growl or firm hold. This is all it needs and will in turn form a mutual respect as the dog knows its boundaries.
The more you enforce good habits the easier the training becomes. You have to be willing to put in hard work and repeated routines every day and not just when you feel like it. Consistency is key !
Use of a Slip Lead
A slip lead is the preferred choice for working gun dogs. An all in one collar and lead which when removed allows the dog to work in the field without risk of injury when working in the cover and flushing or retrieving game.
It is important that the lead is fitted correctly. You must first decide which side you are going to walk your dog on and stay with that decision.
If you are Right handed then the dog should walk on your Left hand side. This is because if you are carrying a broken gun in your Right hand the dog is safely walking on the other side. Vice versa if you are Left handed.
The end of the lead with the ring attachment should be at the bottom with the handle part of the lead uppermost.
Thus when the lead is released the ring falls downwards and loosens the collar part so ensuring that the dog is not choked. Correct fitting is hugely important because you do not want your puppy to become lead shy.
Introduce a lead to your puppy as early as possible. Calmly put the lead on correctly and allow the puppy to move around with the lead on the floor.
Encourage your puppy to play with the lead on and get used to the feel of it.
Call it back to you and give lots of fuss. If the puppy goes to pick up the end of the lead distract them with something else as this is a habit you do not want to form for later training.
Once you puppy is relaxed with the lead on, pick up the end and begin to walk around with it. If your bonding work has been successful the puppy will be more than happy to be with you and trot along on the lead.
By Jez Case of LAN-OR GUNDOGS www.la-nor-gundogs.co.uk