1. Puppy Training

05. Biting

posted Oct 19, 2011, 10:02 AM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Oct 19, 2011, 2:24 PM ]

     You'll notice that this section on biting is listed under "puppy training."  If you're having problems with an adult dog who bites, you need to consult a professional, not a website. 
     All puppies chew and bite.  That said, you need to teach your puppy as quickly as possible to not put her mouth on people.  This training needs to start from day one and you must be 100% consistent.  Chewing on your finger can't be funny when you first bring your puppy home but bad behavior when she's an adolescent with strong teeth and jaws.
     A puppy who has been properly raised with her mother and littermates has alredy learned bite inhibition - the art of play biting without hurting.  If you watch puppies or dogs play, there are two basic ways they learn not to hurt each other: (1) Ouch! and (2) Cut that out NOW!  Your goal is to turn these natural behaviors to your advantage. 
 
   1. Ouch!  The first way puppies tell another puppy they've bitten down too hard is to show pain.  You can do the same thing.  Anytime your puppy touches you with her teeth, even if the teeth barely brushed your hand, make a loud, high-pitched yelp and yank your hand away as if you just touched a hot stove.  Cross your arms and turn your head away from the puppy while you sulk over your "injury" for 10 seconds.  Act like your feelings were hurt and be slow to forgive the puppy for hurting you.  She'll quickly learn that you are very thin skinned and have no pain tolerance.  She'll also learn that biting you ends play time with her buddy. 
 
    2. STOP IT!  Puppies will sometimes let their behavior get completely out of control and will start really nipping at you.  When this happens, stop playing with the puppy.  Stand up, fold your arms and ignore her for at least 15 seconds.  She will almost certainly lose interest in you.  If she continues to bite you, it's time to remind her who is in charge.  Start by baring your teeth, staring your puppy in the eyes, and giving a low, menacing growl.  It doesn't have to be loud but it needs to be deep and menacing.  Give your puppy several seconds to recognize what you're communicating.  If she's still out of control, quickly discipline the puppy by saying "no" while you grab the scruff of her neck and roll her onto her back.  It's okay for this to startle the pup but it shouldn't hurt her.  When she's on her back, hold her muzzle.  Look down on her.  When she stops struggling and relaxes, she is submitting to you.  Let her up slowly.  Ignore her completely for a few minutes and act aloof for several minutes after that.  It's important that you remain calm and in control throughout this process.  Your puppy should never think that you've striking out from anger, rather that you're firmly showing her that there are boudaries to her behavior.  Once things have settled down, practice some very basic obedience with positive reinforcement.

08. Feeding a Puppy

posted Oct 18, 2011, 1:50 PM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Oct 18, 2011, 1:52 PM ]

How often?
Your puppy needs to be fed three times a day until 4 months of age, then you can adjust to twice a day.  We feed our adult dogs twice a day but it's okay to switch to once a day after 18 months.
 
How much?
Start feeding an 8 week old puppy about 1/2 cup at each feeding.  Increase or decrease this amount based on how much food your puppy will finish in five minutes (if your puppy is just a slow eater, don't worry about the five minute rule, let her finish).  If your puppy doesn't finish and leaves her food behind, don't leave the bowl sitting out.  At the next meal, feed a little less.  You want your puppy to get used to emptying her bowl at each meal, not leaving it and coming back a half hour later.  We don’t recommend leaving food out for a dog of any age.  Free feeding creates inconsistent eating habits and a fat Brittany!
 
What type of food?
We start our puppies on Purina Pro Plan Puppy.  Your breeder should give you a small bag of puppy food when you pick up your puppy.  If you choose to transition to a puppy food other than what your breeder feeds, make sure you choose a quality puppy food and make the transition to the new food gradually - over the course of four or five days. 
 
Until what age? 
We recommend feeding puppy food until your puppy is at least six months old, then moving to a quality adult kibble.  Our dogs eat Purina Pro Plan during the off-season and Pro Plan Performance when they’re exercising hard, but there are many good foods to choose from.
 

What other mistakes should I avoid?

·         Don't feed a low-quality food.  You'll have to feed more of it, you'll have more poop to scoop, and it's not worth risking the health problems that can arise. 

·         If your dog is doing well on a dog food, don't switch foods.  Your dog does not need nor appreciate variety. 

·         If you must switch foods, do so gradually over the course of 4-5 days. 

·         Find a food with a quality protein source (or two) as the main ingredient. 

·         Don't be fooled by ingredients like potatoes, carrots or peas.  Dogs don't really need to eat their veggies. 

