Training springer spaniels is a rewarding task for you and the dog because they are intelligent, and eager to learn and please; their natural traits to hunt and retrieve make for a lot of variety and fun. It is important though to understand the various aspects of training, and to be clear about your objectives. If this is your first time, then you will also have learn to be a trainer.
Training can be grouped as follows:
* Initial house training
* Field Training
* Rescue dog training
Initial House Training
Initial house training is the training undertaken with a puppy, so that he or she learns to control their bowels and do their business in an allotted place (hopefully following a regular pattern – on waking, after meals and so on – and not indoors. Some rescue dogs may require initial house training – this is more about getting them out of bad habits and instilling good ones.
Obedience training teaches the dog to obey spoken commands, whistles and body (usually hand, but stance is important too) signals. This should start when the young dog is 5-6 months old and bonding and trust between you has been established. Getting the dog used to hearing a specific set of commands can start on day 1, though don’t expect or push for any progress this early. You and the family need to agree your set of commands, so that the dog does not get confused. Besides his name, commands should ideally be single words: No, Come, Sit, Stay, Heel, Fetch and of course, two words ‘Good Boy/Dog/Girl’, which are not a command but very important. Some owners also use ‘Bad Dog’ as a chastisement.
Training your dog for springer spaniel field trials is very specialized and is outside the scope of this article. Field training is a specialised area and depends on what type of work the dog will be involved in and what country, as the field trials take different forms. It is so specialised that some gundog owners will buy their dogs ready-trained, or have them trained for them.
Rescue Dog Training
Although rescue dogs are usually mature, training might include initial house training (rarely, but depending on the dog’s background); in some cases rescue dogs will not have had any obedience training and will have bad habits which need to be eliminated, and good habits instilled in their place.
The training ‘course’ for a specific rescue dog will need to be tailored to that dog’s personality – is it overly aggressive, too passive and lacking confidence, and so on. There are techniques for dealing with each of these likely issues, and the owner will need to think carefully (and perhaps liaise with the rescue centre) about the training scheme for the dog. The springer spaniel is a very intelligent breed and therefore learns quickly if taught properly, but does get bored with too much repetition.
Bound in with all this training is also the need to socialise the springer. Dogs are naturally pack animals, but they need to be taught how to meet other people, other dogs and other animals, and behave in an acceptable way in many situations (for example not pulling through an opening door or gate, or jumping up at people).
Finally, you, as the trainer, will need to understand the use of your body language, including hand signals, as a means of communicating with your dog in addition to words. Dogs can read faces and body language, and also have that ability to sense people emotions.
If all this seems a bit too much, then you can always check with your veterinary clinic, local pet shops and the local library to find out when any dog training classes are held in your area. That way, you can both learn effectively and your springer gets used to being with other dogs too!
Dogs are pack animals and live within a clear pecking order in their wild condition. Within the family, you need to instil the pecking order into the dog, so that he or she understands their position, behind all human beings and especially the children. This makes life easier for all, removing competition and uncertainty from the dog.
So, there is quite a lot to think about and prepare for, and you have start at the right time, be very patient and set realistic training objectives and timescales for your dog. If you want to see how it’s done by the experts, then check out Dr Dennis Fetko – ‘Dr Dog’ as he’s more widely known – maybe you’ve heard of him already? He has a book and audio available which will help you tackle any training problems head on. See what you think: Dr Dog’s Fast, Easy, Fun Behaviour Solutions.