Kindergarten or Preschool

In our first issue we covered the worst part of starting your pup, the housebreaking. We also covered a very few basics. Everyone in the household was involved in this and may continue to be as long as there is CONSISTENCY. In the beginning Paul, our 3 year old, or Kent our 5 year old; shouldn't tell Jack to SIT, STAY, COME, etc. There is no way Jack will pay particular attention to Paul's commands, so don't take a chance of him learning to disregard a command no matter who it comes from.

You already have the equipment needed for the next couple of months.

#1 A GOOD COLLAR
#2 A GOOD LEAD
Yes, that's it!

Jack and Snow have already been thru this since we last talked. Let me introduce to you Alexandria or Alex for short. Remember short call names are important. Short COMMAND words are important. Quick, firm hand signals are now introduced. Everything is short and sweet. You'll see why.

These are the commands:
1 - KENNEL
2 - NO
3 - DOWN
4 - LEAD
5 - FETCH
6 ­ SIT
7 ­ STAY
8 ­ COME
9 ­ HEEL
10 - WHOA & STAUNCH

Each as I said will be supported by a hand signal. This prepares Alex for her first trips into the wide-open spaces. You have control over her at all times without stress on either of you. In the beginning it is primarily for her safety. The SIT command can save her from dashing into the path of an oncoming car. The DOWN command can keep her from embarrassing you. You get the idea from here. With hand signals you will have leash control over her at any distance.She looks to you for instruction and she knows what pleases you and what doesn't.

Learning is done by repetition. Teach one thing, get it down right, and go to the next. Repeat step one and go immediately to the related next step. For example, when you get to HEEL, Alex should already SIT on command, STAY on command and COME on command, see the pattern. Each command is related. There is a proper sequence and the sequence is for a reason. You will see the pattern form. In this way she is always pleasantly under control.

1 ­ KENNEL

This is established while housebreaking. When you're ready for Alex to bed down walk her to her kennel; say KENNEL and push her rump in. Give Alex her last treat, say goodnight and be on your way.

Later in her outdoor training she already knows kennel means to go in the box. SIT - STAY - KENNEL - (see the pattern) put her kennel in the pickup and she learns to go afield. Get Alex used to travel with short trips. Sure she may get carsick a few times. You can easily give her a Dramamine with no ill effects; it's just a mild relaxant. To break Alex from barking on this new experience, plan to go to an understanding friends house, preferably with no close neighbors. Play cards, talk dogs, whatever till she stops barking. Don't return to the truck till she stops. This way she won't think barking brought you back.

Did you notice no mention of treats? There is a reason for this. Unless you want to reserve a pocket just for treats from now on; don't even think about it now, they have served their purpose and can still be used in the house. Alex already knows she wants to please you and you don't have to bribe her, your pleasure with her is enough.

2 ­ NO

This is such a simple word. Alex already knows what it means. No can be reinforced by the tug of an ear if she disregards it the first time. It was used when she tried her first hop onto the sofa. Not DOWN but NO. (Down is the next step.)

No, just like in a kid involves lots of aspects. Just be consistent with Alex. Don't let her do something wrong one time and not another. She does not understand circumstances. It is either right or wrong. As long as you understand this she will be a lot happier.

3 ­ DOWN

This command is for one purpose only. It is to keep her paws off your shirtfront, of course with a pup its knees. DOWN - and push her down. A tug on the ear works here too. In the house a treat is acceptable when she learns it.

If the pup is bigger and hasn't had this taught you might need to tap it on the nose. I mean a tap, not with your fist, just a light tap will do. The TAP and the DOWN should be simultaneous. The pups nose just as on a horse is quite sensitive.

If you want to teach another guys' grown dog this in the field (when he's not looking) its pretty quick. When Rover jumps, raise your knee, bump (and I only mean bump) the chest firmly. OR, step on his toe if you are agile enough. DOWN - push firmly down. Repeat as necessary, they learn quickly. Then teach your buddy.

4 ­ LEAD

You've already done this while housebreaking, if not its simple. With her acceptance of the lead rope she learns SIT - STAY - COME - HEEL - WHOA. You will soon have all these behind you for full control. Again it begins at this point for the pups' safety. You will see it all clearly as you go along no matter what steps you have taught at this point.

LEAD means simply to be able to take your pup where you want it to go instead of it taking you.

You put a nice collar on him the first day. In the second or third day you simply snapped a lead on the collar and let your pup drag it about the house and yard. Alex knows it won't hurt her even when Beauty grabs it and takes off at full steam. If you do have another pup there's practically nothing to do to teach them not to balk. You've picked it up and walked with her. You've said COME and she follows you where you go. Easy, huh? Lead really just means Alex gets used to the thing, she doesn't fight it or balk when at the end of it.

