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The Deadly Sins of Dog Training?

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May 26, 2009

The Deadly Sins of Dog Training?

By David DiBenedetto

As I navigate the many pitfalls that come with training a gun dog I often wonder what’s the biggest mistake an amateur can make. Here’s an example of one of my errors that I feared would cost me big time.

I’ve introduced a few pups to water, so I was prepared to make Pritch’s first swim a positive experience. I had a local pond chosen that had a sandy, shallow bank. The water was warm, and I knew better than to force her in (likely causing her to be water shy). But a week before I planned to take her for a first dip, we drove to my in-laws house in Jacksonville, Fla. It was Pritch’s first visit, so after our three-hour drive I took her out in the backyard where there’s also a small pool. It was dark and Pritch was off the leash (the yard was fenced). I assumed she would stop short of the pool on her explorations, but I was wrong. She barreled right off the edge of the pavement and into the pool, seemingly having no idea it was there. I jumped to my knees and scooped her out. Back on the dry land she shook like a wet rat and went running in frantic circles.

I was crushed and could hardly sleep that night. I thought I had ruined my water dog! Thankfully, the next week she took to the pond like a champ (well, with a bit of coaxing in the form of a treat) and now swims whenever we encounter water.

Not every blunder happens when you’re looking the other way. Before I make my next misstep I’m curious: What are your thoughts on the worst mistake you can make when raising a gun dog?

Comments (16)

Top Rated
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from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

worst thing I've known is to shoot a gun right over the dog before it has had any introduction to the whole business. ]

In other words, "how to make a dog gunshy"

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I agree with Elmer Fudd (did I just type that?)...

I always start with a BB gun, then a cap pistol, and then shoot the shotgun near, but not right over the dog. And I always have her fired up on something else when I shoot.

Hey check this out... bam! Bad idea.

Looks like you have a winner there Dave.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nick Jensen wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

One of those can be a bad introduction to birds, many years ago we were training our little springer Annie and had obtained a few pheasant hens from a local game farm. Our trainer friend put out a bird and then told the guys with the guns to "make sure this one goes down hard." Point being that he didn't want a live bird pecking this pup in the nose on her first retrieve. Well, I was a little rough when I put the bird out and broke its wing. When Annie found the scent she took off, flushed the bird (which couldn't fly) and chased it down until she caught it. She proudly retrieved the live bird and turned a potentially bad situation into a positive (and hilarious one.)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I've been out of it for about a little over a week so first and foremost, good luck Pritch and Dave. I'm Wags, the guy that usually rants on about a lack of coverage for dogs and bird hunting, and here you've had a blog for a week now and I've been out of pocket. Good on ya', mate!!

The gun introduction is by far the most frequent. Amazing, we would never introduce our children to hunting and guns by touching off a 12 guage right next to their head when they are small, but some guys think nothing of it with a pup. The next most common, IMHO, is the e-collar training. People should really have to get some kind of license before owning one of those. I've seen guys I really thought I respected ruin dogs with those things.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think the most obvious yet overlooked mistake is not spending enough time with your pooch—whether it's training or wrestling on the living room floor. As some cheesy rock band whose name I can't recall says: You only get what you give.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I've heard that shock collar training after the basic training of just simple no and good girl commands for such a time can make the dog afraid of doing the task it was asked to if it were shocked.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Never had a problem with all my German Short Hair Pointers getting into the water early and my previous Short Hair found I cannot take him fishing with me. Every time I cast he would bolt to retrieve the lure scaring all the fish!! Gracie my 3 year old has the agility and eye sight of a cat and loves chasing squirrels! Her eye contact is so keen you cannot fake a toss her ball and misses nothing!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Does your dog know the definition of NO" better than your kids!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I know dogs can get water shy but usually, German Short Hair Pointers take very well to water and love to be in it... atleast that is how my friends' 2 dogs are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Thanks for the responses.

Wags, Welcome aboard. And I couldn't agree more about the misuse of e-collars.

Golfing Sportsman, The introduction of birds is one I've thought about, too.

Clay, Pritch knows NO but she's at a stage where she's pushing the limits to see how far she can get.

Curious what you guys think of a dog park. I think they instill bad habits (at least for a young dog) as it's a dog spaz fest within the fences. But in a suburban area they do offer a quick way to stretch the dog's legs if you can't get out training. This is one my wife and I debate often...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sharkfin wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think dog parks are a bad thing for a pup in training. Too many dogs running wild, too many people that think your dog is there for them to play with. Too many distractions and dogs with bad behavior or at least behavior you don't want your dog to have.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from MyDogRem wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think one of biggest mistakes is pushing the puppy to hard. By making training sessions to long and taking the fun out of it for the puppy. Once they aren't having fun anymore they aren't learning.
Dog parks aren't the best place for puppies they can pick up a lot of bad habits, but when that puppy is little older it can be a good place to teach your dog to ignore distractions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Dave DiBenedetto

Avoid Parks especially Dog Parks. This is the best (worst) way to become sick with viruses and parasites. For a Pup Parvovirus is one of the deadliest even if they had the shots! Dogs and especially cats carry it going yard to yard and across fields.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huskerguy wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Have to be careful with the shock collars. I tried one on my pup. She was doing something she wasn't supose to so I gave her a little shock and it scared her every time i put the collar for a few days till she learned she just got a zap when she did something wrong.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Linden wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Limit it to ONE? Impossible. But here are a few I've written about after direct experience on the TV show or rescuing bird dogs:

- Introducing gun fire with a fusillade of semi-autos on opening day
- Introducing/using e-collar before the dog groks the command completely in every location every time
- Using more sticks than carrots ... the praise:correction ration should be 7:1
- Training when you're mad (at the world, spouse, current president, boss or dog)

This will be in the next book!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from LYNN GELLES wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I would have to agree with Pinopolis....not spending enough time with your new pup is a big mistake.

