SO YOU DON’T WANT A FIELD TRIAL DOG…ARE YOU SURE?

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Craney Hill Kennel gets many telephone calls from people that are looking for a hunting dog. Many times, I am told that they do not want one of those field trial dogs. Considering this strong statement, I cannot help but start to question the person’s reasons for not wanting a field trial dog and the logic behind the reasons. The typical response is because the field trial dogs are to “hot” and difficult to control.

I find it amazing at how little this person must actually know about the field trial world. I really want to say “So that means you do not want a dog that hunts in range, does not chase missed birds and sits when the whistle is blown?” The truth is that the field trial community demands a level of control over their dogs that most people would crave. The reason that the general public has this impression is likely due to the limited exposure they have to “field trial washout” dogs. These dogs are eliminated from field trial competition for a multitude of reasons and most of those reasons will never be an issue to the average guy that hunts his dog.

Let me begin by highlighting some of the negative experiences someone can have when purchasing a “washout” dog. We need to eliminate the case of some professional trainer or field trial amateur being deceitful and dumping an untrained dog on some poor guy. I have no suggested cure for that situation.

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The most common negative issue is that the dog takes off and does not come back when it is called and does not listen around the house. From a dog training view, this is a dog being a dog. In this case, the dog is just trying to be the leader and the new owner needs to establish who is in charge. A few obedience sessions prior to going to the field should clean this up for the new owner.

Another negative issue is that the dog gets tired too quick. This is because the field trial is a relatively short event (spaniel trials) so that each dog can be looked at over the course of the weekend. Field trial dogs are typically trained on two or three birds each time and run in a field 100 to 200 yards long. This creates a sprinter. If switched to a hunting environment, most dogs will learn to run more of a typical hunting pace. If you give it time and work on it gradually, it will all work out.

All dogs need to be steady-to-wing-and-shot for the spaniel field trials. Many hunters are of the opinion that an unsteady dog gets to the crippled pheasant better and results in less lost birds. My experience has been the complete opposite. First, a dog that is steady is under much better control in ALL situations due to the level of training that is required to make a dog steady. This means that a steady dog listens to the whistle better, hunts in range better and is more obedient. Also, a dog that is steady marks the fall of the bird better than one that is chasing. As such, it gets to the exact fall quicker to start tracking as compared to the dog that needs to hunt to the fall because of a poor mark. Now I know many of you are disagreeing and I know you have seen unsteady dogs make great retrieves. I have as well. But if you really pay attention, watch how many times the dog did not actually go directly to the fall. If you are looking at it truthfully, you will see my point. As far as tracking the crippled bird, a dog can or cannot take moving birds. It has nothing to do with being steady or unsteady.

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This is a summary of negatives that I hear regarding field trial dogs. I hear the reasons, but I disagree with them. The reason that I think you SHOULD be concerned with getting a field trial dog is because of their lack of hunting exposure. Our spaniels all come from field trial genes…either our own or dogs we have purchased elsewhere. The pedigrees include many prominent names in the field trial community. However, we test our dogs in a real hunting environment on wild birds. We do participate in field trials; however, our focus is on creating quality hunting dogs, as the field trial should be a test of the “best” hunting dogs.

By participating in the field trials, it keeps our training standard at a top level. Sit means sit and here means here. By hunting the dogs on wild birds each year, we can keep our breeding stock producing proven bird-finders. So why do I think the bird-finding qualities are suspect with field trial dogs? I think most of the field trial dogs would be fantastic hunting dogs if they were raised and trained in the environment and methodology at Craney Hill Kennel. However, a field trial washout that is three or four years old has lost the opportunity to maximize its learning at a young age.

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Most field trial dogs do not get ANY pheasants until well over one year of age. All of our puppies hunt wild game prior to one year of age that includes any combination of pheasant, sharptail grouse, quail, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, spruce grouse and Hungarian partridge. After this exposure, I do not know if any of the puppies will make a good field trial prospect but I DO KNOW that they can go hunt and find birds. This is the priority at MY kennel. It is not, nor does it need to be the priority at EVERY kennel. Some kennels have specializing in the field trial games as the priority. We believe your dog should excel at both.

So what does this mean to you? If you want a well trained dog with strong genetics, a field trial dog is the best way to go. However, be careful to be sure that it will hunt the way you want it to. Many times, the seller shows the dog in the same field that it has always been trained in. Trust me; it will never look as good as it does there…my dogs included. If the owner/trainer runs the dog in one direction, ask to see it work in another direction or different cover. You are buying a trained dog so make sure the transmission works both forward and reverse.

Many years ago, a gentleman purchased a trained field trial dog and went to hunt wild birds in Iowa. The dog walked at his side the entire time. Of course the guy was upset. Through a number of sequences, he called to buy a dog from me and was certainly filled with reservations. Needless to say, he loved the dog he got from me. This does not mean that my dog was any better or worse. It means that our dogs are trained and exposed predominately to real life hunting situations and the field trial dogs are trained and exposed to predominately field trial situations.

