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GSPMAN - Advice on New Pups

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I've been reading some of your posts and you strike me as a real solid source of information on GSP's.

First some background....

Our family lost our Brit (11 months ago to old age) and Lab (4 months ago to a lightning strike)and after sometime we decided to take the plunge on another set of dogs. We've always enjoyed being a two dog household. I liked certain aspects of my brit very much and certain aspects of my lab very much. But I always wanted to find a breed that offered many of the good qualities of both of these breeds in one dog. My research led me to the conclusion that the GSP shares many of the good qualities of both Brits and Labs in one package and our family would fit their needs as well. So we purchased two male GSP puppies.

The pup's parents are excellent hunters for their owners and are both great looking GSP's. The pups come from a family that has only bred 2 litters from this pair of dogs and the owners of the first litter all confirmed those pups perform well. They take great care of the whelps treating them like family additions NOT a cash bonus...they did not loose a single whelp based on the quality care they gave the whelps and health and dedication of the parent dogs.

Before making this purchase I read up thoroughly on the aspects and potential perils of raising two puppies at the same time and have factored a lot of that information and advice into our activities an intentions with these pups as well as the selection of the puppies (both were neither dominant nor excessively shy and afraid, but were both active and interested followers within the puppy pack and roughly equally sized).

Things are going well. We brought the dogs home at 7 weeks (that was 2 months ago by the way) and have been crate training them. We kept them in separate crates from the start and after a few days separated the crates into different rooms. Eventually as adult dogs they will live in the house with full access when we are home and kenneled when we are out (like our former dogs).

I've taken care using recommended methods by breeders and trainers to show each pup that I am the alpha in the pack and that they are at the bottom of the food chain in my family. They've learned to respect (not fear, respect) my voice and handling and its amazing to see how I can get them to behave much more obediently than my wife or teenage children.

Each pup has been getting significant 1 on 1 time with me as well as my family. Separate walks, separate feedings, separate training (basic obedience...sit, come, stay, etc), retrieving games and time with the wing on a fly rod. Both showed good response to all of this. Learned their names quickly, learned to come and sit quickly...heel and stay are still a challenge but it is coming slowly. Both like to retrieve a small hand thrown dummy and will usually bring it directly to me especially if I have a liver treat the first two times followed by lots of praise thereafter. Both like to chase a feather and after a few minutes of unsuccessful chasing both have shown a point for 10 or 15 seconds before lunging at which I pull the feather away and resume the game again. Both have sight pointed at ducks waddling around on a neighbors lawn (we live near a lake that gets water fowl in the fall). I make sure this "work" is all fun for the dogs, never forcing them to play if they are tired and I always make sure to end the game before they decide they are no longer interested and quit (leaving them wanting more so they stay eager next time).

They like to chew and my kids have learned the dangers of leaving anything on the floor (socks, cell phone, school work) but we've managed to keep much of this to Nila bones or other puppy safe chew toys they enjoy working over both in and outside their crate.

So for 16 week old dogs I'm pretty happy with the progress I was able to make in about 9 weeks with these guys and I'm very optimistic they are going to make excellent family companions and competent field dogs.

But now the weather has turned. We continue to do obedience training in the basement at night and give them lots of time to socialize with the family in the evening after training and they successfully take care of business in the yard or go for their nightly walk on a leash around the neighborhood.

We give them some time to romp and play with each other with the family in a room we barricade off from the rest of the house so we can watch them closely for potential accidents which now hardly ever happen, but each dog gets 1 on 1 time "working" with me or my son to keep their attention and to keep their bond with the human members of their pack strong.

I am planning on having them neutered at about 6 months to prevent some of the aggressiveness that may lead to competition and fighting over pack order and dominance issues.

So there is the background.....if there is anything you think I need to change or rethink going forward please let me know.

The heart of my question is this, we have snow on the ground and its going to be here for 5 months. What can I do with them beyond continuing the basic obedience work in the basement? Neither of them seems too interested in playing fetch or working with the feather/rod in the snow. The snow itself provides a significant distraction to them as they like to roll in it and dig their nose into it and have little interest in the dummy or feather.

Have I done enough just getting them interested in the feather and bringing out the basic pointing and retrieving instincts at this point to wait until spring to resume this work? If not what would you recommend I do over the winter months to keep them developing?

How much feather & rod work is too much before they get on live birds ?

What would you recommend the first thing I should do in the spring to re-activate their senses and get their hunting work going again ?

I used the Wolters methods on my last two hunting dogs and they turned out just fine for my needs (not champions by any means but were solid reliable field dogs that I enjoyed my time with very much).

This time I'm using

1) The Ultimate Guide to Bird Dog Training by Jerome B. Robinson

2) Speed Train Your Own Bird Dog by Larry Mueller

as resources

Do you recommend any other information I should get or methods I should use going forward ?

How do you feel about E-Collar training? As of now I am planning on getting a 2 dog system in the spring as I've heard mostly good things about this training aid.

Finally, eventuallyI'm going to want to get my dogs on live birds. Where can a guy purchase a few birds (without a coop or pen to keep them long term) for training sessions here and there ?

Thanks for the great posts and information you provide on here helping those of us that love to work with and train our own hunting dogs but aren't experts at it.

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Wow man you've been typing up a storm. First off, congrats on the pups. Sounds like you've done plenty of homework and appear to be doing the right things so far. Field training gets a little tough in the winter. I'd keep doing the light obedience with short sessions. I'd focus on come, heel and whoa. Play retrieving is good but keep it to short sessions too. In general keep training sessions short and sweet and end on a positive note. When praising the pups praise them with a calm voice and some pats. Don't go nuts with praise as the dog will also get crazy. This teaches them to sort of be happy but yet stay in control. Also keep'em in shape with walks/runs.

