Today I had a good conversation with one of our hunters about their dog always dropping the bird. He asked how I feel about force training a dog to retrieve. My personal opinion is I don't force train my dogs because I feel if I have to make a dog retrieve then its no fun for them. I have seen a lot of dogs in my career that were forced train and they totally gave up on retrieving. My idea of training dogs to hold and retrieve is to work with them when they are little.
The key to making this work is to be able to read your dog. When I start using pheasant wings with my puppies, I never let them run off and chew them or eat them. If I let them do that then I taught them its ok to run off with my bird, dummy, or ball and either chew it up or eat it. Teaching a puppy, a good habit is easy but to un-train a bad habit takes twice as long. So, by starting off at 8 weeks you can teach your puppy to bring the wing back to you.
Now when your puppy starts getting around the 4 to 7 months old then you need to start watching for them to start teething. If you notice your puppy chewing and see blood in their month its most likely they are teething. When this starts, I usually hold off on retrieving because I don't want them to learn any bad habits. Usually when a puppy is teething you will see them go out and try to pick up whatever you throw, and they will drop it and then pick it up again and drop it again. They do this because it hurts to retrieve and its uncomfortable. This is usually when the bad habit starts because the puppy gets so used to dropping it and picking it up and dropping it again that it becomes a habit. So, what I do is hold off on the retrieving until they are done with teething. Usually at this time I will work on re-enforcing their obedience or work on e-collar conditioning them.
If you have a puppy that absolutely won't hold what you throw, then I would stop throwing things for them. I would start teaching them what hold means. To teach this I use a bucket and sit on it and have my dog sit on the floor in between my legs. I will take a dummy and put it in their mouth. As I'm doing this, I say fetch and when the dummy is in their mouth, I say hold. Once your puppy stops fighting with you then I say drop. I wait till they release and give it to me because I don't want this to be a tug of war match because in the end it becomes a bad habit. After a few days of doing this your puppy will start holding until you say drop. When they get really good at holding then its time to teach them that they can hold and walk at the same time. I usually say they need to learn how to walk and chew bubble gum.
After awhile you can throw a dummy or a bird and when your puppy runs out there to pick it up you can say fetch it up and once they fetch it say hold. Your puppy should know the commands and figure it out. If they don't then take a step back and go back to making them hold and heel with it. Not all dogs learn at the same speed, so you need to be able to read your dog and understand where they are at in the process.
For me using force or pressure is not for me to make my dog retrieve. I like to use positive training to get a dog to learn. It makes training your dog so much more fun!
If you have any questions on this topic, please feel to reach out and ask. If you have any other training questions or product questions, please don't be afraid to ask!
Tonight, I had a great call from someone who was getting frustrated with how their dog is learning. He was having an issue of the dog not learning as fast as he thinks it should. This kind of ties back to my last blog of taking it slow. Dogs all learn at different levels and speeds. Just because your dog isn't learning as fast has their classmates doesn't mean to give up. Some dogs learn very fast and some dogs you need to take it slower and in small chunks.
My mom was an amazing dog trainer and she taught me what you tolerate is what you teach. Always keep in mind all the good things your dog does and stop all the bad habits right away. It is easier to teach your dog good habits but takes twice as long to un-train bad habits. Also make sure if training your dog is going to be a family event then everyone needs to be on the same page and follow the same commands. Dogs know who they need to listen too and who they don't need to listen too!
So when you start doing your obedience with your puppy try not to cover all of the steps at once. Usually my first few days are just working on heeling next to me. Most of the time that this is a big change for the dogs and if you try to teach sit, stay, and here all at once it becomes too much for them. After your dog finally can heel on the leash next to you without pulling or walking you then start with another command. I usually go to sit and then onto here and stay.
Remember to train as fast as your dog learns. If they are struggling, then take it slower and you can take it slower. There are no set times on how fast you need to teach your dog. I always tell everyone that if you can spend 6 days a week 15 minutes a day training your dog you will have a rock star. For me I train 3 times a day and on Sunday is the fun day. Take your dog for a walk and just spend some quality time. This helps your dog rest for the week.
I hope this helps!
Keep asking great questions!!
