How long have you been a pro?
This is the 19th year as a full time job.
Do you train all sporting breeds or do you specialize in one type (pointing breeds, retrievers, or spaniels)?
I work all the different types of bird dogs.
Do you train hunting dogs, and/or field trial dogs, and/or hunt test dogs?
Most of the people I work for want a bird dog rather and a trial dog, however some of the first rate animals do wind up competing if their owners want to do so.
Do you participate in field trials, hunting tests, or other dog games?
Over the years I’ve doe my share of trials and it’s a lot of fun, however it’s time consuming and fairly expensive when your running your own dogs. If I’m on the road with my dogs I’m not here working clients dogs.
Do you judge?
Do you breed dogs, and if so , what breed or breeds?
Yes, field bred ESS.
Specific Spaniel Questions
General Subject: Combining Birdiness and Control in a Young Spaniel
Why are both necessary in a hunting spaniel?
It’s all about making a first rate team. The ideal is a team that when you watch them work it looks effortless, as if the dog and handler can read each other’s mind, the connection is that strong.
How and when do you develop birdiness and desire to hunt in a young spaniel?
Most of them are ready to start formal training at 7-8 months of age. During the evaluation time frame, which lasts about a month or so, I introduce them to birds then, cold dead pigeons, live wing clips, and a few fliers. The dog will be dragging a short check cord in the field, 12-15 feet, so I’ve got a bit of a handle on the youngster.
If you’ve got one that has desire to run and plenty of drive it won’t take long to find that out when you’ve put them on birds. At this point the more they want to run the less of it their going to get for now, and if their not running the way you want give them more of it until they do. That’s assuming they will, if the dog is going to be worth working with a view towards a bird dog.
How does the canine packing instinct facilitate establishing basic control?
If I could get more people to think like a dog there would be a LOT less problems between the dog and handler team. Unless the dog views the handler as top dog you will never have the control you need.
How and when do you establish basic control of a young spaniel?
Once the evaluation process is done and you know you have a dog you want to work, they don’t all make it, generally I put the foundation in, heel, hup, stay and come, by voice, whistle and hand signal.
If you’ve got a dog that’s pretty good about bringing in a wing clip bird in the field, close enough you can manage your short check chord, you can still give them some work in the field, if not concentrate on the foundation work until you’ve got that before your go back to the field or work any retrieving lessons. I like to use two tree’s that serve as whoa posts, about 20 yards apart. It’s taught in that order, heel, hup, stay and come. Don’t progress to the net step until they have the one your working on understood.
For heel I like a closet dowel rod about 3 feet long attached to the dogs collar or a pinch collar if their tough about pulling. Hup is usually just a matter of pulling back a bit on the stick and maybe pushing down on their rump if needed. Keep at this until they hup on their own when told. Then on to stay, that’s where the whoa posts come into plan. Around the tree with a long check cord and walk away stepping on the chord that’s trailed out behind you. Lap after lap until the dog will stay with out the need to use the rope. Almost always they will start to yawn at you in the stay position once they understand what you want and you can use this response in the dog to know when to begin teaching come.
You have to discontinue your whoa post when you going to call the dog in so they are not pulling the resistance of the rope around the tree, instead of going around the tree, instead of going around the tree cut to the inside of it and leave the dog hupped in the same place he would have been. You’ve got a straight pull on the rope to the dog and you can give a little pull to get them coming. The ratio of come vs. stay is about once to come for every 3-4 time to stay put. If you get come happy the dogs response to stay will begin to fade. Keep at this until the come willingly with no need to use the rope. You will have about 2 months worth of work in the foundation until your dog fully understands and is HAPPY, snappy and virtually mistake free.
You don’t need to work the dog every day, as a lot of people would think, 4-5 days a week about 10 to 15 per lesson is best. There much more receptive to your training efforts that way. Make sure to incorporate working the dogs face during all of these lessons, a muzzle handshake, until you take most all the shake out of them. Once you’ve got most all the shake out of them and they understand their lessons fully you’ve got them where you want them.
