Bad Manners

When I go through a door, the last thing I need is for two dogs weighing nearly half of what I weigh knocking my legs out from under me. I may be well padded, but landing on a hard floor unexpectedly hurts enough to reduce me to tears. Now what is interesting is that even the most obedient of dogs will pick up this habit, and the reason is simple; we quite often let them out into the garden (yard) to pee (or whatever) without going out first. As a result they think if a door is open, it is for the sole purpose of letting them out.

The Solution to Impatient Dogs

is simple; make them sit before you open the door. Keep them sat when you open the door. Let them out when you have gone through the door, or after a few seconds, depending on whether you want to go out or not.

Avoid Routine

Now I know that common lore says that dogs should be trained to a routine, but I do not agree. Routine is boring, and does not generate the range of experience in a dog that you need for a competent companion.

When I mentioned (two paragraphs ago) about waiting a few seconds, another point occurred to me – don’t always wait the same amount of time. When I leave the converted cow-barn I stay in, I hup the dogs as soon as I clear the parked cars. I then walk towards my basic training ground, a rabbity piece of ground bordered by a small wood, some 200 yards from the house. When I clear the neighbour’s house, I turn and whistle the release signal, and the dogs come running. If I do this four or five times in a row, as soon as I look back towards the dogs they anticipate the signal and set off for the work area.

This anticipation is also bad manners, but again the fault is mine. By being predictable the dogs predict me, and who can blame them? But this point occurs throughout the entire training regime and it is something you have to anticipate and handle before it occurs.

Don’t get lazy!

If you send a dog for a retrieve every time you make a successful shot, you will encourage running in to shot, (ie pre-empting the retrieve command). Where game is easily retrievable by the gun, the gun should retrieve it. This also has the useful side effect of the dog not expecting many retrieves, and it will reduce the tension that the dog feels. In my case, too much predictability has left my dogs with a tendency to whine when they think they are going to be doing something nice, like fetching fresh pigeons. And once this trait is in, it can be difficult to sort out. I think I shall have to resort to a water spray.

So if shooting pigeons from a hide, only send the dog for the walking wounded or birds that end up lying on their back, and spoil the decoy pattern. The late Archie Coates, famous for record bags of pigeon (he was a professional pigeon controller) trained his dogs to pick only those birds on their back. Just goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to it!

More Bad Manners

What other situations count as bad manners?

Letting dogs into or out of the car – they should only move when you release them or tell them to get into the car.

Pulling on the lead – change direction or stop and make them come back to heel. Make take some practice, but a gentle cough will remind my dog to get back to where I want him.

Shaking when they come out of water – this will often result in the gun getting wet, or worse, a wounded duck being released when the dog puts the bird down to shake. The solution to this is to teach the dog to shake on command only (try tickling her ear and you will find that she will shake herself). The training technique should be to teach the ‘shake’ command first, then when that is achieved, get her to retrieve from water, and run away as she grounds – she will be in such a hurry to get to you she will not shake until you let her catch up, then give her the shake command.

My personal hate – jumping up on you with muddy feet, or even dry feet if she is the wrong height – it can ruin your love life to have a bouncy labrador hit you in the wrong place.

Remember: when training goes wrong, step back, think about it, ask questions from a more experienced handler and approach the problem again. If the problem can wait, leave it for a few weeks and come back to it once the pup has forgotten what she was doing wrong.

Happy Handling!

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