“Oh, how I love basic training!” I (Lena) want a puppy every year 😛 so I can experience all the fun stuff for the first time – or at least a young dog or a dog that hasn’t learned much yet. But I realize that it would probably be too many dogs …
Besides, the basics are something we return to throughout the dog’s life – because when one part of the chain doesn’t work, it usually requires picking up a detail that needs to be polished before being inserted back into the chain. Right now, my husband Lars and I are working on several basics with our three dogs that we’re training.
Our Lab Stomp, who will soon turn two, has proven to have a very hard time with casting left and right. The explanation is simple; we haven’t prioritized it. We’ve put more energy into the stop whistle in all weather (when you have a hunting enthusiast, you really want the stop whistle to come through regardless of interference) and also recall (for the same reason). And a lot of balance and being able to see other dogs work and so on. But the most important detail to work with her right now is casting left/right and holding an area. I start simple, so she succeeds a lot and gets the experience that it’s not possible to make a mistake, but this is how it’s done. However, I try to change something in each successful repetition so I don’t get stuck in the easy stuff! We learn best when we’re challenged a bit, and that applies to dogs too. 🙂 Stomp learns quite slowly (at least compared to our Cockers 😉 ), so it has felt extra important not to do too many things at once.
Our Cocker Flippa, who will soon turn 4, has most things in place. But there is always some parts that needs to be picked out and trained at a reasonably basic level. Holding an area from high speed is one such thing (it tends to become too big of a “hunt area” if I don’t calm it down with a stop whistle first – which I could do, but I want her to be able to do it “flying” too). Then we have a lifelong project with the heelwork. Heaven and pancake, what bad footwork that dog has. And of course, it’s entirely my fault. Right now, my husband is tinkering with exercises that could strengthen her desire to be close to our legs (she prefers not to walk close) and we play games around our legs and so on.
Vide, who is almost eleven months old, is the most fun to train – because that’s where I can revel in basics! I’ve now introduced him to all the parts he should be able to do; deliveries, hunting, flush, heelwork, marked retrieves, stop whistle, all types of casting, and holding an area – and of course, we’re always working on off and on and balance and self-control. We’re slowly but surely moving forward by setting up exercises that teach him, in small steps, the parts that need to be in place to reach the goal.
Everything is fun, but perhaps the most fun is the spaniel-specific; hunting and flushing training. The latter is my favorite. I play a lot of games that aim to get the dog to sit from motion when I throw or shoot “dummy hares” along the ground, etc. Oh, this is a gadget sport, haha. The goal for Vide is to sit when a bird flies away or when a rabbit runs along the ground. This is how I’ve worked with the first steps:
The first thing I taught Vide when he came to us at five months old was delivery to hand. I had to work on that for several weeks before he completely cracked the code, but it’s going very well for the most part now. In the beginning, I work very closely with the dog all the time and I hardly throw anything for my young dogs. In this video, Vide has received his first throw over a stone wall. When he is supposed to deliver the dummy, he is a little excited (it was something new, with speed and maybe a little difficult to find the dummy behind the stone wall) and after this training session, I have worked with him so that he sits completely calmly after delivering – which he has become really good at. This is what the first wall looked like:
Many people who are starting with a young dog or just a dog that hasn’t trained much in gun dog work don’t know where to start. And not WHAT to train for that matter. If you belong to them (or just want a kick in the butt to train better foundations!), you are warmly welcome to join our online course “Gun Dog Foundations”.