Another time, I went to Kansas with some field trial people and their dogs. They had a miserable time. They could not handle their dogs when the cover was over their head. The dogs ran behind them a lot and really struggled to produce birds. Our spaniels and labs were also struggling to produce birds; however, they hunted much more aggressively, were less confused and handled the conditions much better. Again, our dogs were on their “home turf” so to speak and the other field trial dogs were not used to a bird running 400 to 600 meters.

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In summary, most field trial dogs will make a good hunting dog for you. Some will be better than others. To maximize your dollars spent, make sure you see the dog work in multiple covers, on multiple birds and in a situation that you think most closely resembles a hunting situation. Be sure you are comfortable with the owner/trainer and that they will stand by the health of the dog. Also be sure to get some help understanding the commands and how to handle the dog.

Lady Heidi From NY City

Heidi is a complete joy to us and by far the best dog we have ever had.  Heidi seems to have adjusted very well to life in NYC, particularly since we live across the street from Riverside Park.  She seems to have a dual personality: In our apartment she’s the “love bunny”, always wanting to be with us (she sleeps between us) and showing enormous affection.  She seems to think of herself as the “furry person” member of the family.  We run her every morning in the park and she is in very good condition.  However, in the field she’s all business.  As soon as the shotgun cases come out she knows it’s time to go to work and all thought of anything but chasing birds seems to leave her mind.  Living in the city, this combination works very well for us.

Corinne & I would like to thank you again for selling us a very well trained dog. She’s total joy.  You two are the best.  If we ever move out of the city, we’ll be coming to see you for a second springer.

Mike & Corinne

 

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Heeling Work In The Yard

Here are some videos of Winnie and Mac working on heeling with Todd in the yard. They are both turning into wonderful obedient students. Sorry about the foggy video, going from AC to the boiling heat does silly things to the camera.

Mac’s Video

 

Winnie’s Video

 

 

Mac, Otis & Penley Working In The Field

Here are some videos of the three dogs working in the field on their birds. They have just started to find, flush and get birds shot over them. Sometimes the birds and dogs don’t always work the way you want them to while the video camera is rolling. Enjoy the video’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUN DOG TRAINING 102

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Dogs Are Place-oriented

You should understand that a dog is a pack animal and that it is a creature of habit. With this understanding, you are better positioned to effectively train your canine friend. Now we move on to place-orientation and association.

Place-orientation simply means that your correction or praise must occur in close proximity to the event that took place.

I believe that praise is straightforward and self-explanatory. Most people do not suffer from providing enough praise for their dog. What generally happens is that the praise is not provided at the correct time and the power of association (discussed later) is lost.

When we discuss corrections, open your mind so that you can think of corrections in a very simple manner. It is true that there are varying degrees of correction; however, there are not as many as you may think. Initially, you need to realize that there are verbal, physical and electronic corrections.

Verbal corrections are words, whistles and tones. Essentially, think of verbal corrections as any correction made by you making a noise. We train our dogs to respond to a verbal command the first time that we say the command. If you watch people with dogs, you will see that they routinely will give the command more than once. This trains the dog that it does not have to comply. When the person says the command the second and third time, you will notice that the tone of the command and body posture of the owner change as well. This is why tone and physicality (body language) are also corrections and why we train for compliance the first time that we give a command.

It does not matter if you are for or against e-collar training as long as you are open-minded and willing to educate yourself regarding the proper use of an e-collar. Most people that are against e-collar training are uneducated on properly utilizing an e-collar and think that they are doing the dog a favor by not using it. It is not the tough dog that needs an e-collar; it is the soft dog that needs the e-collar.

The e-collar is only ONE training tool in a trainer’s arsenal. It is NOT a quicker way to train a dog. It is the trainer that makes mistakes USING the e-collar, NOT the e-collar. We have seen MANY dogs that were trained by those that are “anti-electronic training” and often times they are hand-shy, afraid of the lead or check cord and so forth. Prior to e-collars, dogs were shot with live ammunition or slingshots, kicked, and thrown. We still see “professionals” that pick dogs up by the ears and hindquarters and throw dogs…yet they are against the e-collar as a regular training aid. If I sound a little too passionate about electronics, I make no apology. You as the reader should draw your own conclusions if e-collars are for you or not, but make an informed decision.

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Defined Places Instill Compliance

Now that you are comfortable with various types of corrections, we can use the dog’s place-oriented characteristic to our benefit. Once your dog knows a particular command (we will use sit), we give the command. If the dog sits immediately, you can praise your dog (verbal, a treat, or touch). However, if the dog moved from where it was when the command was said, YOU MUST PUT THE DOG BACK TO THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS WHEN THE COMMAND WAS SAID. If you praise or correct the dog at a spot that is different than where it was when you gave the command, the dog cannot make the association that the praise or correction was for/for not sitting when you gave the command.

