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Lynch Gun Dogs

Dog training tips for flushing dogs and how to bring them along

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here are the articles:

Raising the Young Cocker

(A series of articles by Mike Gilpin)

This is the first in a series of articles in which I'll share some of my experiences and approaches to bringing along a young Cocker, from puppyhood through 7 to 8 months of age or so. The impressions you make on your new pup, from the time you get him or her home, through these early life stages will be lasting ones. They should be the right ones otherwise they may be difficult to erase. However, you start with a distinct advantage, you are replacing pup's mum as the new centre of pup's universe. Don't lose this advantage! Your new pup will naturally want to be with you. We can use this desire to start some basic training without any pressure, just think of it as guiding the pup. I use a clicking voice or similar sound to attract pup's attention and then as the pup comes bounding in to me I can introduce my voice command for recall, in my case 'back 'ere. These are a Yorkshireman's words, so just use whatever voice command you decide upon for recall. But choose it and stick with it. In short order we can include our recall whistle along with the recall voice command. Just remember, there is nothing formal about these sessions, we are harnessing the young pup's desire to be with you as the training vehicle to instill the recall command. These sessions should be short and sweet. Five minutes is plenty long enough and they should be away from distractions. This includes fellow family members!

In my next article I'm going to write about the importance of cementing the retrieving instinct in Cockers. Nearly all Cockers have an all consuming passion to hunt, sometimes (later on in life) to the detriment of their desire to retrieve. This is why I consider retrieving 'training' to be such an important part of the young pup's upbringing. I deliberately put the word 'training' in quotes because we will 'guide' the young dog to become a perfect retriever. Kindness is what will bring us results with our youngster, no different to the correct approach towards our own children who are just starting out in life.

One final note as it relates to retrieving. No toys for your new pup. I'll talk about the reasons why in my next article.

©Copyright Michael Gilpin 2008. All rights reserved.

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Raising the Young Cocker

[A series of articles by Mike Gilpin]

This is the second in my series of articles in which I share some of my experiences and approaches to bringing along a young Cocker, from puppyhood through 7 to 8 months of age or so.

I concluded last week's article by saying "no toys for your new pup." Why? The reason is that we don't want our young pup to engage in retrieving on his/her own terms. Our young pup will have a natural instinct and desire to "retrieve" and carry these toys, but to whom and/or where? There can only be one pack leader and that must be you. We don't want to provide our pup with opportunities to retrieve toys to other family members, or, if nobody is around, to stockpile the toys in pup's basket or the laundry room or under the bed. You must be in charge of your new pup's retrieves in a setting without distractions.

I like to use a variety of retrieving articles for my pups. I think that mixing up the retrieves helps keep it interesting and stimulating for a young pup. I always make sure that the articles are lightweight. I use a knotted up large handkerchief, small rabbit skin dummy, a couple of regular canvas dummies (of the British sand filled variety) which I have lightened up for pups, and finally the tried and trusted tennis ball. Because of a dog's instinct to chase the rolling tennis ball always provides strong stimulation for these early retrieves. Later on, I'll talk about using that same rolling tennis ball to simulate "foot scent" as we start to assess and develop our pup's hunting instinct.

There is a strong likelihood that when you first try your new pup on a retrieve, he/she will bring it right back to you. "Wow" you will say, "what a brilliant natural retriever!" If this continues, then fantastic, count your good fortune. More than likely you will find that as your new pup becomes comfortable with you and his/her new surroundings, there will emerge a much more confident animal and with that confidence will come some retrieving challenges. Circling around you with the retrieve, running off with the retrieve to some far away territory and, since these are Cockers, perhaps burying the retrieve to save it for another day. We don't want to fight this behavior or attempt to correct the pup whether with voice or otherwise; remember we are dealing with a young pup, let's say 8 to 16 weeks of age,. We need a solution that will guide the pup towards the retrieve we want to instill, namely to retrieve directly to hand. I am not speaking of a polished delivery, just pup bringing the retrieving article back to you. To achieve this goal I make use of a retrieving alley. The principle of the retrieving alley is simple, it is to prevent the dog from being able to divert, circle or do other bad things with the retrieve. It will instill delivery of the retrieve to you. Retrieving alleys come in a variety of flavors, it could be an upstairs or downstairs hallway (remember to close all doors!), a path bounded on each side by a "fence," be that a real fence, stonewall or really thick hedgerows which a young pup will not seek to penetrate. If you are not fortunate to have a natural retrieving alley, then think about constructing one with some cheap fencing. The retrieving alley has a very specific purpose and its use, at this stage of training will be for a limited duration. Later on, as we move into the field, I'll talk about other ways in which we can promote the delivery to hand.