There is one minor point to stress here IF she baulks, release the tension, and start over. You should not be directly in front of her pulling her towards you. That is not leading on your part; it is dragging. In LEAD the dog is more or less walking beside you or in front of you but NOT dragging YOU.

OK, here I need to digress a bit, again. It is LOT easier to break a pup from dragging you along than it is for you to break an enthusiastic half grown pup! Attach the lead to the collar. Run the lead straight along the back in a straight line to the flank. Loop the lead around and under the flank and come up with the lead UNDER the line of the lead rope that is in a straight line from the collar. You may have to actually do this for it to become clear. If you have done this correctly you now have the lead rope in a straight line from your hand to the flank. When the pup pulls forward, it pinches its own flank, quickly ending the urge to pull forward. You have just found another use for the word WHOA! Do not use the word NO here.

If you want the formal "lead" that is in another article.

Time to go outside - easy is somewhat over!

5 ­ FETCH

CLAP HANDS - FETCH - (Later when actually working with birds add - DEAD BIRD) Fetch is fun and an absolute basic for retrieving! At this point in time fetch is still a game. Your pup learns fetch by bringing a ball, glove or teddy bear back to you so you will throw it again. Later on these fun games will give way to actual retrieval training with birds.

Your pup will retrieve anything you toss out. They all seem to like a stuffed toy better than anything else. Show the toy to the pup; wag it in front of her face. When she is focused on it toss it 3 or 4 feet away in front of her. She naturally runs over and grabs it. She does not want to give it back to you; she hasn't learned that part yet. That is why you only threw it a few feet away. This is a minor point of control. Just reach out, pull her and the toy back in front of you and playfully take it back. While saying, Good Girl, Alex, pet her briefly, wag it again and toss it in the same manner. It may only take 2 or 3 times for her to figure it out. When she is distracted by something else is always a good time to quit for now.

Now you can progress to a ball. Go to the yard and try a stick. Make yourself a 'dummy bird' as described in the first newsletter on page 11 to teach the pup to retrieve by the head.

AS I HAVE SAID LEARNING IS DONE BY REPETITION AND PROGRESSING TO THE NEXT STEP. REPEAT EACH PREVIOUS STEP IN SEQUENCE FROM NOW ON AS YOU PICK UP THE NEXT OBJECTIVE.

Alex learns each command has a specific meaning and also a specific hand signal that accompanies it. She will learn to obey the hand signal only; which will come in handy later across a cold creek or in a crosswind.

Things done correctly are now rewarded by praise. Cute is over, don't let her get by with anything. Just as kids can get away with cute things, when a toddler; it doesn't mean they can do it next year in front of company.

What I mean is you will be sorry if you let them get by with something for now and think you can teach them otherwise later. Keep in mind how quickly a pup progresses from toddler stage to pre-school. In three weeks your new pup is already there. Remember that just like kids they will try to get away with something even when they know better.

It is time for you to become the teacher and the pup the student. Though you still love the pup it is for his own good, (how many times have we all heard this from our elders or used in on our own kids?). Be firm, don't request and above all be consistent. Use a pleasant, distinct tone of voice and be firm. Alex is already used to praise with a correct action, simply ignore any wrong action and keep her under control with the leash until the first time she does it right. Then repeat again without the leash.

ALEX - Before any command speak her name clearly and distinctly and firmly TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE HER ATTENTION. You are outside with more distractions.

Keep your words few. She needs to learn only one word at a time. Too many words can inadvertently mix several commands into a sentence. DO NOT get frustrated and say, "No, Alex, don't come over here, stay there, sit." You just used NO-ALEX-COME-STAY-SIT. In other words don't confuse her.

In my writing as in my training I often reflect on my boys and innumerable nieces and nephews. If you always think in terms of relating your interaction with the pup with that of the kids you have controlled (or as in some, tried to control is a better terminology) you will be able to get past a lot of questions or doubts that come along. Just as each child is different; each pup has its own personality. You will often have to work with the material you have and come up with your own solution as to what works for this particular pup. The more pups I work with the more I realize that all procedures do not work with all pups and you have to 'play it by ear'. Improvise. Watch the pup and be flexible and willing to give when needed and be firm when needed!

