or ... “if you really mean it ... I’ll come ... if I get a biscuit”!
You must “gently but firmly” mean it - and keep refreshing their memory.
Even with our fairly well trained 7 - 8 year old dogs - out walking off the lead - we call them back every few minutes or so - and reward them with a biscuit.
From birth - your puppy has hopefully learned to link the human voice with something “good and loving”- whether it be food, a cuddle, a clean bed - or being let
out to play. If you continue with this approach throughout its training, then it’s going to be very happy to try to understand what you want - carry out the simple
tasks that you’re going to set - and know that it’s not only going to have fun and please you - but get a tasty reward / cuddle as well.
- Relax, have fun and enjoy it - but mean it - and your puppy will do the same.
- If you get “screwed up and confused” - just think how your little puppy will be feeling.
- 2 x 10minute sessions per day will be far more productive than 1 x 20minute session
- End on a “high note” - if it’s not working, repeat something it knows - and end there.
If you understand this - then the rest is really quite easy - honest!
The command sequence is vitally important - stick to it!
- Name - to get its attention.
- Command - “precisely and concisely” - what you want it to do.
- Reward - for a result - if not - be gentle - it’s probably your fault - try again.
Eight weeks is not too young to start, provided you keep it short, interesting, not too much running and lots and lots of cuddles - and no treats until end of class.
It might choke!
So - here we go, with a big heart - and a little puppy - called “Fred”
- Get yourself a rubber ball or bone - something that’s going to be used for “this purpose only” - which says to the puppy ..........
- “This is something special”
- Sit on the floor in the “puppy playing” position - legs wide apart, with your back to a sofa, or a kitchen unit - or the wall.
- Make a fuss and play with him - establishing a mood of .............
- “I like this - it’s fun - I’ll come back for more”.
- After a while, gently hold “Fred” by his scruff - and roll or toss the toy to just about the line across your heels - that’s far enough to start with.
- Silently count to three, then say - “Fred - fetch!” - and let him go.
In theory, a gundog will bring it straight back. In practice - for the first few
times - and a few more - he’ll probably disappear into his bed with it.
- Now’s the time to gently call “Fred - come” - and keep calling and tapping the floor in front of you - until he does.
He’ll eventually come - if only out of curiosity - and the possibility that you might have a biscuit in your hand.
- Welcome him, praise him and give cuddles - which establishes ..........
- “If I come to call - I get rewarded”.
- Did he bring the toy back? - if not - point to the toy and repeat “Fred - fetch”. Keep saying it until he does - and don’t forget to repeat the welcome. He’ll get
the message and with patience .............
- “Be delighted to please you”.
- At the end of the session, holding your hand palm up - under his jaw and saying, “Fred - leave”, very gently remove the toy from his mouth - and replace
it with a nice treat and loads of praise!
- 10 minutes a day to start with - no more - preferably the same person, same time, same place each day - and within a few weeks you’ll have a proud and
happy puppy, well on the way to being fully trained in basic discipline - and a joy to be with!
............. and so to the ...................
“Sit” - a very useful command when you’re out walking - with your dog on a lead and you come to a crossing. There are two ways of teaching this - both equally effective.
- The first way is to face towards him, and saying “Fred - sit”, move your hand palm down over his head towards his tail. His eyes will try to follow your hand
and he will naturally sit - praise him.
- Another way is to say “Fred - sit” and stroke him under the chin - and hey presto!
- Head comes up - and bum goes down!
- When he sits, praise him.
- “Lie down” - Having got him to sit, it’s simply a case of saying “Fred - lie down”, and gently pressing down on his shoulders - and praising him!
“Stay” - a slightly puzzling one - maybe.
Why would you want your dog to “stay”? The answer is simple but very important.
Assume that you’re out with your dog in the car and you decide to go for a walk.
You don’t want him to leap out of your car - straight under another - passing car.
Teaching him to “stay”, allows you to first put his lead on - and then make a more dignified, controlled and much safer exit!
- This is probably best done in the garden - with “Fred” on a lead.
- Get “Fred” to sit - or even better - lie down, drop the lead and say “Fred - stay”.
- Holding your hand waist high in the “Traffic Policeman” position - repeat the command and gently back away a few paces, quietly count to three, walk back
and give him loads of praise - and a treat.
- Yes - well that’s the theory! What happens in practise of course, is that “Fred” will want to come bounding after you. At the first sign of this happening -
return him to the same spot, hold up your hand - repeat the command - and back away again.
- Similarly, as you start the return, he may set out to “meet and greet” you.
If this happens, hold up your hand and very firmly repeat the command.
(You can help prevent this by avoiding eye contact with him - honest!)
- Once he realises that you’re not only coming back - but bringing a treat - he will gain confidence, and the whole exercise will start to work.
- Keep practicing and moving a little further away each time - until you can give the command, turn your back on him, walk out of sight and back again - and
find him where you left him! Patience is the secret!
- Follow the same routine as before - 10 minutes a day - same place, same person - and finish with loads of cuddles and treats.
That’s really all there is to it - he says quickly moving on!
If you’re not having fun, or “Fred” is starting to look utterly bored - then you’re either doing it wrong or more likely - doing too much for too long.
Remember - 10mins per day is more than enough for both of you!
- Whatever plans you have for your life together, the ability to get your dog to do what you want - when you want, will form the basis of a warm relationship.
Whether you intend to merely stroll to the pub, tackle Agility courses or enjoy Field Trials, “happy and willing” obedience from your dog is vital.
- As soon as your dog has been innoculated, it’s well worth attending “Basic Obedience” and / or “Puppy Socialisation” classes. Details of these can usually
be found in your Vet’s reception area, or by contacting your local breed club secretary.
- Between 4 - 6 months old, it’s well worth giving serious thought to taking your dog to classes organised under
- At about 6 - 9 months, it’s possible to take it to “Gun Dog/Field Trial” training classes.
If Fred’s capable of making any sense of your earlier training, then it’s only a small step up to teaching him to respond to your commands out in the field.
I highly recommend these classes. They’re good fun, excellent training, greatly improve the relationship between you and your dog and make for good
socialising - both canine and human. Before you leave, it’s worth reading
just to make sure you don’t get too carried away.
Just in passing .......
- Please don’t try using “Strong Arm” / “Big Stick” tactics - they don’t work!
All that happens is that your dog will cower, look miserable, be lonely and
grow to dread the sound of the voice that it used to love.!
- Don’t lose your patience - if it’s not working - take a break - try again tomorrow.
- Do keep giving little refresher courses - twice a week for 10 minutes is enough.
- In the hands of an expert, a well trained gundog can comprehend about 15 - 20 different commands. In the hands of someone like ourselves, with a young,
untrained dog, that can probably be reduced to a maximum of 6, so do try to keep it simple, clear and concise.
Nonsense like .......
“For heavens sake, Freddie darling - please come in out of the rain”......
will probably result in “Fred” peering at you - slightly bemused - and still in the rain.