Make sure that the pup is not intimidated when bringing back the retrieve; get down on your knees to pup's level to take the retrieve. Look over the top of pup's head, don't stare directly into the eyes, we want pup to have total confidence when coming into you. Don't snatch at or grab the pup but let him/her come into you with the retrieve. Don't immediately take the retrieve from the pup, let him/her hold on to it for 30 seconds or so while you give some verbal praise. We don't want to immediately take away pup's prize possession and thus create a reluctance to bring it back to you.

You always want these sessions to be successful, so never overdo the number of retrieves. I am often happy with one really good retrieve. I never do more than three. If you overdo it, you run a serious risk that your pup will become bored with retrieving and the original zest and enthusiasm may be lost.

Just a reminder stemming from last week's article. When you take your pup out for his/her short (5 minutes or so) daily sessions, always make yourself the center of attention and interest for your pup. We must stimulate the pup to want to be close to you, for you to be the focus and not have pup deciding to go off investigating or running around on his/her own terms. Use a kind encouraging voice to achieve this end; remember we are "guiding" at this stage; not engaging in formal training. You will continue to work on the recall command, in the way I described in last week's article and you can do this as a prelude to your short retrieving session. When you're done, relax with your pup, allow some free running and play time but always maintain yourself as the center of attention, keeping pup with you.

Between 8 -16 weeks of age, my goal, with no pressure or formal training, is to instill a recall command and a reliable delivery to hand. In my next article I'm going to write about using the retrieving instinct to start to teach a young dog to hunt but at the same time continuing to cement his/her retrieving.

©Copyright Michael Gilpin 2008. All rights reserved.

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Raising the Young Cocker

[A series of articles by Mike Gilpin]

This is the third in the series of articles in which I share some of my experiences and approaches to bringing along a young Cocker, from puppyhood through 7 to 10 months of age or so.

The focus of these first three articles is about cementing the retrieving desire of our young pup. We want this retrieving desire to "override" the desire to hunt when, down the road in our training, we are sending our young dog out to retrieve the real thing amidst the temptation of other game scent. To this end, this third article will talk about how I use retrieving exercises which provide the retrieve but also bring out the pup's natural hunting instincts without the distraction of game or strong game scent. This means we must choose a location for this training which is free from game and/or strong game scent which may take our pup's focus off retrieving. This part of the pup's training will tell us a lot about the drive and determination of the pup. I deliberately make no use of clip wings or any other form of game stimulation during these early months. My best dogs are always the ones that, even after extensive experience on game, are as happy to retrieve a dummy or a tennis ball as they are the real thing. I firmly believe that this is achieved by delaying exposure to game until the dog is one thousand per cent solid on its retrieving, basic obedience, steadiness to thrown dummies and rudimentary ground work. This is simply a training approach which works for me. I'll discuss these various other components of training in later articles.

Now, back to our young pup which, by now, should be retrieving reliably to you on retrieves that it has seen in "full view." Next we want to see what happens when we obstruct that view a little and ask our pup to retrieve from light cover. We want success, so choose light cover, free from game scent, and set up so that the pup goes into the wind to make the retrieve. I kneel down, cradle the pup in my arms and let him/her see me throw the dummy into light cover. I restrain the pup momentarily before I release him/her for the retrieve. Our rabbit skin dummy is almost camouflaged behind the white grass!

Don't make this a monster throw of the dummy into the cover. The objective is to have our pup succeed every time. Extend the distance gradually as your pup gets comfortable with retrieving from cover and using his/her nose to come up with the retrieve if they don't nail the mark. And, here comes that pup, back with a rabbit skin dummy, almost as big as her!

Initially one of two things is likely to happen. Some pups will nail the mark. If they do then great, they won't do it every time, especially as we extend the distance of our throw. Others won't nail the mark, but look what happens if they don't. Thanks to that retrieving desire you have cemented over the past 2 months, your pup will have a determination to make the retrieve and will start to hunt and use his/her nose to come up with it. Just savor their animation as they get the first whiff of scent on the dummy or tennis ball and watch their action as they locate the retrieve and bring it to you. Initially, because the retrieve is short, virtually every pup is going to make the retrieve with a short hunt and locate.

As you extend the distance of the retrieve, you will note that some pups will hunt for their retrieve with greater determination than others, they just won't quit until they come up with the dummy. Others may hunt vigorously for a while but then show indications that they may be quitting. We want them to succeed; so now is the time for you to quickly intervene to assure their success. Get in another dummy or tennis ball close to the area they are working but without pup seeing you. That is your challenge! We want to instill confidence in the not so determined youngster.