·         Don't be fooled by food with colors or shapes.  Dogs can't make out the colors or shapes anyway.  These things are there to make the food look more appealing to you and I hope you're not planning to eat it.

 

09. What size/type of crate?

posted Oct 17, 2011, 7:59 AM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Oct 19, 2011, 10:07 AM ]

What type?
     We find plastic crates create a more "den-like" environment and give our dogs a better sense of security.  Good plastic crates are also harder for a determined dog to break out of and don't pose a risk of your dog's collar hanging up on the metal bars.  They can be hosed out and disinfected when needed. 
 
What size?
     Don't buy a huge crate thinking more room will make your dog more comfortable.  The opposite is true.  Your dog should have just enough room to stand up and turn around.
     For an adult Brittany, we use a medium (also known as "intermediate" or "300" size) plastic crate.  http://www.amazon.com/Petmate-Kennel-Fashion-Medium-Bleached/dp/B000MLG484/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318856629&sr=8-2  This crate is too big for a puppy, though, giving him room to go to the bathroom in one end and sleep in the other. 
     We use a small plastic crate for our puppies - about the size of a large cat carrier.  Find the cheapest one you can (we paid $15 at our discount grocery store) as he'll only be in it for 3-4 weeks.

03. When and How Should I Start?

posted Aug 24, 2011, 10:37 AM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Mar 7, 2012, 8:31 AM ]

Whether you knew it or not, you started training your puppy from the moment you picked her up from the breeder.  That puppy is hardwired from day one to learn about you.  This training can be positive or negative depending on how you choose to act around your puppy.  A puppy starved for attention may learn that chewing on a shoe will get her the attention she seeks.  On the other hand, this is the perfect time to get your puppy started down the road of earning rewards for good behavior and learning that there are boundaries to what she's allowed to do.  A few tips:
  • Be consistent. 
    • Jumping up can't be "cute" one day, then punished the next.
    • All family members need to be on board with what behaviors are expected of the puppy.
  • Be positive
    • A young puppy needs lots of love and positive attention.  Don't expect your young puppy to know everything your last dog learned.  Remember, it probably took your last dog many years to learn to behave the way you wanted him to. 
    • A good rule of thumb is to make sure you're rewarding good behavior at least nine times for every time you tell the puppy "no."
  • Take your time
    • Keep your training session short.  Telling your dog to "whoa" once five times a day is more effective than a long training session once a week. 
  • Don't repeat yourself
    • We humans have a tendancy to repeat ourselves until we're heard.  This is an awful way to traing a dog.  Never repeat a command your dogs knows more than once.  Repeating a command teaches your dog that he doesn't have to respond the first time.  If he doesn't respond to a command he knows, enforce the command.  Reating a command is counterproductive to good training.  (see what I did there?)
  • Teach your pointing dog to wait
    • Puppies are very impulsive and are in a constant state of motion.  Teaching a puppy delayed gratification will go a long way towards helping them become an effective pointing dog.  I teach my dogs at a very young age to "whoa" for their meals and "wait" to go out of a door until I release them.  This means my dogs have to wait for my command multiple times a day every day of their life.
    • To teach your puppy to "whoa" for a meal, do the following:
      • Week 1 - Put your puppy's food down in front of her.  Hold her a foot away from her food while giving your "whoa" command.  As soons as she stops struggling, give your "release" command and let her eat.  This teaches her to submit to your hold.
      • Week 2 - By now your puppy should stop struggling almost immediately after you put your hands on her.  Once this is achieved, hold her still a second or two longer before giving your release command.  Increase by a second a day.
      • Week 3 - Start loosening your hold.  Keep your hands close!  If she moves her feet before you give your "release" command, tell her "no" and put her back where she started.
      • Week 4 - You should be able to step away from your puppy without her moving.  Gradually increase the time you ask her to wait until she's standing a full minute before eating.  This technique will save you a lot of training birds when it comes time to breaking your dog to wing and shot. 

07. Is My Dog Gun Shy?

posted Aug 18, 2011, 5:43 PM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Sep 4, 2014, 7:11 PM ]