6 ­ SIT

ALEX - SIT - POINT INDEX FINGER AT HER FACE! Hold the lead taunt in your left hand with no slack, elevating her head to normal position, not choking, cross the lead to the right hand as you push down on her rump and with the left and repeat SIT. The right hand keeps the head pulled up slightly as the left hand keeps pushing till in a sitting position on her haunches. The head is held up to keep her from trying to lie down. Praise, as she stays seated without your hand pushing, release the leash, step ahead, POINT - SIT. She'll like that finger, be prepared for her to jump for it, push back firmly of the rump and repeat.

A couple of times at this and bingo! Alex learned it was a little different from in the house when she simply sat down for a goodie.

(1) Control established

(2) Disregard of distractions

(3) Hand signal

(4) No treat, praise is enough. Give a brief, not flowing, word of praise and a pat on the head and that is all the payment Alex comes to expect.

Keep the lead rope handy for control. For now it simply keeps her from deciding to forget you and walk away. If the lead is in place you regain control without any fuss or bother. Remember if the lead is needed at any time simply and quietly snap it on without drawing undue attention to it.

Make sure Alex has this one down pat, being sure to ingrain the hand signal. You want her to obey by sight as well as sound. Obeying by sight insures that you do not have to raise your voice in the field to be heard. Nothing is more irritating to a fellow hunter than one who is constantly yelling at their dog.

7 - STAY

(Again start on the lead) ALEX - (REPEAT SIT - POINT) - STAY - WALK TO THE FRONT & FACE PUP - PALM FLAT AND DIRECTED TOWARD HER FACE -STAY! HOLD IN PLACE - SLACKEN LEAD & WALK SEVERAL PACES BACK SAYING STAY AND USING THE HAND SIGNAL AT EACH STEP. If she follows you as you walk away, simply take her back to the exact same spot and repeat again. No praise, no pat, nothing, ignore this action. It won't take her long to decide something isn't quite right.

Don't overdo on any one session. She will pick it up in 2 or 3 lessons. Yes, we are getting a little more complicated but you won't have to say and signal but once after she gets the hang of it. If she regresses. go back to the lead.

Repeat till you can walk away and even leave the yard. When you get to this point simply walk away, look back over your shoulder using mainly the hand signal and repeat STAY.

8 ­ COME

ALEX - (REPEAT SIT, POINT - REPEAT STAY, PALM FLAT) COME - DROP FLAT PALM FROM RAISED TO DOWNWARD POSITION BRISKLY

If you have never struck the pup there should be no problem. If you have shame on you and you will just have to work at it harder. This is probably the most important hand signal to be given in the field. He should like it. Remember don't add a bunch of words and confuse her. Repeat, COME, HAND SIGNAL, don't pat your knees and here boy, here boy. The best way to start her is to give the commands, turn and start to run away, I'll bet she follows, anyway she has got the idea you mean for her to come along with you!

Did you notice we didn't use the lead on this one? It would tend to cower the pup if you pull straight toward you from a distance. When Alex gets to you, use the command SIT, POINT.

(From Alfred) Have you noticed that I haven't given any whistle instructions? The one for COME is 2 short blasts. Personally, I very seldom use a whistle and hate to hunt with someone who toots all day long. No offence meant I just don't like it and have found it not necessary. Which dog is that blow of the whistle for? Was it for yours or mine? To each his own.

If you use a whistle always use the hand signal when the dog looks to you and there will be no confusion. Again this is a reminder of the importance of the hand signal. They work across a field and they teach the dog later on to check back with you, to work with you, and to stay in range.

9 ­ HEEL

ALEX, (REPEAT SIT, POINT - STAY, PALM - HEEL, SLAP YOUR LEFT LEG

This command is for your comfort and makes for pleasure not work; for control on the leash. Position Alex in SIT & STAY. I'm right handed and keep my dogs on my left. With my gun on my right they are out of each other's way. Snap on the lead. Shorten the lead to high head position and SLAP YOUR LEFT LEG WHICH IS BESIDE HIM - HEEL.

She probably will take off and won't stop till the lead tautens; so be prepared to help her feel the initial jerk. Don't yank her back to you, just stand firm and make sure she felt the full stop. Don't give any slack. That should have gotten her attention. That was your trial and her error. She will either try to keep pulling ahead or balk and lag behind.

Either way, STOP! POINT, SIT - PALM, STAY -SLAP, HEEL, don't give any slack and she will soon get the idea and walk pleasantly along with you. Now you can give slack and see what your particular dog is prone to do. If she darts ahead, let her go to the end, jerk and hang there. Stand firm a second; then you move forward taking up slack and start over. SLAP - HEEL. A few paces then stop SLAP - HEEL. Step forward if he doesn't start or begins to lag behind simply stop SLAP - HEEL and wait for him to walk up to you taking up the slack - COME gently as you take up the slack. Start over.

10 - WHOA & STAUNCH

Whoa means hold and don't flush. It is eventually used in the presence of game. There are several techniques to break older dogs to whoa but we won't get into that. We're talking puppy. There is one I just have to tell you but won't admit to ever trying it. Start the pup chasing you, let him get going good, getting well ahead of the dog, then turn and jump and yell WHOA - HAND IN POLICE COP STOP POSITION. Go ahead and try it if you thing no one is looking. Make sure someone doesn't have the VCR camera handy to blackmail you with. I did try it out and I must say it is good exercise, but of absolutely no necessity. Anyway, I am too old for that now.

No, I've already taught my pups to WHOA in the living room. I BEGIN THE FIRST FEW DAYS IN THE HOME. I use a bird wing, tied on a string, hooked to a short fishing pole. Don't overdo this exercise, 5 minutes is the max.

Flip to the right and Alex runs for it like a kitten. As I say similar, but although a kitten will never stop chasing it, a pup will. Flip to the left, to the right, to the left, she will soon pause and start stalking, then say WHOA. Softly, don't startle her, but clearly. Repeat WHOA as she advances. When she makes a dash for it be prepared and flip it away quickly. Keep ahead of the pup. FLIP - WHOA - FLIP - WHOA. There she stopped firm and pointed! Beautiful! Repeat WHOA till she breaks point and darts in again. Don't worry she is just eager and you don't want to deter her enthusiasm. Try to anticipate her pounce and jerk. If you miss, and believe me, you will; just take it away from her with a pat. She'll get a taste and like it. She will learn she can't keep the "bird"; it's yours and always will be from now until in the field. She only gets to bring it to your hand.

Don't worry about style and tail just yet. Congratulations if both are perfect, great. Many a field point is in mid-stride of turn or of first scent. She will very soon hold firm. To make her hold solid without being distracted gently & smoothly say WHOA as you rub lightly down her back from neck to rump. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Get her used to being handled. You will see the extension of this next.

Here is what you do to condition the point once she holds solid, weather it's in the first or fourth session - she's sure to WHOA. Touch her rump, she may flinch or she may not pay any attention to you at all. That is after all what you want.

To elevate the tail - STROKE under-feathering of tail FROM TIP OF UNDERSIDE OF TAIL TO RUMP. Don't worry if you make her break point, by now she loves it. It will take a lot more than that to keep her from pointing again. WHOA, STROKE tail, it goes up a little; WHOA, STROKE tail, up some more. Now you both have got the idea.

STAUNCH - O.K., THIS MEANS MORE TOUCHING. The pup points great, holds, and you can touch her without distracting her. WHOA - PLACE YOUR HAND UNDER THE BASE OF HER TAIL ACROSS THE HAUNCHES, PRESS FORWARD, lightly the first few times. Immediately go back and rub her along the spine lightly to show your pleasure with her. Go thru this session 2 or 3 times. When you sense she stands firm WHOA - PUSH FORWARD AND AT THE SAME TIME RAISE HER REAR END OFF THE FLOOR. Place your hand under her hips at the crotch and lift slightly while pushing forward, lightly -WHOA. She will lock her front legs as if to show you can't force her forward. That is all you want of her at this point.

WHOA - PLACE ONE PALM ON HER CHEST AND THE OTHER ON HER RUMP. WHOA, pick her up like a big sandwich, slowly, and move her a few inches from the floor and move her over a foot or so, not toward the wing but to the side. WHOA. Wow, she's still holding that same point, she may have looked at you like you were nuts but she's still pointing. WHOA.

This is needed in field training at times. A dog will try to inch ahead on point and you will certainly want to bring this under control. You simply return her to the original position. Again, this is another example of the control you are establishing over your pup.

Now doesn't that make more sense than anything else you have heard of Besides it makes a neat trick to show off to those non birddog friends, if you have any; who expect "tricks " from dogs.

Remember to be CONSISTENT and stay in CONTROL.

CONTROL is the DIFFERENCE in the field that makes PLEASURE.

Your hand signals are second nature and the dog will always check back with you, working with you and for you.

If a new pup comes along, don't abandon Alex and think she will remember everything. The truth is she WILL remember and she will grieve for you and your attention. There should be room in your schedule for any and every dog you acquire. It is all fun and games as far as the pups are concerned. The trick is to keep their lessons just that while maintaining control at all times. Always keep each dog conditioned and exercised at its specific level. As you can see each lesson progresses to another step, with the ultimate goal being that of top field performance.

Happy Hunting,
Drenda King