Springer driving me to despair

(47 Posts)
madspringer Sun 12-Apr-20 13:50:04

Hi - new poster but I've been lurking for ages... All through choosing our puppy last spring and since then! This is long, sorry...

I think I'm posting to rant as much as anything else, but I'm truly at my wit's end with our 10 month old Springer.

We've just got back from what was meant to be a nice walk and it has ended in tears, as usual (literally)! I can't remember last time we had a walk that was enjoyable or relaxing. In fact, we can't really walk him per se - he has plenty of controlled exercise on our village green on a long line, but we can't take him on what I'd call a dog walk as he gets out of control and is SUCH hard work, and his recall is very poor (despite our best efforts).

We chose a springer as we very often look after a friends', and he is lovely, and we wanted an active breed. But I've barely done a proper walk or run since we got him as he's so hard to to control and needs truly constant input and supervision which is, to be honest, absolutely exhausting. He still finds loose lead walking really hard and is learning at a glacial pace, so every walk involves trying to get him to walk nicely. He doesn't just pull on the lead, he is literally scrabbling with his belly to the floor, so we have to practice loose lead walking constantly as I'm worried he'll hurt himself, or pull me over. Even walking him to the village shop is a 40 minute ordeal rather than the 10 minute stroll it should be, as it's literally step by step coaxing him to walk nicely and pay attention. He has no interest in us once off lead, so he's on a long line, but he's so strong I feel it's just a matter of time until one of us gets hurt. We practice recall daily but it seems no reward can compete with sprinting off and chasing rabbits (which he can't do as he's on a long line, but it doesn't stop him trying...)

I feel stupid that we thought we could handle this breed, despite seeing them everywhere we go. My dreams of walking accompanied by a dog are vanishing and I'm realising that I don't think we will ever have the nice walks I dreamt of, and experienced with our friend's Springer, and we'll have to exercise him separately. We love walking, running and cycling and a dog was meant to enhance this and accompany us, but I don't think it will ever happen. He is an awful whiner and whines incessantly in cafes and pubs, so my long rambles ending with a country pub feel like a ridiculous and stupid idea at the moment.

I just feel so sad! And frustrated that going for a walk on Easter Sunday is too high an expectation - we passed loads of our neighbours with their dogs and I feel really sad that we can't enjoy walking together. We were seeing a trainer every week but obviously aren't able to at the moment. We religiously practice his recall and his lead walking and all the rest, so I think we just feel extra frustrated as it seems like none of it is paying off or working and we're actually going in reverse. We must have spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours practicing, but he's still such hard work and it's really having a negative and stressful impact on our lives and I feel so drained. We do the same outings for exercise day in day out (with LOTS of training and scentwork) as everything else is just too much for us all, and it feels like a depressing and weird groundhog day that makes me regret getting a dog - but I dreamt of this for years and did so much research and prep!!

Like I said I think I'm just ranting... But if anyone has any positive outcomes of stories like this please share!! (Sorry for the long indulgent waffle!!)

OP’s posts: |
Nettleskeins Sun 12-Apr-20 14:00:05

He is a teenager and this is probably the worst bit.
A warning, a friend has a springer of two that cannot be walked on your common or garden ramble /stroll. He only responds to "work", so hide and seek, scent work, retrieval on a long long lead in countryside. His recall is still non existent off lead, and she has acclimitized.herself to different.sort of fun with him. But long rambles with dog running alongside dont work for them. That is not to say this will be the case with your dog. He is after all still a puppy. She says he now settles well at home after these outings, as long as she turns them into."work"'for him rather than walks for her.

BiteyShark Sun 12-Apr-20 14:05:32

I have a working cocker spaniel and at the gun dog training classes I did they put all the mad spaniels together because of their breed traits. They were the worse behaved of all the gun dogs breeds in my opinion grin

The best advice I was ever given was that I needed to forget about having a leisurely walk with my dog if I thought I could walk and basically ignore him. They are hunting dogs and will find their own entertainment if you let them. First spaniels are breed to work closely with you so if you let them get too far away you have lost control. Then you need to stop thinking about a walk and start working with their instinct when outside. I hunt with mine so he chases balls intermixed with hiding them in the undergrowth and hunting them out with my help. I need to engage with him at all times on a walk.

For on lead walks again walking a spaniel is harder than a lot of breeds as they will have their nose to the floor and zig zag about trying to pick up a scent. There is no point comparing them to food orientated breeds that can be persuaded to walk nicely with a bit of cheese.

As for 10 months of age you are just starting the peak of teenage arseness as well which means your dog will be particularly deaf to any training or commands.

