Training your dog
Gun dogs, are useless in the field without proper training, they will behave like other house dogs. To avoid behavior problems you must start obedience training and build a close relationship with your dog.
The first 3 to 6 weeks is an evaluation for natural ability. These are like good nose, interest in birds, desire to hunt, a good flush and interest in retrieving for the spaniels and retrievers or pointing instinct for pointing dogs, mental stability, athletic ability, bid ability, etc.
If the dog makes the initial cut for natural ability the foundation "yard work" is generally next. Heel and Hup, for spaniels and retrievers, Whoa for pointing dogs, stay and come by voice, whistle, and hand signals in the yard. This work is critical as all else that follows is built on this foundation. This takes approximately 2 months. The whole thing hinges on whether the dog will bring the bird or not. If not, then field work will be put aside until the foundation work is completely done so as not to create a major retrieving, delivery problem. In addition if the field and yard work can be done consecutively, progress is approximately half as fast on each step, because two things are being done consecutively, on alternate days, as opposed to concentrating on one step at a time.
For pointing dogs - Once the foundation work is completed, work to begin to staunch the dog up. The dog learns to hold point for gradually longer periods of time. For spaniels and retrievers - Once the foundation work is done the retrieving program is next, The come command is applied to the dogs retrieving, canvas buck first, then cold dead pigeons, then live wing clips. Also teach the dog to respond to the words Hold and Give. If they drop the buck a lot or refuse to let go of it, this will have to be taught to get a good delivery.
For pointing dogs - Field work will start in a field with no planted birds at first. Come is applied to the field work in order to get the dog to begin to handle and to control range. Gun fire will also be introduced at this time. Bird work is done on alternate days in a different field, with a long rope on, in a controlled situation, as these dogs are not ready yet to find birds without a rope on at a distance. This brings us to about the half trained level. Approximately 4 to 4 1/2 months have been spent working the dog. As far as developing a young dog, this is minimum commitment for time spent to have a useful dog to hunt wild birds with. There will be plenty of times with a dog brought to a half trained level that the excitement generated from game birds will override the level of training the dog is currently at. When the dog doesn't respond to your commands as well as you wished, you have to remember this is because he is half trained only.
For spaniels and retrievers, begin with a short rope on to prevent the youngster from chasing, as he's always done up to now. When he breaks "meaning chases" he is gently restrained with a rope and brought back to where he was hupped, go and get the buck yourself. When he waits until the command to fetch is given, the dog is allowed to retrieve the buck. Remain at this stage until the dog thoroughly understands the concept of steadiness. Once this is accomplished, on to a more tempting item, a cold dead pigeon. Having mastered that, a live pigeon.
On alternate days field work with wing clips only. This is to maintain the dogs desire to run. As time goes on the dog becomes more reliably steady. In addition, all the previous routines that have been taught get sharper and sharper as they are continually gone over. Once the dog is reliably steady to thrown wing clips with shots fired, the last step is birds flushed off the ground. A good ratio is 1 flier for every 2 or 3 wing clips to maintain that flush. After approximately 6 weeks of killing birds over the dogs flush "several dozen" and all is well, the job's about over, with the exception of training the owner of the dog how to handle their already trained dog. This is a big part of the program here at Linden Kennels, as long as clients will allow me to help them learn about dogs and how to handle them. All owners are different just as all dogs are different. Some have a lot of aptitude learning about dogs, some don't. Novice handlers require more training than folks that have been through the process with several other dogs. This is not an additional charge, it is included, I figure I owe it to clients if they had their dog trained here. Never underestimate the value of lessons on how to handle dogs as you will definitely find it overwhelming at first. There is much to know as you will find out. A common question is: How long will it take me to learn to handle my dog? A good answer would be the rest of your life. Remember, no dog is owner proof.
For pointing dogs - As field work continues in a bird less field, handling and coming when called to control range gets more reliable. The same can be said for the staunchness training which is continuing in a different field. Once the dog is reliably staunch in a controlled situation I can start letting him find birds at a greater distance from me in the field. I'm going to start planting birds in the field that used to have no birds in it. The same area that handling lessons started in, some time ago. The dog will be dragging a short rope now, working at a distance in the bird field. As you can see I've combined the two separate routines into one now.
Much more tempting for the dog now as he's at a distance from me. As training continues the dog becomes more reliable in his handling as well as reliably pointing birds at a distance and remaining staunch. If the owner wishes the dog to be steady to wing and shot, now would be about the right time to start. This training would usually be carried out in a separate exercise with me throwing homing pigeons from my pocket "dog with rope on" until the dog becomes reliable. When he breaks, he's restrained with the rope and gently picked up and put back where he was before he broke. This will be continued until he's reliable, then shots can be fired as the bird flies away. Once again this is continued until the dog can be trusted. When I can combine all the routines into one lesson and the dog is reliable we're closing in on the end of the job. If retrieving is required this would be the last thing taught. Approximately 90% of pointing dogs will have to be force broken to retrieve to get a decent job of it. This is approximately 2 months worth of work, as I intend to be as gentle as possible in order to keep the stress factor as low as possible for the dog. This is my least favorite job in dog training as I don't want to force a dog to do anything, but if you want your pointing dog to retrieve properly, generally there's no way around it. This is a brief description of what goes on here. I want to stress that the only appropriate way to train dogs in my opinion is a positive motivation system with lots of patience and repetition and praise. When I'm done with them they think there new name is "good boy" or "good girl". This type of system produces dogs with learning of a more permanent nature, they are happy and willing workers that are under very good control. The point is that you want an efficient dog that listens almost always and rarely aggravates you, this way you can enjoy your hunting trips rather than watching your dog run over the hill, out of control, flushing birds out of gun range