     No dog is born gun shy - they are made that way by negligent training.  That said, some dogs may be more prone to being startled by loud noises.  Before you get your puppy anywhere near a gun, evaluate your puppy and get an idea for her temperament.  If you notice her flinching when a door slams, that's a good indication that you're going to need to be very cautious in training that pup to the sound of a gun.  Even the boldest puppy, however, can be made gun shy if you don't train her properly.
     Start your training by making soft noises while your puppy is eating.  At first, just clap your hands softly across the room from your puppy.  If the puppy startles, back off.  If the puppy ignores you and keeps eating, stop for the day.  The next time the puppy eats, you can make the noise a little louder.  Over the course of several days, you should be able to move on from clapping to banging lightly on a food bowl.  Always start soft and gradually move up over the course of several days.  Your goal is not to see how much noise it takes before the puppy flinches - it's to make a noise once every meal and have the puppy completely ignore you.  If she ignores you, the training session was successful.  Stop and wait for the next meal.
    Remember that puppies naturally go through fear stages as they develop.  If you notice your puppy going through one of these stages, this is a bad time to work on noise training.  Don't coddle your puppy, but don't push her limits during this time either.  
     Once you can rattle a food bowl close to your eating puppy without getting a reaction, you're ready to move on to a blank pistol.  You want to start with short crimped blanks like this:

   You can also use a toy cap gun for this step.  Before you start, test the blanks far away from your dog to get an idea what they sound like.
      I never like to introduce a pup to gunfire without a bird.  If you don't have easy access to birds, you can use the same steps we used with the food bowl around your eating puppy, however you should start a long way (i.e. 50 yards or more) from your pup before gradually working your way closer. 
      If you do have access to birds, your puppy should be well familiar with birds and your training methods before you add the sound of the blank pistol.  Once you're ready to add the blank pistol to your training session, have your training buddy take the pistol and stand a long way away from you and your puppy.  Put a check cord on your puppy and allow the puppy to establish point on a bird so that she can both see and smell the bird.  Release the bird and, once you're sure your puppy can't catch the bird, release your puppy for the chase.  Only when the puppy is in full chase mode with the bird in sight should your training partner fire the blank pistol.  Again, this should be done at a good distance.  Just like you did with clapping and the food bowl, repeat this multiple times over many weeks with the source of the sound gradually getting closer and closer to the puppy.  Just as with the food bowl, the goal is for your puppy to have no reaction whatsoever to the sound of the blank pistol.
     Even a dog who you think is trained to be comfortable around guns can become gun shy later in life if she is put in a bad situation.  Always be mindful of your dog around guns.  Never fire your blank pistol or a gun near the dog's face or ears.  Use a smaller gauge shotgun around a young dog and avoid having multiple people shoot at the same time.  Never shoot around a dog unless there are birds around and don't shoot around a dog when the dog isn't expecting it.  If the dog didn't see or hear the bird go up, hold your fire.  There will be more birds but there will never be another dog like this one.  

06. Teaching "sit" or "down"

posted Aug 16, 2011, 11:30 AM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Oct 19, 2011, 10:02 AM ]

     Serious pointing dog people never train a pointing dog to sit or lie down.  That's one area where almost all the training books get it wrong.  It might encourage the dog to sit or lie down on point which is a huge fault for a pointing dog.  Plus, a good whoa command is just as good if you need your dog to stay still. 
     On a similar note, don't spend too much time teaching your hunting dog to "heel."  That's what leashes are for.  Too much heeling practice can turn a good dog into a bootlicker.  You got a pointing dog because you wanted an independent bird dog who makes intelligent decisions.  In order to avoid hindering that decisionmaking ability, wait until your dog is older (2-3) before teaching heel. 

01. Help! - Getting Started

posted Aug 16, 2011, 10:21 AM by Alder Brittanys   [ updated Dec 31, 2011, 3:41 PM ]

    So you brought your new puppy home and just realized you have no idea what to do with it.  There's no reason to be overwhelmed.  You have years before you'll need all that equipment and knowledge.  Plus, at this age you're way smarter and probably faster than your puppy.  Your pup is just a baby and, although you start training from day one, most of the lessons are easy (and free) at this stage.  
     My priorities for a puppy are house breaking and crate training.  If you're unsure about house breaking and crate training The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete is the bible:
http://www.amazon.com/Art-Raising-Puppy-Monks-Skete/dp/0316578398
     The important things this book offers include the importance of crate training your puppy from day one, vigilance in housebreaking and taking the time to get your puppy started right.
     Keep in mind, though, that their goal is an extremely obedient dog which isn't going to make for a good gun dog so don't overdo it with their obedience training methods if you plan to hunt your dog.
     Once you've got housebreaking started, you can start working on a recall for a few minutes with treats but don't scold if the pup doesn't come - just ignore him.  
    I also like to make a pup wait to eat until I release him.  If you're going to do this, though, you have to do it every single time you feed.  At first you're just holding the pup until you give the release command.  After a month or so you'll be able to let go for a second before you give the command.  A month after that the pup will be waiting as long as you want.  If you do nothing other than housebreaking, crate training, working on a recall and making the pup wait to eat for the first six months, you'll be well ahead of the game.

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