Our FC Alder Is About To Start A New Chapter In His Life!

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Alder has been sold and is moving on to a better life. David has purchased Alder to run him in the Amateur Field Trials and considering Alder’s training, it will allow David to learn about the trials with a very competitive dog. Alder will also be on the truck at times to run open trials. We look forward to watching David and Alder on their new journey together. We (I) will miss seeing Alder’s face everyday.  I will look forward to his visit’s to Craney Hill.

Good luck David and Alder!

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.

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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