August 26, 2009
What I've Learned Raising a Gun Dog Pup
By David DiBenedetto
Pritch and I are less than two weeks away from the opening of dove season in South Carolina. Hard to imagine now when she was just a ball of warm brown fur that I could hold in one hand as I dashed out the door before she peed on the floor.
At nearly 8 months old Pritch still has loads to learn and plenty of room to mature, but hopefully the building blocks are in place. As for me, I’ve probably learned more than Pritch. But as I look back here are a few things I wished I’d done differently in our journey down the first few miles of Gun Dog Road:
Here instead of Come: You’ll find very few trainers today who use the Come command. It has been replaced by Here, which allows for more inflection in your voice.
The Basics: I can’t stress this enough. Sit. Stay. Here. Heel. Work on them. Reinforce them. Don’t rush to field work (like I did) for fear of being left behind by others dogs. If you have the basics nailed down, the rest is so much easier.
More Birds: Granted it’s hard for me to work Pritch on birds in downtown Charleston, but I wish I had given her more opportunities, especially at an earlier age.
Pinch Collar: I can’t imagine life without the pinch collar. I didn’t discover the advantages until recently. Perfect for teaching Heel and wonderful when it comes to a leisurely walk around town.
Don’t Spoil ’Em: Connie Cleveland, a professional dog trainer, told me that Pritch lived better than many kids in middle-income families. There might have been a touch of exaggeration, but her point was well taken. It’s tougher to be the leader if you let pup have her way around the house.
Use the Check Cord Often: I wish I had used it more frequently. Don’t be afraid to let a pup trail one in the house or on your walks in the woods. It’s the perfect tool for teaching Here.
Don’t Panic: More than a few nights I returned home from a training session devastated—sure that my pup would amount to nothing more than a couch-cushion warmer. It will happen to you. Don’t worry. Gun Dog Road takes twists and turns and hits dips and valleys. Stay with it. Stay positive. I try to remind myself of this every week.
Those are my lessons learned so far. Have any you care to share?