Its always great to remember that we need to take our time to train our dogs. We always want them to learn fast, but if you introduce to many new things all at once to your puppy it can over load them and your training will actually go backwards. Its always important to set up a training plan. Try to work on obedience at one part of the day and then come back and work on birds later. If you don't have all day to train your dog then try to split the time between obedience and bird work. Each one of these areas are just as important as the other.
The most important thing to remember when you are training your dog is to have patience. If you don't have that then your dog will not learn. Some dogs are fast learners and some are slow. Its important that you read your dog and understand how they learn. If the dog is having a bad day or if you are then maybe take a break. It does no good if you get mad at your dog and start screaming at them. Sometimes your dog will just need a break.
The goal of training your dog is to have an awesome family pet and a Rockstar hunting dog. Like I said before start your puppy off early and don't wait until they are 6 months old before starting. I always use real birds with my dogs. The reason I use them is because dogs need to get the feel of the feathers in their mouth and the real taste of the oils. Please remember that you need to use a bird that is the right size of your puppy. If you have a 10 week old puppy your not going to use a goose to train with. I love using pigeons, chukars and quail for my young puppies. As the puppy grows then you can increase in size of birds.
If you have any questions, please email me at Julie@goldmeadows.com and I will gladly answer them. Or if you have a topic that you want covered please let me know.
Next: Pattern work in the field
I always start my puppies young with birds. Before I send any puppies home, I introduce them to feathers at 5 weeks old. You can get a puppy from great hunting lines, but if you don't show your little one what feathers are about they might be lost. I never use any type of bird or feathers that are to big for the puppy. I want them to be able to pick it up and retrieve it. If I use a bird that is too big for them to pick it up then they want to start chewing on it or pulling out feathers. By letting your puppy do this it creates bad habits.
When the puppy gets to be about 10 weeks old I like to introduce them to a live pigeon, chucker, or quail. Again I want to use something small. I will clip the feathers off one wing. If I clip the feathers off both wings then the bird can fly. I want the bird to jump and run around. I will also at this time put a 20 foot leash on my puppy. I make sure I hold my puppy and let them see the bird. I hold the bird so it can't hit the puppy in the face for the first time. Once the puppy shows some interest in it, I toss it a little ways out and encourage the puppy to get it. When your puppy grabs the bird tell them that they are a good dog and encourage them to come back to you. When your puppy picks up the bird give a tug on the leash and say here. You want to encourage your puppy to get the bird and bring it back to you. Not to run around for an hour or chew on it. If I form this habit now then I won't have a problem of them not coming back to me later.
At this time I still have not introduced the gun noise. I want to get my puppy so fired up on birds that noise will not be a problem. The first step I take to introduce my puppy to gun is to get a cap gun. The cheapest kids toy out there. Then I will ask someone to go out about 20 feet away and first throw the live bird again without shooting. I want the puppy to get fired up. Once the puppy brings the bird back to you, do it again. This time have someone throw the bird and shoot the cap gun. Watch your puppy at this time. If your puppy wants to go then let him go and get it. If your puppy crouches down and acts scared then stop. If that happens I go back to getting my puppy fired up on birds. I will spend the next few days just playing with the puppy and a live bird. Usually a few more days of this and then try to shoot again. Most of the time they get over the noise. If your puppy is doing good with the noise switch over to a shot gun. Make sure to have someone shoot about 30 feet away and throw a bird. I'm teaching the dog the gun means bird. Remember this can not be done in one day! Take your time. I usually take a few weeks before using the shot gun.
The worst thing you can do to your dog is to take it to a gun range. The constant noise bothers dogs and this is how you get a gun shy dog. No dog is ever born gun shy. Something happened during its life that scared him. I want my dog to learn that when they hear a gun shot that they need to look in the sky and look for a bird to fall. This is how your dog learns how to mark. It is important to have someone go out and throw birds for you. A dog needs to learn how to judge depth of field. A lot of dogs I get in for training start their hunt way too short and that is because a dog gets used to how far you can throw something and that's were they just start their hunt. It is nothing for us to teach our dogs to go for 100 yards. This does take time to teach your dog. Gradually increase the distance of the mark.