Sure...anyone can "force" a dog to do what you want,when you want, but it's best to have them "pleased" to do it for you. That's impossible without a bond between the two of you.

I got my last pup 2 days before I came down with a bad case of pneumonia. I was her new litter mate and trainer all at the same time. Being home and being with the pup 24-7 for 2 weeks created a bond that is beyond belief. She seemed to trust me 100% and was very eager to please.

I can't recommend pneumonia as a training technique, but the bonding is a must !!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sharkfin wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think dog parks are a bad thing for a pup in training. Too many dogs running wild, too many people that think your dog is there for them to play with. Too many distractions and dogs with bad behavior or at least behavior you don't want your dog to have.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Elmer Fudd wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

worst thing I've known is to shoot a gun right over the dog before it has had any introduction to the whole business. ]

In other words, "how to make a dog gunshy"

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I agree with Elmer Fudd (did I just type that?)...

I always start with a BB gun, then a cap pistol, and then shoot the shotgun near, but not right over the dog. And I always have her fired up on something else when I shoot.

Hey check this out... bam! Bad idea.

Looks like you have a winner there Dave.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think the most obvious yet overlooked mistake is not spending enough time with your pooch—whether it's training or wrestling on the living room floor. As some cheesy rock band whose name I can't recall says: You only get what you give.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nick Jensen wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

One of those can be a bad introduction to birds, many years ago we were training our little springer Annie and had obtained a few pheasant hens from a local game farm. Our trainer friend put out a bird and then told the guys with the guns to "make sure this one goes down hard." Point being that he didn't want a live bird pecking this pup in the nose on her first retrieve. Well, I was a little rough when I put the bird out and broke its wing. When Annie found the scent she took off, flushed the bird (which couldn't fly) and chased it down until she caught it. She proudly retrieved the live bird and turned a potentially bad situation into a positive (and hilarious one.)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I've been out of it for about a little over a week so first and foremost, good luck Pritch and Dave. I'm Wags, the guy that usually rants on about a lack of coverage for dogs and bird hunting, and here you've had a blog for a week now and I've been out of pocket. Good on ya', mate!!

The gun introduction is by far the most frequent. Amazing, we would never introduce our children to hunting and guns by touching off a 12 guage right next to their head when they are small, but some guys think nothing of it with a pup. The next most common, IMHO, is the e-collar training. People should really have to get some kind of license before owning one of those. I've seen guys I really thought I respected ruin dogs with those things.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I've heard that shock collar training after the basic training of just simple no and good girl commands for such a time can make the dog afraid of doing the task it was asked to if it were shocked.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Never had a problem with all my German Short Hair Pointers getting into the water early and my previous Short Hair found I cannot take him fishing with me. Every time I cast he would bolt to retrieve the lure scaring all the fish!! Gracie my 3 year old has the agility and eye sight of a cat and loves chasing squirrels! Her eye contact is so keen you cannot fake a toss her ball and misses nothing!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Does your dog know the definition of NO" better than your kids!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I know dogs can get water shy but usually, German Short Hair Pointers take very well to water and love to be in it... atleast that is how my friends' 2 dogs are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Thanks for the responses.

Wags, Welcome aboard. And I couldn't agree more about the misuse of e-collars.

Golfing Sportsman, The introduction of birds is one I've thought about, too.

Clay, Pritch knows NO but she's at a stage where she's pushing the limits to see how far she can get.

Curious what you guys think of a dog park. I think they instill bad habits (at least for a young dog) as it's a dog spaz fest within the fences. But in a suburban area they do offer a quick way to stretch the dog's legs if you can't get out training. This is one my wife and I debate often...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MyDogRem wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I think one of biggest mistakes is pushing the puppy to hard. By making training sessions to long and taking the fun out of it for the puppy. Once they aren't having fun anymore they aren't learning.
Dog parks aren't the best place for puppies they can pick up a lot of bad habits, but when that puppy is little older it can be a good place to teach your dog to ignore distractions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Dave DiBenedetto

Avoid Parks especially Dog Parks. This is the best (worst) way to become sick with viruses and parasites. For a Pup Parvovirus is one of the deadliest even if they had the shots! Dogs and especially cats carry it going yard to yard and across fields.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huskerguy wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Have to be careful with the shock collars. I tried one on my pup. She was doing something she wasn't supose to so I gave her a little shock and it scared her every time i put the collar for a few days till she learned she just got a zap when she did something wrong.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Linden wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

Limit it to ONE? Impossible. But here are a few I've written about after direct experience on the TV show or rescuing bird dogs:

- Introducing gun fire with a fusillade of semi-autos on opening day
- Introducing/using e-collar before the dog groks the command completely in every location every time
- Using more sticks than carrots ... the praise:correction ration should be 7:1
- Training when you're mad (at the world, spouse, current president, boss or dog)

This will be in the next book!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from LYNN GELLES wrote 4 years 46 weeks ago

I would have to agree with Pinopolis....not spending enough time with your new pup is a big mistake.

Sure...anyone can "force" a dog to do what you want,when you want, but it's best to have them "pleased" to do it for you. That's impossible without a bond between the two of you.

I got my last pup 2 days before I came down with a bad case of pneumonia. I was her new litter mate and trainer all at the same time. Being home and being with the pup 24-7 for 2 weeks created a bond that is beyond belief. She seemed to trust me 100% and was very eager to please.

I can't recommend pneumonia as a training technique, but the bonding is a must !!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment