PUPPY TRAIN­ING: How to in­stil the right be­hav­iour from the get-go

Puppy train­ing isn’t con­fined to 10- or 15-minute for­mal ses­sions – ev­ery­thing you do will con­di­tion the lit­tle dog’s mind. Fol­low Howard’s ad­vice to en­sure you in­stil the right be­hav­iour

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - with Howard Kirby

Han­dling an obe­di­ent gun­dog in the shoot­ing field is one of life’s great plea­sures. Obe­di­ence and a will­ing­ness to do as he’s asked will be es­sen­tial if your dog is to en­hance the time that we spend with him. So you’re go­ing to have to put the ef­fort and time into train­ing the dog, en­sur­ing that any time you spend with him in­grains habits and be­hav­iours that you want.

Han­dlers should un­der­stand that even the most ded­i­cated and con­sis­tent dog train­ers will only spend around half an hour a day en­gag­ing the dog in for­mal train­ing. So en­sur­ing that the other 23½ hours are well planned will have a con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on the de­vel­op­ment and out­come of your dog. Here at Mul­len­scote, our young pup­pies are raised and nur­tured in­doors from when they ar­rive at eight weeks un­til they are at least six months old when they move out into the ken­nels. For us, a pur­pose-bought dog crate is an es­sen­tial part of be­ing able to man­age the frag­ile, en­er­getic, bit­ing, pid­dling and poo­ing bun­dle of joy. Teach­ing your puppy how to hap­pily and qui­etly spend time away from you in a safe, se­cure and warm crate will be one of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments of early puppy train­ing that you do.

Crate train­ing

First, you must en­sure the puppy is com­fort­able with spend­ing time in the crate. This can be achieved quickly if you do things cor­rectly. New puppy own­ers: ex­pect a sleep­less night or two.

While many pup­pies will cry and howl when first put into the crate, they will quickly set­tle and sleep through the night. You will need to sleep with an ear out for when the puppy stirs. The mo­ment that it does, take it out­side as quickly as pos­si­ble in or­der to start toi­let train­ing. We find that start­ing with the crate in your bed­room helps the puppy to set­tle quicker. Within a few nights, the crate can be moved away from the bed­room into the room where he will live.

‘If a dog ex­pe­ri­ences some­thing fright­en­ing, it can shape their be­hav­iour for the rest of their lives – chang­ing its mind­set can be dif­fi­cult’

By en­sur­ing that you train the pup to feel safe in the crate you will make the rest of the dog’s life eas­ier and in do­ing so, yours too. Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of this. Once happy to take him­self to his new den you can now safely leave the puppy for a few hours in the day know­ing he can’t dam­age him­self or your prop­erty. You can take the crate to friends, fam­ily and hol­i­days, once again safe in the knowl­edge that the pup will not dam­age prop­erty but equally im­por­tantly, that the puppy it­self will feel safer when moved.

I use the word ‘safe’ on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in the pre­vi­ous para­graph, and I do this de­lib­er­ately. If you think about the world into which we bring our ca­nine com­pan­ions, many of the as­pects that they have to en­dure leave them feeling any­thing but safe. Peo­ple, noises, other dogs, live­stock, ma­chines and ve­hi­cles can be ter­ri­fy­ing for a young or adult dog. The train­ing, lead­er­ship and, im­por­tantly, the way in which we in­tro­duce a puppy to the world will mas­sively in­flu­ence his fu­ture view and out­look.

So let’s wrap the puppy up in cot­ton wool then? Well, no, not in my opin­ion. I’m for­tu­nate enough to spend ev­ery day of my work­ing life with dogs and their own­ers. Of­ten, over-pro­tec­tive own­ers in­ad­ver­tently cre­ate a very shy, re­tir­ing and ner­vous dog and this poor crea­ture will find many as­pects of life dif­fi­cult. Just for one mo­ment try to imag­ine be­ing in­side the mind of some­one who is fright­ened of most things in a world where

no one speaks your lan­guage and as a re­sult of this you never get to sit down with some­one that can help you over­come your fears.

Get­ting it right

From the out­set, think about ev­ery­thing that the puppy is to meet, greet and face. What are the likely out­comes? How can you shape what ex­pe­ri­ences the puppy will have? Many first-time dog own­ers sim­ply won’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­dict what will hap­pen and this is when study­ing and tak­ing ad­vice in ad­vance is es­sen­tial.

The na­ture of dogs means that if they ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing that re­ally fright­ens them it can shape their be­hav­iour for the rest of their lives. Once a dog has been fright­ened, chang­ing its mind­set can be a very dif­fi­cult and long-winded process – al­though not im­pos­si­ble.

Build­ing a con­fi­dent, pos­i­tive, out­go­ing but self-dis­ci­plined puppy is the way for­ward. Noth­ing new here. Ba­sic train­ing in a safe, re­ward-based en­vi­ron­ment is what we need to do. Use food, dum­mies and your amaz­ing per­son­al­ity to teach the puppy to Come, Sit, Watch, Fin­ish, Walk at Heel and Stay, and if you teach these ef­fec­tively with high-value re­wards you will build a dog that is so fo­cused on you many of life’s al­ter­na­tives are barely no­ticed.

In­still­ing the wrong be­hav­iours

We men­tioned it ear­lier but the easy bit to un­der­stand for most novice own­ers is the 10 to 30 min­utes per day that you spend for­mally train­ing the puppy. There­after, the peer pres­sure and urge to take the dog to the lo­cal park or coun­try­side to let the dog run free is a strong and pow­er­ful in­flu­ence. Try to think log­i­cally. Your puppy has been bred and de­signed to be an in­tel­li­gent, pow­er­ful hunter. All the train­ing that you are do­ing is about en­sur­ing that he learns to look to you to lead him to his re­ward: the prey. Ini­tially, his prey is food re­wards and the dum­mies or ten­nis balls you en­cour­age him to chase and hunt. Once dummy train­ing is con­sol­i­dated, you can then show him that if he wants to en­hance his abil­ity to get prey in his mouth, he must fol­low you and your in­struc­tions.

So, if from the out­set you al­low him to free-hunt where there is game, rab­bits, birds and squir­rels, the puppy will very quickly learn that hunt­ing and chas­ing is in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing. This mind­set will be mas­sively dam­ag­ing to the train­ing plan – he is hunt­ing with­out you.

You will ac­tu­ally be en­cour­ag­ing your dog that, when let off the lead, he is al­lowed to run off, hunt and not re­turn un­til he has had enough. This can be cat­a­strophic.

So there’s noth­ing to fear, other than get­ting it all wrong! If you are pre­pared to seek out, lis­ten to and do what suc­cess­ful gun­dog train­ers do then the chal­lenge of train­ing a young gun­dog puppy will be an enor­mous amount of fun.

Hope­fully you are read­ing this ar­ti­cle be­fore you get your first puppy. If not you’d bet­ter pull your fin­ger out! Ei­ther way, think­ing caps on and let’s get ready to rum­ble.

Be­ing crate trained is a vi­tal part of en­sur­ing your puppy’s well-be­ing

All train­ing should en­sure the pup looks to you to get his re­ward – the prey

Howard Kirby, Chud­leys Brand Am­bas­sador

If you want a con­trolled hunt­ing dog, don’t let it free-hunt as a pup

You will shape your pup’s early ex­pe­ri­ences

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