Remember this takes time. This does not happen in one training session. Take your time. Keep your training sessions to about 15 minutes. If you see your young dog getting tired stop. We want this to be fun and if they get tired then it becomes work and the dog gets board. I also don't throw more than 3 marks at a time. If I do more than that I usually get a dog that decides to go smell the roses. I always try to end my training session on a good note. I want the dog wanting more so that when I cone out the next day they are excited to go to work.
***Next week we are heading into the field!
If you have any questions, please let me know!
Once you have your puppy home it is time to start the training process. I find it easier training a puppy that is 16 weeks old than waiting until they are 6 months old. When your puppy becomes 6 months old, they are now a teenager and your puppy will look at you and say make me do it. I usually start training my puppy basic commands when they are 8 weeks old. I start with teaching them what sit means with a dog treat. I want to get them ready for when I do start training at about 14 to 16 weeks of age.
When I start teaching the puppy to sit I want to reward them with a treat. In the beginning, as soon as they sit I'm giving them a treat. I usually do this until I can see that they know what they are doing. Once they are sitting, I will start making them sit for a longer period and then reward them. I'm re-enforcing the word sit. Sit does not mean you get to sit for 3 seconds and go but it means to stay sitting until they are told to do something else. They usually learn this very quick. After awhile I will substitute the dog treat with a pet and telling them that they are good. This helps teach your puppy that the reward of a pet is just as good as a treat.
When the puppy becomes about 14 to 16 weeks of age, I then start putting the leash on and teaching the puppy how to heel next to me. Heel does not mean to walk behind me, in between my legs, or in front of me. Sometimes this may take some time for them to adjust. You are taking the puppy outside of their comfort zone and they are not sure how to react. Make sure to tell your puppy they are doing good.
Teaching your dog obedience does not happen all in one day. The first day just working on heeling your dog. If they are doing great then maybe tell them to sit while you are heeling them. You can't tell your dog all these new commands in one day. They will have an over load and soon this will be no fun. Baby steps are the best. It may take them longer then others but you need to be patient.
Once I have a dog heeling on leash and sitting, then I can work on teaching them what "here" means. I use the word here because I can say it louder and clearer then if I would use the word come. It is not right to get mad at your dog if they can't hear or understand you! As I'm healing my dog I will stop and walk backwards. I'll give a tug on the leash and training collar and tell them to hear. I always use my dogs name before I say the command. This helps to get their attention. The first few times might be tuff but use positive praise and encouragement and it will work. Again this will not be accomplished all in one day.
When I'm training a young dog this is what I start out with. Make sure to keep your training sessions short. Your dog has a very short attention span and if they get bored, then it is no fun. Always keep them down to 15 minutes at a time and I always end my session on a fun note. Either sitting down and playing with them or tossing their favorite toy around. I want to teach my dog that this was fun and that they want to do this again.
***Next week we will be talking about introduction to guns and birds!
Keep your questions coming!! I really do enjoy helping you out!
I got a great question from Dave C. He has a nine year old lab that loves to retriever pheasants but does not like to retrieve ducks. This actually has happened to me at a AKC field trial. I always train with pheasants and never thought about what my dog would do to a fresh shot duck. Well I found out in a hurry that my dog went out to the live flyer and he wouldn't pick it up. I was just dumb founded that this could happen. I went home that night with a fresh dead duck and threw it for him. He ran out to the duck and looked at it and then looked at me and he refused to pick it up. I called my dog back and took him over to the dead duck and made him sit while I put the duck in his mouth. What I did was reinforce what hold means. I made sure he held the duck on his own. When he was holding it I gave him positive reinforcement. I told him when he did really good and when he didn't hold the duck I told him "NO" and put it back in his mouth. This step may take some time. Some dogs can be very stubborn and some dogs say ok and I will retrieve it. I usually do it for about 5 minutes and then I take a break for a couple minutes and let the dog have some fun and then right back at it again. The session should last no more than 15 minutes of working time. I try to do this a couple times a day.
After a few days of doing this I will throw the duck again and see if he will retrieve it. Usually they will, but if they don't then you just need to keep doing the process with them.
What I have learned over the years is that some birds have a bad taste on their feathers. Dogs sometimes don't like ducks and woodcocks.
Great question! Keep sending them in.
Once you have decided on what kind of puppy to get, now is the time to get ready for that puppy. Just like having a brand new baby, you will need to do some shopping. First you need to have all the right tools. When I'm getting ready for a new puppy I go out and by a nylon collar for him or her right away. I make sure that I'm not buying a collar that is too big. I also buy a small light weight leash and a training collar (choke chain). Again make sure to get the right size for your puppy, The best way to get the right size of training collar for your puppy is measure your puppies neck and add on 3 inches. This will also need to be replaced as your puppy grows.
The next item I get is a little dog crate. I want to make sure that I get a crate that is not too big. Puppies usually won't mess in their crate if the crate is not too large. This again will need to be replaced as your puppy grows. I crate train all of my puppies. I believe that if I'm not home then a crate is the safest place for them. Soon your puppy will use their crate like a bedroom and will want to go there to relax.
If this is your first pet, then you will need to look for a vet. Don't be afraid to ask neighbors or friends who have pets, which vet they use. Make sure you find one that you are comfortable with and that you can trust your pet with.
One last thing you need is food. When you pick your puppy up from the breeder make sure to ask what type of food they are feeding. If you are going to switch the puppies food, ask the breeder if they can give you a small bag full. You can then mix this food in with the new food so it will be an easier transition for them. You may also need a small can of soft food for the first few days you bring your puppy home. It is a big change for your puppy when they come home, so they might need a little more attention until they become comfortable.
Once the new puppy is home you need to decide if the puppy will be an outside or an inside dog. If the puppy is going to be inside, then you will need to start house training right away. I'm a firm believer in training a puppy as young as possible. Everyone wants to know the fast remedy for house training a puppy, well there is no fast remedy. I always tell everyone to watch your puppy like a hawk. The minute it starts running around and looking I take it outside right away. I tell my puppy over and over again to go potty. Once the puppy goes, I then give them a treat. You need to keep up with this. A puppy will not learn from only doing it one time. It will take a while but it you keep up with it, it will go fast. If you only house train part time, then it will take a ling time to get them potty trained.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions, let me know and I will right back and answer them!
This is the time of the year where families get puppies as family gifts. When choosing a puppy make sure to do your homework. Not all dogs may fit your life style. Some dogs are great family dogs and some dogs are only for one master. Some dogs are full of energy and some are very calm. Some like to retrieve and some like to swim. Go online and see what dog fits you best. It never hurts to call some of your local breeders in the area and ask them about the dogs that the have.
If you are going to get a dog from a breeder, make sure that it is a reputable breeder. Make sure that the father and mother of the puppies are in good shape and look healthy. Also request to see if the parents have had their hips checked. When I do my research on dogs I will make a list of dog breeds I like and if they have a certain disease that they could get. I then question the owner about them to make sure I'm getting the best puppy around.
If I'm buying a puppy I make sure that I don't get that puppy before they are 8 weeks of age. I feel at 8 weeks they are ready to go on their own. They should be on hard food and should be weaned off the mother. The puppies should have been wormed twice and have had their first shot.
Also when you are going to pick up your puppy bring some feathers with. It is amazing to see the reaction puppies have with feathers. Some puppies will be very aggresive to feathers and some may be more relaxed. This is usually not an indicater of how they will act as they grow up, but more of a test to see the personality of the puppy.
You can buy an expensive puppy but if you don't take time to train your puppy, then that puppy will turn out to be nothing. Always remember a puppy is a huge responsiblity and an investment of time. Make sure you are ready for the challenge!
My name is Julie Doubek. I'm the head dog trainer at Gold Meadows Hunting Preserve. I train all types of dog. My dad, Ralph and I have more than 80 combined years of dog training. I'm going to start doing a weekly dog training blog. My goal is to help and answer any questions you may have about training or picking a dog. If you have seen any of my seminars I have done, then this may seem similar to them. I have gotten a lot of requests to publish a training manual, well I have one all done.
This blog will be updated weekly with a new training tip each week. If you have any questions or want me to cover a certain topic, feel free to ask.