As with all training the maxim is a little but often and be careful to increase retrieving distances gradually. You want to see your pup hunt for the retrieve but you want him/her to succeed. The monster retrieves can safely be reserved for later in life.

Once you have a determined youngster who can regularly hunt up his/her retrieves, you can introduce a more challenging mini memory retrieve for your pup. To accomplish this I hold the youngster in my arms and let him/her see me throw the dummy into cover. Continuing to hold the pup, I then turn my back on the throw and walk away, only a few paces initially. I then put my pup on the ground (facing away from the retrieve) and watch him/her turn and race back for the memory retrieve. You can then gradually increase the distance when your pup shows you that they can routinely handle the initial mini memory retrieves.

You will find that these exercises tell you a lot about your pup's hunting abilities. I make a lot of use of tennis balls, simply because they have a small scent cone and they roll, thus providing some ground scent. (Let new tennis balls sit in your jacket pockets for a while before you use them, you want them to carry some scent). For me, it is truly exciting to see a young pup catch the scent of the retrieve and then watch him/her as they work out the location and bring it back to you. These moments will give you a glimpse of the desire, determination and style of your future prospect.

Next time I'll tell you how I introduce the pup (somewhere in the range of 6 - 9 months) to its first lessons in more formalized basic obedience training.

©Copyright Michael Gilpin 2008. All rights reserved.

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By: Dennis N. Joannides

Hunting quail in Arizona can be tough on both the hunter and dogs. Conditions tend to be very dry, the terrain is usually covered in sharp rocks or shale, the temperature heats up quickly, and the Gambrels quail would rather run than fly. Mearns quail present another challenge as they tend to hang out on the north facing slope of steep rocky drainages. This means lots of side hilling for the hunter with dogs having to run up and down hills. Couple this with a few winged-tipped birds and you can wear out a dog in a hurry.

Initially, I use to hunt my dogs one at a time until they were exhausted. I soon found that having to go back two miles up and down canyons to where I left the car and my other dogs was not a good answer--as I would be to worn out along with the dog. Paul McGagh had been working with my dogs and I mentioned I would like to have them at heel so I could work one at a time without going back to the car. He often tethered one dog to his game vest when he was training and he suggested I give it a try. While it worked okay in training, I found it wasn’t practical for actual hunting conditions. I decided to give it a go without the tether, but by constantly having to verbally remind the dogs to stay at heel I was scaring off game.

I have three dogs who are all of different temperament. One is independent, tough as nails, and can take whatever you dish out; the second, always wants to please, is even tempered, and can handle correction; and the third is very sensitive, so I handle her with kid gloves. I needed a way to get the dogs to mind without verbal correction and without destroying the eagerness to hunt. The last thing I wanted was a dog who was going to be underfoot and wouldn’t get out. I own a Dogtra e-collar that has a vibrate mode. This enabled me to quickly teach all of the dogs to stay at heel with minimum verbal and virtually no shock correction. I rotated the collar between the dogs as needed. Two of my dogs only needed minimal correction, while the more independent one performs best when wearing it on a permanent basis, albeit without correction

Having solved my problem of keeping the dogs at heel I was now able to rotate in a fresh dog when the dog hunting, was exhausted. This worked and fixed the problem of the long trip back to the car, but the actual hunting results were not much better. I decided to change and rotate the dogs as soon as the one hunting either started not listening to my whistle, slowed down, or no longer ran a good pattern. I also began sending dogs at heel for retrieves, while leaving the dog who flushed the bird at hup. This not only produced better results in the field, it kept each dog fresh and created a greater eagerness on the dogs at heel knowing they would be rotated in more quickly. I have used this technique in working all types of game and have found it equally effective. I think it teaches patience as well as develops greater competitiveness and self confidence.

This spring I did not have any birds to use for training before the trials. The Gambrels quail hunting was basically finished before Christmas and I didn’t get another chance to hunt Mearns in January, so my dogs had not seen a bird since before Christmas and I was going to running trials in California and Colorado in March. By using the same technique when training as I did for hunting I got some great results. Running dogs dry can sometimes curtail their enthusiasm, this was never the case when working multiple dogs. They ran hard and I was able to toss dummies and alternate the dogs being sent on the retrieve.

I no longer train one dog at a time. I feel I get more quality work out of running multiple dogs at the same time. It teaches patience, builds self confidence, improves conditioning, increases desire and makes them better markers. It is also easier on me as I am about to celebrate my 69th birthday. Paul McGagh has taken this to another dimension when he takes his two hour walks with 30 dogs at heel and I will let him tell you more about that in a future article.

So, if you want to get more out of your training sessions and hunts, try working multiple dogs at the same time. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me.

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