Answers to Novice Working Gundog Owner's FAQs
The following tips are aimed at novice owners; some of them are so cringe worthy I am ashamed to put them in! However, if I can save one dog (or human) from being made a monkey of, it's worth it.
You must be consistent with your dog at all times. Firm (sometimes VERY firm with a strong spaniel) but ALWAYS fair. The dog must respect you as master/s and not simply treat you as a two legged equal/s that opens doors and tins and makes it's bed.
You should never need to handle your dog roughly if you have been fair but firm from the start. A puppy only needs showing the correct way to behave and he will never do anything else. Never let him get into the position where he can possibly get it wrong. [If you didn't leave your best shoes on the floor in the kitchen they would never have got chewed... if you had taught your dog to sit on a single whistle command he would never have chased the rabbit... if you had taught your dog to walk to heel calmly on the lead he would never have pulled you over.... are you starting to get the picture?]
Dogs do NOT need loads of exercise but they DO need your time. For a change, rather than take a dog for an hour and a half hour hike, give him or her a few ten or fifteen minutes intensive sessions per day where you have the dog's absolute attention. This can be geared to suit it's age.. from "early learning centre" stuff to really Advanced level...
If you don't want an adult dog to jump up, you must never teach it to do so when it is a puppy... by giving you a paw (why do that anyway?) or allowing it to jump up whilst still in it's sweet little cuddly stage. Visiting guests are the worst culprits... full of "don't worry" and "I don't mind" phrases. The same happens when you meet with friends whilst out.
Beware of the general public at all times! They might call your dog away from you or offer your dog inappropriate treats - they (the public) then get quite shirty when you ask them not to. Likewise when their dog "just wants to say hello to your dog" - GLARE at the other dog's owner! Strange dogs meeting up nose to nose is not natural. Especially if one dog is straining at it's lead and leaning over the other dog - that is a very threatening (frightening) posture.
Beware of your puppy believing that all other dogs are friendly, which it is bound to learn at puppy parties and by only ever going out with friendly dogs. Think what would happen if it spots another small dog, gallops towards a "new friend" and it turns out to be a grumpy, badly brought up, untrained and aggressive terrier?? Not nice. Skin and hair everywhere.. or worse.
The first time a young dog barks.. don't laugh and pat it, saying how silly that is - that is tantamount to praise in it's eyes. Also don't let children shriek with joy as they rush around the garden with a puppy. The growing dog will want to join in with the humans' racket... thinking it is communicating in a completely appropriate fashion. The neighbours will love it!
Basically - never let a puppy do what you wouldn't want a full grown hairy muddy mass to do as an adult.
Don't let a dog anticipate your actions. For instance, if you open a car door it should not jump in or out until told.
Don't let your dog train you - for instance, if it barks at the door you open it. To make it worse you then allow the dog to go in front of you... who is subservient here??
You should have a place where the dog can have time out. Either a crate in the house or a kennel and run in the garden. It must not be a place of punishment, it should be a nice place. Maybe where his food is given, or a bone. He must be allowed to be left alone without undue fuss.
Don't let the dog have free range of a large garden (or park) without you. The garden (or county) will soon not be big enough! A puppy should never learn to have fun without you being a central part of that fun. That way you are the centre of it's universe and it would never dream of being without you.
Taking a dog's lead off should have no meaning whatsoever. A lead is merely a training tool and a safety device. Don't let the dog think that as you take off the lead it can then gallop free - you will never have a dog that will walk to heel off the lead... If the dog needs to run, why not keep the lead on and run alongside it? Try not to take up any slack in your lead - the dog should walk happily alonside you... the lead is a "safety net".
For the would-be shooting companion you need to make sure you bring the dog up as 100% mute (so no excited barking) and steady (which means no chasing). It must stop on the whistle, recall and walk to heel in any circumstance. No chasing balls (or anything else) once it is fully vaccinated and out 'n' about. You should teach a dog to only retrieve on command. I use and recommend Acme 210 1/2 whistle available from your local gun shop or by mail order. If you use it at the same time as your voice commands right from the start (as often as reasonably possible) it will be a doddle later on when more serious training commences.
Make sure that, wherever you buy your puppy, the breeder is happy (and knowledgeable enough) to help you in the months or years to come if required. They should be willing to take the puppy back if you find you've made a mistake? Sadly "a puppy" is only an item of goods and comes under the Sale of Goods Acts like anything else. You can take it back for a 100% refund if it is found to be faulty. Some breeders exploit the new owner falling in love with their pup...
If the pups are not docked then the breeders obviously DON'T work their dogs or they would otherwise have been able to find a Vet to dock them. If you only want a pet it doesn't matter if the tail is undocked BUT why would someone with good working bred dogs bother to breed undocked puppies? Maybe they're not as "good" as the breeder reckons them to be?
If you don't like the look of the breeders / their dogs / their premises or... if there is something fishy about what they seem to be telling you (or not) TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS and don't buy a puppy there. If it is really bad - leave the place quickly and ring the RSPCA when you get home.
I love training dogs but am the first to admit that I am not good with people... That is my attempt to be subtle; if you need help with behavioural problems that you think your human family might have caused.... then I recommend Caroline Spencer who covers areas in Wiltshire and Hampshire www.yourdoglistener.com and Robin Glover who is more towards Surrey http://www.robinglover.com/