How does the canine desire to please impact establishing and maintaining control?
A TON, maybe more than that. The key is don’t let them learn what defiance and possessiveness is in the first place. That would be accomplished or not when you raise them.
What is the role of praise and petting in establishing and maintaining control?
Payday for the dog comes in two ways, finding the bird and your praise. How would you like to work and not get paid?
What is the role of corrections in establishing and maintaining control?
Very few dogs are the type that you never have to get after. However the art form of training is to get inside the dogs head and stay one step ahead. If you knew what the dog was thinking then you would know what to do next, to stay a step ahead. That’s the language the trainer needs to learn, and when you do the need to get after the dog to maintain control becomes very little.
When you do get after a dog use NO more than enough to get their attention. If you have to correct them very often, review your training, and I bet you did not instill the lessons you were working on well enough. Back up and figure out where your short fall is.
What basic control commands do you recommend for a hunting spaniel?
When the dog is next to me I speak to them and most any other time I use the whistle when the dog is at a distance. The verbal commands for control are the ones that were taught in the foundation work in the yard. The whistles I like to use are one short pop for hup and two short pips to turn and the end of a cast, one long and gradually diminishing whistle for come, a series of pips for attention, a bird whistle which is something like the come whistle except shorter in duration and two of them and more quietly done, and half a bird whistle which is like a full bird whistle except half as much.
What is the value of a specific release command in control?
So that the dog doesn’t start to work until the handler lets them. It sets the stage for a work out that’s structured. I never did like to see someone drop the tail gate and them go. I like to use Hi-on to turn them loose to run, and OK after being stopped when the choice of where to go is the dogs, like to resume the line of a running pheasant, for example.
How important is rapport between the owner and dog for maintaining control?
It’s very important. The better friends you are with your dog the better team you’ll make. Keeping in mind the dog has to view you as the pack leader. No coochie coochie coo here, I’m all for being their friend in the manner of the pack leader.
All the training we have talked about here is positive motivation type, the dogs learn to respect the trainer, understand what’s expected of them and confusion is NOT an issue. We kept corrections to a bare minimum and as a result the dog is not intimated or fearful of the trainer in the least. That’s a critical point to understand.
How can an amateur select a puppy or older dog with which he’ll have proper rapport?
With the puppy that’s a tough one. Over the years and with dozens of pups I’ve picked them every way you can think of and just about as soon as you think you know how to pick them you find out you didn’t know anything at all.
For the amateur try not to pick the most dominant pup, one more in the middle of pecking order. After that you might as well close your eyes and pick one. With a started or finished dog you can do a lot more to match the owners temperament to that of the dog. I always make every effort to match them up when someone buys a started of finished dog here.
You already know the dog and once you get to spend some time with the prospective buyer you get a feel for that persons temperament and their lever of experience handling dogs. For example matching a really hot dog that’s the pack leader type with a novice handler is not a good match or a soft dog with someone that tends to speak loudly.
What are the worst mistakes amateurs make in developing birdiness?
Skipping all the work training the dog and take them bird hunting. Putting an untrained spaniel on wild birds will lead to nothing but problems with control as well as mouth, flush and could lead to gun fire problems too.
What are the worst mistakes amateurs make in establishing and maintaining control?
Pretty much the same answer as the last question.
Do you have any other thoughts on combining birdiness and control?
I’m always trying to think of ways to make them WANT to do what I’m trying to get them to do as opposed to making them do it. Rolling birds in or planting them depending on how the dog is working.
For example if the dog is working too far out rather than getting after them why not roll a bird in and call them back into it? It won’t take long until the dog comes in briskly because they think there may be a bird there. Once you have them running where you want them go back to pre planted birds. This may well be something you go back and forth between – rolling vs. pre planted birds - for the life of the dog.
The single biggest advantage the trainer has over the dog in a training situation is knowing more about where the birds are than the dog. Feel free to do plenty of training to develop the dog as well as pre-season training each year before going bird hunting.