I will try to illustrate it another way so that everyone is clear on its meaning. The dog is at Point A when you say “sit.” If it sits at Point A, you can praise it at Point A. If the dog moves to Point B and sits or doesn’t sit, you must put the dog back (for now just pick the dog up and put it back) to Point A and make it sit. I would not praise the dog and I would not say “sit” again. The physical act of picking the dog up and putting it back to Point A is a correction.

We are using place-orientation in conjunction with the way that a dog learns (association). The canine learns EVERYTHING through association. Association is the linking of a new item with a known item. One of the items must already be known and we link this known item to an unknown item so that the new (unknown) item becomes known.

Let’s use the prior example of “sit.” To teach sit, we use a treat. Initially, we push the puppy’s butt down and give it a treat. After enough consistent repetitions, the puppy starts to sit whenever it sees/smells the treat in our hand. We now have a cue (known item) that we can link to something else through association. In this case, we are going to teach the dog to sit on the verbal command “sit.” For association to work, the new item (verbal “sit”) must come BEFORE the known item (the treat).

Tell your dog to “sit” and hold out the treat. If you have done the appropriate number of repetitions with the treat, your dog should sit when you hold out the treat. It is important that you understand that your dog DOES NOT know the “sit” command at this point. He sat because of the treat. If you do this exercise a number of times over a number of days, your dog will start to sit when you give the command because it has ASSOCIATED the command with the treat and he anticipates that the treat will follow the command.

This is a very long way of explaining how to teach your dog to sit. However, it is extremely important that you truly understand what a dog is and how it learns. We will use association to train every command that we are going to use. A word to the wise here; once your dog is sitting on command, switch to only giving the praise (treat) some of the time. It will keep the dog upbeat and attentive, as he will be “looking” to sit in an attempt to please itself and get what it wants (the treat).

If you truly understand what a dog is (pack animal, creature of habit, place-oriented, learns through association), you are well on your way to training your dog to do whatever you want. The object is not to make your dog sit for any extended time. All you are doing is teaching the verbal command so the dog knows what it is. Compliance to the command will occur later. The studies show that there is no more critically important time in a dog’s life for learning than between weeks 7 and 16 of its life. By the time a puppy is 16 weeks old, the dog is almost entirely programmed as to its ability to learn. Older dogs can learn new things; however, they will never reach their full potential as if their mind had been opened to learning between weeks 7 and 16.

Put the learning process in place between weeks 7 and 16 and the trainability of your dog will be greatly enhanced. Use association this month to teach any of the commands that you are going to use later in your dog’s life (kennel, sit, here, heel).

Mac, Otis & Penley Getting Their First Flyer!

Mac the springer with his first flyer. Mac is here at Craney Hill for summer camp, and as you can see he is having a great time. Go Mac!

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Otis the English cocker spaniel with his first flyer. Otis is here at Craney Hill for summer camp. The little cocker with attitude. 

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Penley the English cocker spaniel getting her first flyer. Penley is here at Craney Hill for summer training. As you can see Penley really enjoyed her first flyer.

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Lucy & David Training Visit

David and Lucy (Dudley X Maddie litter) stopped in the other day for a training lesson with Todd. As we get ready to head north to IL for summer training David needed to get his next lesson in before we hit the road. David is doing an excellent job with Lucy. Keep at it David! Enjoy the video and photos.

 

 

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Big Day For Otis!

This was a big day for Otis the cocker spaniel. His owners came to visit and he got his first bird. Todd was waiting to give Otis his first bird until his owners showed up. They were very surprised to see all the new things that Otis was doing. The biggest surprise was how well Otis did with his first bird. Enjoy the video and photos.

 

 

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NO, YOU CANNOT HAVE ME TRAIN YOUR DOG IN AUGUST!

 

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For all of you that have been reading (at least) some of my articles, I apologize to you.  This article is about nothing more than me venting over an issue that quick-fix dog training books and writers try to sell to the less educated. For the rest of you, and everyone that has been calling for me to train your dog for the month, I do not apologize and I will AGAIN explain how your lack of knowledge is impeding your dog.

Tell me what you think about the following statements.

“Hello Ms. Jordan. This is Johnny’s first day of kindergarten and he is very excited. However, you can only teach him during the month of September so make sure he is ready for first grade by October.”

“Johnny, say hi to Coach Ron. We are very excited about Johnny deciding to play football Coach. Please teach him how to play and we will pick him up before the NFL draft next month.”

“Hello Mr. Kaplan. Johnny is taking the SAT test next week. Please teach him the 2500 or so vocabulary words he may see on the test. He needs to know them for the test next week.”

