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Knowing the Basics for the Field

by David Krassler

Since it is that time of year and many folks now have added a new future hunting partner to their clan, I thought that I would take this opportunity to touch on some of the basics and some of the subconscious training that a professional trainer does when dealing with a very young spaniel during the introductory stage to field work. Now, this really is the stage before any real formal field training begins. The period I am referring to is your spaniel’s very first trip in the field. I will cover some of the reactions and what happens when we see the pup’s response to new things. I will also discuss how, as professionals, we handle these unfolding situations and what we do to get a proper response during the pup’s introduction to new surroundings and situations.

Before I get started into the proper techniques of field introductory, I would like to touch on some of the pitfalls that I see on a regular basis at my training facility. Clients often take the initiative of starting their pup’s training out in the field and are not aware of the potential issues that can or have arisen in the process. Many first time puppy owners tend to fall into these pitfalls during this stage of subconscious training. Once these errors are established during the introduction stage, they often tend to carry over into all levels and many different stages of field training, and unless corrected they can affect the spaniel’s entire career.

Here are a few golden rules to keep in mind while you are going through the basics of field introduction and completing your training program.

  1. Be patient with your new pup during this phase of introduction. You should have done your homework on getting a spaniel from a strain of dogs that will fit your needs. It is just a matter of time before their genetics will cause them to overcome their fears of the new big world out there.
  2. Keep quiet! Do not continue to “hack” at your pup attempting to coax him to get out to investigate scent or find birds. I can’t recall how many times I have heard this phrase from so many folks, “ Fido, go find the birdie”. The only thing that is being accomplished by attempting to coaxing the young or even an older spaniel is that you are distracting the spaniel from developing his natural ability and desire to find game and making him more dependent on you rather than his own natural instincts. Here is a golden rule; the more you talk to your pup the more he becomes distracted in finding game. This will only cause him to be less proficient in finding and flushing game. Keep quiet and be patient, let your spaniel develop on his own incentive. This will not only build confidence but also affect both his attitude and nose scenting abilities. Coaxing does nothing more than undermine the whole training process. This can also become a bad habit that will spill over into every aspect of training if not detected.

Keep quiet! Do not continue to “hack” at your pup attempting to coax him to get out to investigate scent or find birds.
Photo by: Author
I suggest that during this new introduction that you visit the same field and enter the field from the same direction all the time until your pup has become well developed in their field confidence. Eventually, as his confidence builds you can start to enter the field at different directions and finally choose many different fields that will offer different types of cover and terrain. This will also help your pup to become familiar and accustomed to many types of cover, scents, wind direction, etc.

The first several trips to a local field, your new pup will probably stick to you like glue. He will tend to follow in your footsteps as “you lead the way” in investigating this new field. This can become very frustrating as your pup continues to “stick to you” and not venture out looking for good things to smell or chase. However, be patient! Your pup is very insecure about this new big world that you are attempting to introduce him to. Naturally, because of instincts, he is going to stay close to you for protection.
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