A Great Start - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Place your two fingers back in his mouth, give him a chance to show his dislike, once he stops and is still for a very short time give the command "give" and again allow him to open his mouth and back away from your hand.

All of this sounds more difficult than it is, if handled properly the young dogs soon look forward to holding the fingers, and you can feel if they have a warm firm grip or are holding with a sloppy attitude, or even holding too firmly.

Now if your pup happens to be too reluctant for all of this, and he wishes to move about too much you may need to place his head into a collar which is secured to the end of the table. Let him get used to this new type of situation. You cannot proceed until he accepts the fact he is secured and not going any place. As he settles down and figures out he's been had; you can proceed as before by placing your two fingers into his mouth. Many pups will not need this extra restraint.

Once the pup has learned that holding calmly will make you take your hand out of its mouth; you can begin having him hold for longer periods. To press on teaching the hold command, continue to leave your fingers in his mouth even after he has stopped chewing. When he starts chewing again, quickly grab the scruff of his neck (the loose skin on the back of his neck) give it a shake with your free hand. This usually will startle the puppy causing him to settle down and stop chewing. This is the same type of scolding he would receive from his mother, a shaking by the scruff of the neck.

Continue to repeat this lesson until the pup gives in and will hold your fingers properly for longer periods without resisting. Now begin using the "Hold" command just as you put your hand into its mouth. Gentle repetition will soon have the pup holding your hand calmly, just as you want him to hold game later on, and he'll give on command, you can now advance to a dumbbell, small buck, or retrieving dummy.

If you don't have a very small buck or dumbbell, you can use a short wooden dowel. The idea is that the unit be compact and easy to place behind the pup’s canine teeth. A small dumbbell works best as it will not fall out the side of a dog's mouth, and it hangs up behind the pup's lower canine teeth. Place one finger in the corner of the dog's mouth to open it and place the dumbbell behind the canine teeth. You must now be prepared for when he wants to spit it out. Take hold of the pup's earflap, and hold it loosely between your thumb and finger.

When the pup drops the dumbbell, and it will, at once begin rubbing your thumbnail and your fingernail back and forth on his earflap causing a mild discomfort. Keep this mild pressure on the ear as you pick up the dropped dumbbell and place it back into the pup's mouth. Stop the discomfort once the object is back in his mouth. Once he has held it for a moment, gently praise him and command "Give". You now have a good start.

A word of caution, use as little pressure as possible, but you must cause some discomfort, giving the pup a choice. Hold properly, and all is fine, or spit it out and have discomfort until the object is back in his mouth, and holding properly.

This is the method of table training that Jim Dobbs demonstrates in his seminars, and is outlined in more detail in his book Retriever Training. This gentle method works better for our spaniels than anything I have used in the past.

You must remain calm, and never lose your temper. Some youngsters are very difficult at first; others are so smart they move through this with ease.

Jim began training professionally in 1986, before winning the National Championship with "Patches". He has judged five National Championships, and has been an official gunner at the Nationals on a regular basis since 1967. Together, with his wife, Luanne, they are actively breeding, training, and campaigning English springer spaniels at Midlands Kennels on the Dogtired Ranch north of Tekamah, Nebraska.
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