si Cocker Spaniel Training: October 2006

Cocker Spaniel Training

All about dog (cocker spaniel) training.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bird dog training

Our focus is to teach the pup that there are birds on both sides of you. All the dog needs to do is go out far enough to find them. Now this beginning stage of pattern introduction goes against the “Bible of flushing dog training” when we all know, you should always cast your dog off in the opposite direction of the flush or retrieve, whichever the final scenario maybe. However, you are not going to continue this unorthodox technique for long. Once your pup takes its entail cast you will go right into the format of casting off to the opposite side of the find. Now you can start to toss a bird for the spaniel to find on every 2nd cast to each side.

Once the dog has established a good solid pattern, its time to start to mix things up. Give him a bird every 3rd cast one day. Change the number of casts to find birds on the next training day. Keeping the dog questing makes the young spaniel start to run harder to find his birds. The final stage of training is when the spaniel fails to totally complete a pass to one side by cutting it short and turning up field before completing the 10-yard pass on the handler. Roll a bird in for him to find on the side that he came up short on. Thus, he will find a bird on the next pass on that side. Naturally, this will help to keep your spaniel honest to complete his cast before turning up field.

You should be very careful not to let your dog catch you rolling a bird in for him to find once he has been in pattern work for a long duration of time. This will cause him to start popping and this is the most difficult fault issue that you can deal with here. The spaniel will start to turning and/or stopping to look back at you hopping to catch you once again rolling a bird in. Some spaniels are so keyed into this pitfall of error that they actually will listen for the thumping sound as the bird hits the cover.

Eventually, you can start to roll in fliers for the youngster and shoot them for long marked retrieves. The final stage is maintaining a proper blend of clipped winged pigeons and fliers to maintain good solid pattern work; while starting more advanced field training such as steady to wing and shot, for example.

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Hunting dog training.

Ground cover in the field should be only high enough to hide pigeons from plain sight. We do not want the cover so high that the spaniels will have to work very hard at finding birds. This will deplete our objective of establishing a good fast running pattern in the beginning stages. The find should not be so difficult as to interrupt the dog’s focus on the pattern work being taught. Let’s look for a smooth and quick find, not a difficult and lengthily find in the field during the beginning stages. We want to teach the dog in the early stages of training that if the ground is equally covered on both sides, there are birds found quickly.

The one-man drill for the solo trainer can become very limited yet interesting as time goes on and your spaniel becomes experienced in pattern work! Let’s get started into the one-man drill techniques. In the beginning stages, you will want to have the wind in you face when you begin schooling pattern work. This will give your youngster every possible advantage at making easy and quick finds. In addition, the pup will start off on the right foot and realize to stay close to the handler and the birds will be close at hand.

During the first few weeks, attempt to go to the exact same spot in the field when running this drill (more so for the one-man drill than the three-man drill). This will help the pup to remember what he is expected to do. Once he has the general idea other cues will tell him that you are asking him to quarter.

Now, in both the one-man and the three-man drills, we are going to use all clipped winged pigeons and or dead pigeon to start. Use which ever your spaniel is most comfortable with in the beginning stages. You can slowly add clipped wing birds as your dog becomes accustomed to pattern work. We want to keep the birds on the ground until the dog has a consistent pattern developed of quartering back and forth. Fliers will tend to disturb the pattern too much in the beginning stage, taking the focus off of pattern schooling and directing it on flushing, chasing and, of course, retrieving.

Take your spaniel to the field and “hup” him in front facing you. Attempt to cast him off to one side of you to start the pattern. Some may go, others will look at you and say “what”? In this case, toss a dead pigeon off in the direction that you have asked him to travel. Let him mark and chase it for a retrieve. Try to throw the birds the same distance every time, approximately 10 yards when rolling pigeons in for your pup.

Once the dog has returned with the retrieve, cast him off in the same direction as before. This will help to pull him back to the previous fall area. While your pup is heading off to the last fall area, toss a pigeon off to the opposite side. Give your pup a toot (on the whistle) with the verbal command “come round”. When your pup turns in your direction, turn your body and start to walk in the direction of the tossed bird. This will help to cast the spaniel past you into another find. Continue this drill for only a few days, tossing a pigeon for him to see and retrieve only if he should refuse to make the initial cast. Once your pup has learned to cast past you for another find in a windshield wiper pattern, you can start to walk straightforward giving a hand motion for your spaniel to cast past you from side to side.

Now we are not too concerned about moving in a fast forward movement at this point. However, you do want to try to get ahead of any old scent put down from the previous cast. This can tend to cause the pup to spend too much time attempting to distinguish the real fresh body scent, which once again will take his focus off of pattern work. Once the spaniel has established a good sound pattern, the older scent is not too much of an issue!

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Hunting dog training. Introduction.

Whether you are an avid upland game shooter or dedicated to the sporting dog game, having a spaniel that can work a proficient-hunting pattern and address the gunner in different wind directions can prove to be as valuable to bird hunting as the two-barrel shotgun!

Before we get started into training techniques, keep in mind that we are going to discuss the techniques that are most commonly successful for most flushing dogs. However, it may not work for every dog. When we train dogs we often have to try many different approaches before we find one that works with a particular dog. This is where the advice and experience of reputable professional trainers comes into play. By constantly refining their training program, professional trainers can often avoid the inevitable pitfalls the novice often runs into when training a dog. A well thought-out training program, built on experience, can often be the difference that makes or breaks a field trial champion and even a gundog as we move into the advanced levels of training.

Also, prior to beginning the instructional training techniques to teach proper pattern work, we must first touch on a few things that your spaniel should know beforehand. It is crucial that the majority of all retrieving issues be resolved. The dog should be very consistent on his delivery. The spaniel should pick up all retrieves thrown, with enthusiasm and have no refusals. In addition, he should have lots of exposure to handling both dead and live pigeons during retrieving drills out in an open field area.

Another concern is that you should expose your flushing dog to is running a field, into the wind and allowing the dog the opportunity to find some planted clip winged pigeons in the field. This will get him accustomed to finds in the field before going to pattern drills. Additionally, be aware that you should always make sure the dog has a solid hunting pattern established well before you begin shooting game over your dog. The reason for this is simple; pattern work is one of the building blocks we lay for the more advanced level fieldwork, like steadying to wing and shot.

Now let’s look at the training techniques. There are two different options available for us to teach pattern. The first is a one-man drill, should you not have the luxury of getting a couple of assistants to help in this training process, this may be your only option. I will cover this technique in this month’s column. The other is a three-man drill that naturally employs three people to execute. The three-man drill is the preferred choice of most professional trainers and will produce a very nicely polished hunting pattern! Many spaniel enthusiasts will assemble a small training group for the sole reason of developing and maintaining a spaniel’s pattern. Many training groups customarily will get together on weekends to work on this drill as a team.

The first step is to find the proper location to run this drill. Find a field that is as large as possible; this will help in maintaining a consistent wind direction. Small fields that have high brush or are tucked down in a valley tend to cause the wind to swirl in the field, which will make teaching pattern more difficult. A field set high on a plateau is ideal for wind direction. In addition, the field also should be as remote as possible. This will allow you to shoot in summation to using live pigeons when the time is appropriate.

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