From Training to Hunting Your Spaniel
The training involved with trial and/or hunt test dogs is basically the same for all of our dogs, it just depends on the stage of training each particular dog is at. The youngsters just coming into their first puppy stakes will need some more board steadiness, training on longer retrieves, reinforcing the no bird command and working on the delivery. Many of these things can be worked on right now when there is snow on the ground, lack of cover and cold temperatures. Get the training table plowed out and do some routine simple retrieves off the table always reinforcing the come, delivery, hup and give. Teach patience in the dog, teach routine and work these drills. Many times just having the dog out on the table and learning to place there and relax and just sit and watch the time go by. This aids in teaching a dog how to be patient, quiet, and observant. Our staff spends many hours just being with a dog, working on the simple commands of hup, stay, be calm.
A puppy coming into his first “big dog” trial stake will need some brace work when one can get it in. If the training on the routine, quartering and listening to commands is all reinforced then the switch to brace work should be a minimal disruption in the training process. Sometimes the brace dog may be a distraction for your dog or hearing the other handler’s whistle may be confusing but if you have been working your dog consistently and he is in tune with you then the brace work should go smoothly.
One thing we do with teaching a new dog to be aware of the bracemate is to double up the dogs on the retrieving drill off the training table. Have a steady dog on the table and your youngster “first brace” dog on the table as well and teach him to wait his turn to make a retrieve. Of course this requires a second dog so if that isn’t possible, practice throwing the dummy and perhaps 2 out of 5 retrieves you go out and get the dummy and leave the dog there on the table. All this does is to reinforce the steadiness and teaches the dog that you give the command to make the retrieve, he doesn’t d3cide to go when he wants to go.
With mature trial dogs this time of year is best utilized by doing repetitive drills. Drills such as steadiness off the table, walking at heel in the field, working another youngster with one dog at heel, delivery to hand, and long marked retrieves are good drills to be working on when adequate cover is scare or the snow is too deep. Doing mechanical training drills that instill correct behavior, strict obedience to commands and showing them that you are still the boss are productive positive training techniques that keep a dog in great shape, ready to go and excited about each endeavor.