We sometimes have a very romantic notion of what owning a dog, especially a gundog breed will be like. Long walks in the countryside, laying by an open fire or popping to the pub with a dog that just settles down without making a fuss.
Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of dog owners.
A lot of people, when I ask them why they got a certain breed say something along the lines of ‘well such and such had one and I thought how lovely it was, and it was so calm!’ Or ‘I have a big garden and I work from home’ and now that most people are having to work from home because of covid more and more people are buying dogs.
As a gundog trainer I get to see breeds from across all the gundog groups, retriever, spaniel, hunt, point and retrieve as well as the pointer and setter groups. As a behaviourist, I also get to see many other breeds.
So what so difficult about having a puppy? Let’s face it, it can’t be that difficult.
We tend to get a puppy at 8 weeks, having hopefully found a responsible breeder that’s brought them up to be well rounded pups. From there it’s our influences that shape and build the puppy into what we will have as a grown up dog.
There is plenty of conflicting information, especially around when to start training. I’m a firm believer that training is taking place wether you like it or not and what you say and do teaches your pup loads. However, it’s how training takes place that is important. Basically, your dogs should be having fun whilst you teach it what you want. The biggest mistake people make is expecting too much from the dog. They think because they’ve done it once or twice that the dog should retain all that information. Nope….you have to CONSISTENTLY teach and show that puppy want you want hundreds of times before it’s been learnt fully.
This will continue until anywhere between 5-12 months of age, when you will feel like you are failing. The dogs not listening to you, it keeps clearing off to play with other dogs, runs and jumps up at people. You will feel like they are wild, jumping up and potentially regressing with biting. You’ll exercise them even more than you already do because you want to tire them out…but they will get worse. They won’t settle in the home during the evening so you do things around the house to stimulate them, to keep them occupied…but they will continue to get worse!
Why oh why did we get a puppy? It hates us! It’s so naughty! It doesn’t come back when we call it! Why oh why did we get a puppy? Walks aren’t fun, all it does is clear off and at home it just jumps up and bites but now it’s growling at me! Why is it humping my leg?
These are all common statements that we hear on a really regular basis! Sadly, we have the best of intentions when it comes to owning a dog but it’s really hard work. It takes time, patience and a whole lot of consistency.
Training is a 24/7 thing with a dog. Most people sadly realise the time and effort and consistency that goes into training a dog. It’s not about doing a 6 week puppy course and then that’s that… A good puppy course will give you the foundations to train your dog and then for you to go away and continue teaching those exercises and reinforcing them in lots of different places.
You must be firm but fair, never harsh on a dog to get its maximum learning. Enjoy training your dog, it shouldn’t be a chore. It should be a family thing…with everyone singing from the same song sheet. If you don’t want it running off with things, make sure no one chases it, get everyone to teach it that bringing the item to a human is a good thing. Encourage your dog, build that strong bond and relationship. Accept set backs, see them as a learning opportunity and then move forward. Accept that it’s gonna be hard work, it’s going to be a commitment for the next 14 years or so. That’s what you signed up for.
Dogs are a living, breathing creature. An intelligent species that don’t think like a human. That can’t be reasoned with, yet can be easily over stimulated through inappropriate and excessive exercise. They can be over stimulated through inappropriate play in the home, a lack of rules and a lack of mental stimulation. But above all, by a lack of inappropriate forethought into what getting a dog entails. Research your breeds, their lines and what they are bred for! You’ll be surprised!!