Right now I'd put the wing on a string away. You've done enough with that. There is no real value in doing that in my opinion and potentially some negative things could creep in if that's overdone.

To me the next thing is getting them on live birds. For bird training I'd get a checkcord and learn how to use it. And keep the pups on it until they are reasonably reliable on point. The checkcord will give you control if the pup does something wrong (which it will). With this snow you may need to wait until spring to start bird training which is fine. But if you can find some land to train on or a game farm that has decent fields you could try that if it's a "warm" day this winter. Just like obedience training, keep those sessions short and sweet. If the dog handles a bird properly end on that note with some calm praise and a few pats.

In the spring I'd also do gun intro. If you search the archive you'll probably find some posts on gun intro. Do not take your pups to the trap range or do firecrackers for gun intro. I cringe when someone says they've done that.

As for training reference material, there's lots of stuff out there and I think it's smart to look at as much as you can and decide what might work best for you and the resources you have available to you. Make a trip to the library and see what they have. Personally I'd buy a video called The Perfect Start from Perfection Kennels. They use a variety of dogs at a variety of training levels to show you what to do. I think this is a fantastic DVD for starting pointing dog training. Another option would be the George Hickox videos. I'd probably not recommend the Wolters stuff for pointers as I think there's better stuff out there. You have the whole winter to look at videos and books and formulate your plan.

I think ecollars are one of the best training tools there is but will caveat that the dog needs to know what's expected and you need to know how to use it properly before strapping it on.

As for birds I'd look up game farms and start with pigeons. They stink so your dogs will wind them farther away and when they flush they usually don't land nearby (unless you shoot it) which minimizes doggie screwups.

You're doing the right stuff. Keep doing it. I'd encourage you to find a dog training club or the GSPCMN and make some contacts and do some networking. Kelly Farms has training land for a yearly fee. Some game farms also allow training. I'd also encourage you to try your pups in the AKC Hunt Tests in the spring. It's a great chance to see other dogs and network with people and learn stuff along the way. Jr. Hunter would be right up your alley.

A shorthair is just another pointing dog - no better, no worse - so what works for other pointing breeds would work for shorthairs too. There are plenty of pointer owners on the board that I'd encourage to chime in with their thoughts as well. Folks, let's have your tips.

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Thanks for the tips gspman. Sorry my post was long but 1) I'm a fast typer, and 2) I've noticed a lot of guys request info and the first reply is "give more information" so I thought I'd just avoid that hurdle and throw it all out there.

I'll definitely get the videos you recommend. Wonder if Netflix has them wink.

Anyone else with pointer training experience is welcome to throw in some ideas and suggestions. I didn't mean to imply this was just a request for info from one person but I was initially looking for ideas or suggestions from someone with GSP experience. But general pointer training, like general retriever training (Labs, Goldens and CBRs) pretty much works across all the pointing breeds.

Keep in mind if you offer a suggestion, we are city dwellers (north side of the twin cities). I have a 3/4 acre lot so there's lots of room for retrieve and finding scented dummies or wings but I have no woods, upland fields, or access to live birds near my house so every true training trip is indeed a trip.

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Nothing is better for training than wild birds. lay the foundation this off-season.Then next year get him on wild birds. The hardest thing for me when i started training my pointer 6 yrs ago was excepting that he was a pup that was going to make mistakes and just needed time and experience to figure things out. Adam

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Find some wild pheasants and let them have at it. 25+ years ago I spent many an hour at the Anoka Co. airport. It (the airport)is all fenced & developed now but I'd think some areas over by Hugo and such would work for you. Also..Why not take them hunting? Sure they are young but find some hens running in the snow and let the pups have some FUN! It ain't "training" at their age.. is is EXPOSING THEM!!!

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Get the dog whoa broke...completely! This can be done at a very young age and right in your yard. Work this command until you can have the pup up on a table or pet porter and walk all around, even out of sight, and the dog will not release until you give the signal.

Planted pigeons are a good idea when the weather warms up, but the advice to put them on live birds as soon as possible is solid. Good luck.

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I like to think that pointing dogs put it all together at 3 year's old. Before that it is just a combination of fun, success and frustration.

My younger Britt was pointing wild roosters at 7 months old. At 3 she is simply a machine ... yet at night she is curled up in bed with one of my kids.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Pumper don't forget to register your bird.
    • Had 3 long beards come out gobbl8ng and running but not to me.  Had them all fired up but they obviously had another destination in mind.
    • I didn’t know grackles fished either.  Interesting. 
    • Was checking back to see you with a bird pic @Borch
    • So this is not a new thing!  Interesting.  I keep finding more and more complex behavior in so many of these "dumb" animals!  So many of them are anything but dumb.
    • When I was a kid, we used to have a pond in our yard. We would keep fish and minnows in there. The grackles would clean in out! We had to resort to putting a cover over it.
    • Last Thursday on a visit to my sister in Rock Rapids IA, we made a circuit through the Island Park there.  At the low dam just past the former railroad bridge which is now a walking path we saw a group of grackles fishing at the edge of the white water where it ran against the rocks at the shore line.  There probably were a dozen or so all told moving back and forth and some on the rocks at the other shore line.  In something like half an hour or less we saw various of the birds bring out minnows and eat them on the shore to a total of at least 8.  They also contested for the better fishing spots and tried to horn in on other birds' catches;   they would fly out to quite a bit up on shore with a catch to eat it there. I never expected to see grackles fishing.  I never heard of that before, but then it wouldn't be the first time I didn't know about something relatively common.
    • I've seen deer there, too.  I go by there on my way to work about 3:30 am S S & M.
    • Now they're gobbling...  seem to be getting a little closer.