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What’s Your Dog Training Golden Rule?

“Sprig,” my now 7-month-old English cocker spaniel, is showing promise as a hunter. She’s happily retrieving on both land and water, gets crazy about birds and has been introduced to gunfire. She’s also, unfortunately, been working on the art of selective hearing (which she learned with help from her master), which has left said master exasperated.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about dog training in this brief time period, it’s that you need an overwhelming amount of patience. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the last half year, it’s that patience is a virtue of which I’ve not acquired the requisite amount.

"Sprig" doing some wing-on-a-string work earlier this year. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

I imagine this is a crossroads many first-time dog owners reach. With the puppy varnish wearing off, the enormity of the commitment settling in and having hit the first few “bumps in the road,” that feeling that “I can’t do this” can creep in – I know it did for me. So what to do?

Don’t give up. That’s one of The Golden Rules of Dog Training. In fact, this simple little list from SportDOG is one I’ve visited countless times over the last two weeks. That was also the message I received from “Sprig’s” breeder, a high-level trainer himself. “Don’t give up, and go back to the basic building blocks. You can always go back to the basics.”

Since my pup ownership’s midlife crisis, and following The Golden Rules, “Sprig” has shown remarkable improvement. It’s going to be a fun summer…and a better fall…

What’s your “Golden Rule” of dog training?

Read more in the “My First Bird Dog” series here.

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

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10 Responses to “What’s Your Dog Training Golden Rule?”

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  1. David Cummings says:

    Why does this sound so much like raising children? :D

  2. Mark Herwig says:

    After having gun dogs a few decades, I’ve come to understand that most of the training a dog is training myself.

  3. Britney Starr says:

    I just got my first bird dog three years ago so I’m not a professional by any means. My dad, on the other hand, has been training GSP’s forever and he always tells me to remember to keep it fun for the dog and they will want to make you happy by doing what you ask of them. Also, don’t train for too long at any one time. Short sessions are better especially when they are young.
    You can do it!! Sprig is adorable.

  4. Pat H says:

    A few rules I keep in mind. Train without talking. It makes it much harder to get frustrated and easier for the dog to learn if you stay quiet. Before you start a training session think about what you want to get accomplished and stick to it. Take your time it takes more repetitions than you think it will for the dog to learn. Teach not test do not ask the dog to do something just to see if it can. If you do test you set the dog up for failure instead of success.

  5. Trey Rigby says:

    Consistency is the first priority. Pups will live up to your expecations… if you expect little, that’s how he’ll perform, and vice versa. But hey, to me the most rewarding part is a bond between dog and handler/ owner. Trust and partnership are the coolest part of hunting with your dog! So maybe that’s Golden Rule #2… when that dog becomes your best friend, you drive each other.

  6. Bill says:

    Consistency + reward. 12 week old English Setter is putting me through my paces, but had a great day in the field today woeking on basic whistle and verbal cues(no check cord needed). We keep it simple, short, and reward the positives and transition through the negatives. Today she remembered the positives!

  7. @Bill – congrats on your new pup. If you have a picture, be sure you enter it in Pheasants Forever’s Puppy Photo Contest (https://www.facebook.com/events/275757579189959/), or email us a picture at press@pheasantsforever.org. – Anthony Hauck, Online Editor, Pheasants Forever

  8. Blake says:

    I would have to say start early. It was much easier working with a puppy GSP than it was working with a two year old GSP.
    Blake
    Gundogco.com

  9. Zhinka says:

    After training over 100 gun dogs, my golden rule is, be flexible and realize that certain breeds will always be a pain to train.
    For me I detest labs, they will literally jump off a cliff to get a bird,they cannot think for themselves,and will never learn to not keep going after porcupines and they never think first and I lost several to cougers.
    I prefer german shorthairs, they will stop before they put themselves in danger, ie they won’t blindly leap to get a bird and they can think and say hey, maybe I should not go chase after that really big cat and it usually only takes one porcupine to train them to not go after any more.
    The worst thing about training a good dog for someone is knowing the owners will not keep up the training and then wonder why their dog isn’t polished up after sitting in a kennel for months. I think urban hunters should usually not bother owning the dog, just lease one for the season so the dogs will not have to sit in kennels when it is not season.

  10. If you’r an urban dog owner like me – and many of us at the Pheasants Forever national office – you take them with you to work: http://www.pheasantblog.org/ahauck/bird-dogs-make-the-work-day-better/ – Anthony Hauck, Online Editor, Pheasants Forever

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