These requests are of course ridiculous. Now ask yourself why is it any different with your dog? I cannot believe the number of telephone calls that I receive and the owner wants the dog trained in two weeks or a month. TRAINED TO DO WHAT? Most times, the dog has not had many birds, has never had an e-collar and although the owner denies it, the retrieve is terrible.

Why do owners think this is possible? Are other trainers making promises that I know are unrealistic? Is the quality of the training that poor? Or, is the expectation of the owner so low that a trainer can capitalize on it without providing proper training?

HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Except for very specific training on single issues, I cannot, and WILL NOT, take a dog in for training for less than three months. If another trainer will, and indicates that they can get the training done, well good luck and call them. The reason for the three month minimum is pretty simple. It is about the longest that misinformed owners will send their dog away for training! It is also about the minimum time it can take to get the dog to perform regularly for the owner when they take the dog home.

Let me give you two extremes in Client dogs that came to us for training. The first is a very talented English Springer spaniel that is well-bred AND young (7-8 months when it came in for training). The first month, we introduced the dog to quail and pigeons so that it would get out into different cover and hunt for birds. We also began the foundation work for obedience. The second month, we introduced the dog to gunfire and completed e-collar conditioning and obedience in the yard. The third month, we transferred compliance to the field and started the dog with its patterning (proper use of the wind).

 

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 Foundation is Built One Month at a Time

At the end of three months, the owner came and got his dog. He now can take the dog out and hunt. He has already gone to the hunt club with his friends and shot birds over the dog. His dog complies with both verbal and whistle commands, hunts within gun range and retrieves. Most important, when the dog needs to be corrected, the foundation is in place and the owner can make a MILD correction with his voice, whistle or e-collar and the dog does not shut down. Trust me, this is as good as it gets! We were able to move the dog along quickly because a) it was a genetically talented dog, b) it came to us at a young age with limited issues, and c) the dog would already retrieve consistently.

At the other end of the spectrum is the dog that comes in for training and it either will not retrieve or it kills birds, meaning the bird is not fit for the dinner table. We are not talking about the dog that will not bring the bird back. We are talking about the dog that will not pick the bird up. I know that he will retrieve at home. But we do not train or hunt at your house.

We cannot do anything with this dog until it will retrieve or stop killing birds. That means we need to complete the “forced-retrieve” and it will take one to two months to complete. Our standard on the retrieve is VERY high. We have had many dogs in for training that have been through the forced-retrieve and still only retrieve some of the time. Well, in our program, that is not acceptable. Do it right the first time and it saves you money and aggravation later. If it is alright with you that the dog damages the birds then send your dog someplace else for training because it is not alright with us. We hunt and we put the game on the dinner table. If you go to the hunt club and shoot your birds and they get thrown away because you do not want them or because your dog destroyed them, then the truth is your are a shooter not a hunter/conversationalist and your hunting privileges should be suspended!

If it is going to take one or two months to get the retrieving fixed, it will obviously take longer to train your dog to an acceptable level. I am done hearing “…I am not looking for a world-class dog, I just want to go out a couple of times and shoot some birds and have Fido retrieve them.” This is a bunch of #$%^$. You ALL want that, but you want the dog to be better than your hunting buddy’s dog and you want people to comment about the quality of your dog. However, you routinely accept something less and will derive many excuses as to why your dog does not do this or that. The fact is, you just do not want to spend the money required, have the dog gone for the time required, have a lack of perspective on what a well-trained dog is capable of doing, or it is not a priority.

Now here is the good news. If it is not a priority to you than I am alright with that because it is YOUR dog. I just will not be training it for you. I do not see any other trainer being as honest with dog owners as I am being with this article. I am in business and I do not expand my business by telling Clients that they need to stop making unrealistic requests, stop buying every flavor of punch that is served to them and to start looking in the mirror. However, I do expand my business by educating dog owners to think about what they ask and what their expectations are. I understand the family does not want the dog to be gone. I understand that there is a fear that the dog may change if it is added to a professional kennel. I understand those things, but I DO KNOW what is best for getting your dog trained and making your time with your dog more enjoyable. If it just will not work for you to send your dog out for training, consider joining a training group. Try to find one that allows you to work under the guidance of a quality professional trainer, as most are coordinated by amateurs that know only a little more than you, if that.

Doggie Fun

 

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The summer temps are here in GA!

All the doggies just love to run around in the yards and play. There is even a big old bath tub full of water for them to lay in or drink out of.

The summer training strip field is in place.  The next photo is the farm dog truck, it’s a small Japanese mini truck. It works great for the dogs and it has a lot of air flow for them.

The last photo is Miss Maeve relaxing in the house on the doggie bed. Ah lazy summer afternoons for the doggies.