It has been a little over three months since the working cocker spaniel Vide moved in with us, and he is now just over eight months old. He is a charming little troublemaker, unhealthily cute, and a fast learner in most things. We quickly became a team, perhaps because he came into our lives unexpectedly but so longed for? And he has many qualities that remind us of Quling, which makes us feel like we already knew him from the start in some way.
During the first few weeks, we focused on boosting contact and biddability, developing rewards (all edible treats work, social rewards usually work well, play is ok but still under development), and getting a decent delivery to hand. I try to establish the delivery as soon as possible, as we play while laying the foundation for a puppy. Once the dog has an item in its mouth, it must be delivered to me so that it does not train (and learn) to do something else, such as running in circles, or in the opposite direction, or simply dropping the item a meter before it reaches me.
It took a few months to get the delivery in hand, but now it’s working well. I have also started other basic training with him; we do small hunt exercises with a focus on him hunting intensively but in cooperation with me. He has learned the stop whistle, and he has a lovely fast response to it now. We are increaseing the distance (he finds the distance a bit challenging, but we are making slow progress), and we have started two types of casting training: straight lines and pushbacks.
Both Elsa and I start all training indoors, in a distraction-free environment, at short distances. As soon as we notice that the puppy has a slight understanding of what it’s doing, we move the exercise outside, shorten the distance if needed (because there are more distractions outside), and then continue at a fairly rapid pace.
I am good at making things a bit more challenging and challenging the puppy so that the learning continues. What can happen if you try to make it more difficult? Not much. 😉 The puppy can handle it – or it can’t. And if the latter happens, I know it and will back off a bit or change something in the training so that the puppy is on the same page again. But I don’t think you should make it insanely difficult! I try not to expose the puppy to too many challenging situations, so it doesn’t get overwhelmed, for example; everything should be calm, focused, and balanced.
As soon as my puppies are mature enough, they can attend lessons or courses and show different things when it suits and is needed – it’s also a career they will have when they live with me. Since Vide was five months old when he came to us, he hasn’t had the same “program” as the others when it comes to seeing other dogs work, etc. (you can learn more about how I usually introduce the dog to this with the help of my own dogss here. But he has been to a few lessons and even been an extra on some courses, and he is slowly but surely becoming cool in those situations.
The other day, my husband trained Vide, and I took the opportunity to film it. Vide did a few things for the first time and was up for everything, even though not everything “worked” yet, of course. It’s going to be really fun to follow and bring Vide into future adventures! Here is the video from that training: