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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Feeding is another important aspect of raising pup. First off, pick a good food. That in and of itself is a whole other article, but good general advice is to make sure the first ingredient in the food is chicken or lamb. Corn doesn’t count; neither does “meat or meat by-products.” (I’m scared to guess at how many different things a meat by-product could potentially be, but suffice it to say you don’t need for your pup to be eating ‘possum hearts’). Do not free feed your pup. Train him to eat when the food is put before him. Feed him in the same place every time. I like to feed the dog in a plastic kennel crate as that gets him wanting to go into the crate. Tell him to “kennel,” then pull your pup into the crate and immediately place his food bowl in with him. Walk away and leave him to eat for 15 minutes. When you come back, take any leftover food away and take pup outside to go potty. If he didn’t eat, that is fine, he will be more hungry and will want to eat next time. Sooner or later they always eat, so even if he skips a couple of meals, be strong and patient. Training to eat can benefit you greatly in the future. You will know immediately when your dog isn’t feeling well, when that normally voracious eater won’t touch his food. Also, I have seen too many dogs that just pick at their food the first couple nights of their big, once a year, North Dakota hunting trip. They are nervous about eating in a crate in a strange place. By the 3rd day they are out of gas and just can’t hunt well anymore. That is no fun for you or the dog.

Young puppy Flare being fed in a crate to develop a postive attitude about crates.
Photo by: Author
A dog should have his own personal area in a house. Plastic dog crates work great for this purpose too. This is where pup goes when you are gone or sleeping. When you feed pup in the crate, it will train him to want to go into the crate when asked. A very important thing to remember here is to not let pup out when he is whining. That will teach him to whine when he wants out. That can get pretty annoying on a long car ride or in the middle of the night. It is better to scold him, tell him “quiet,” let him be silent for just a little while, and then let him out. Or, if it is the middle of the night, just let him whine all night, and sooner or later he will figure out that whining will get him nowhere so he may as well curl up and go to sleep. For that reason, I like to put a new pup’s crate on the other side of the house, as opposed to right next to your bed.

Let’s go back to our original ideas. Every time you do something with your dog you are training him. When you make it fun for your dog to learn new things to do with you, he will want to continue to do things with you and will look forward to learning more. This doesn’t mean that you should never scold your pup. When he is bad, do a quick physical correction, and then try to get him to do it right so you can praise him. Yelling “no” at him 27 times is not a good correction. Dogs react to physical stimuli better then verbal. Here is as example. When you can’t get your dog in the plastic crate, catch him and push him in. Then immediately place his food bowl or some other treat in with him. Before bed we often will give then a sterilized bone with peanut butter smeared in it. If he doesn’t go in the crate, yelling at him and scolding him will do little good. Physically forcing him in and then rewarding him for going in will work far better, especially when the reward is worthwhile, like a peanut butter bone.

The moral of this article is that a dog cannot be too well socialized! In the next issue, we will discuss more themes along this same topic. Sitting/staying and gunfire introduction will be reviewed.

Jason and his wife Michelle breed English Springer Spaniels and train flushing dogs on their farm in south-central Wisconsin. When not out hunting, Jason is very active with Springer Spaniel field trials. He is typically on the top 10 professional handlers list and has National placements and ribbons, along with multiple Field Championships with different dogs. In 2002, he was honored to judge both the Cocker National Championship and the Springer Spaniel National Open Championship. You can learn more about Michelle and Jason at their kennel’s web-site: Lighthouse Kennels.

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