My advice is to find a gun dog trainer who will give you breed specific training and advice so you understand what makes them tick.

feelingnervousnow Sun 12-Apr-20 14:05:49

Could it be his age? I’m no expert but we have a 10 month old working cocker spaniel and she is also awful to walk.
We’re working really hard on lead work and (as long as we’re not near a hedge) she is getting slightly better.
Her recall used to be pretty good but now she’s turned teenager it’s not reliable if there are birds to chase. I only dare let her off lead on the beach as i can see her when she runs far away.
I’ve just started the online training course with Absolute Dogs called Sexier than a Squirrel and it’s 25 games over 25 days. All supposed to help with recall, calmness etc. Not sure if it’ll work but the games are fun.
People have told me they settle down around 2 years old.
Sorry I’ve not been much help but i do feel your pain x

Nettleskeins Sun 12-Apr-20 14:05:53

Could he also be overtired with all this training and need to practise settling at home. Sometimes I had to just sit quietly with mine indoors for two hours with nothing to distract or stimulate or he was a hyped up bundle of nerves (mine was a poodle - very active) I looked after a springer for a few months once and I remember him needing lots of peaceful clingy time, in the afternoon. Happy to sleep but needed me near

Shmithecat2 Sun 12-Apr-20 14:08:42

Send him to gun school as soon as you can.

BiteyShark Sun 12-Apr-20 14:10:05

Btw I had an awful time with recall when he was an adolescent dog. I have lots of old threads on here for proof grin

It was only after I ignored all the general dog training advice and actually started to listen to the gun dog trainers that I turned recall around. Mine can now walk past deer, rabbits and dogs off lead but only because I work with him at all times and don't allow him to become bored and hunt on his own terms. It can be done but it's hard work and I miss the fact that I can't just go for a leisurely walk through the forest admiring the view.


TheGirlFromStoryville Sun 12-Apr-20 14:10:39

My granny had a springer.
Always remember him being v high energy, he only slowed down when he became elderly.
Sorry no advice really, apart from teenage dog years are the worst. Get through that and it's mostly plain sailing. Our OES was a terror up to th age of 2. Constantly nipping, chewed through door frames, walls, and ruined a sofa and armchair, trainers, etc.
He's 3 now and the best dog ever, calm and placid. Brought me to tears so many times though! Good luck

justasking111 Sun 12-Apr-20 14:12:07

He is a retriever. So start playing hide and seek in the house a ball under cushions, duvet, wherever. Forget that long line a short lead and keep him firmly to heel, when he pulls, STOP DEAD!! Then proceed, repeat as necessary. Then start the hide and seek outside, make him STAY holding him while it is hidden, then say FETCH, lots of praise when he returns it.

You need a gundog training book and a whistle, forget shouting.

1 whistle, while holding your hand up means sit,
2 whistles, come back.

You will get there,

AmelieTaylor Sun 12-Apr-20 14:17:40

So many posts, so few (ie NONE) Photos 😢

He's a baby still. Time & (continued) training and you'll get there dog 🐶

madspringer Sun 12-Apr-20 14:18:28

Thank you all for your kind responses - just hearing other people have been through this makes me feel so much better! I love him desperately but he's pushing me to my limits!

@feelingnervousnow - your WCS sounds so similar, ours goes mad if he's anywhere near a hedge! I'll look up the Absolute Dogs course you recommended and give it a go. At least the current situation is giving us time to practice things.

@BiteyShark - I don't mind interacting with him and we do use tennis balls etc, but it's the keeping him engaged that is exhausting! He'd be off like a shot if I let my guard down, and he does reach a point where he just loses interest in everything except sniffing/hunting and I struggle to re-engage him. You give me hope though, so we'll keep persisting!

And not that I'm wishing the time away, but I can't wait until we reach the other side of adolescence...

OP’s posts: |
Nettleskeins Sun 12-Apr-20 14:18:56

If you go to a park without the dog and observe other dogs you notice how the spaniels tend to zig zig around, the pointers race off, and the terriers zip after their owners, the labs gallop around but basically plod after their owners faithfully. I think spaniels do take a different view of exercise, however devoted they are. My dog is only really interested in interactive playing and chasing, not in balls or scentwork, so happy to walk along with me despite being generally disobedient. He wants to see the world but craves my companionship or that of other dogs. What motivates your dog when he is exercising? Give him that, and your walks/outings will improve. And give him plenty of quiet downtime too at home, or you get the hyped up zoomies from overtired toodler.

Glendaruel Sun 12-Apr-20 14:27:08

I have an 8 year old working cocker spaniel and remember well the early years. Even today she is much better in walks where she is off lead. The ball thrower was the best thing as she would happily come back for another throw and we did walking to heel without the lead using the ball.
Think people's suggestions of gun dog trainer great. We also got a harness that fastened at the front, rather than side or back. It means when she pulls, she ends up pulling herself around, and struggles to keep pulling.

Sitting in beer garden is still a dream for me, but I know her limitations. But she is so faithful, if I'm ill or upset she wants to sit on me so she can keep an eye on me. Pup phase is hard, but it's worthwhile in the long run!!

BiteyShark Sun 12-Apr-20 14:27:18

* it's the keeping him engaged that is exhausting!*

I would have paid to have someone walk mine all the time at 10 months of age. He bought me to tears many times. He was an absolute pain in the arse but looking back he was a typically teenage spaniel.

I can't recommend a good gun dog trainer enough to give you the tools to engage with them.

Topseyt Sun 12-Apr-20 14:31:38

Sounds like a dose of the "Kevins" to me. Remember that Harry Enfield character, Kevin the Teenager?

He is adolescent at ten months, so it is hard work and, much like human teenagers, he will think he knows it all and doesn't need to listen to you.

Keep up with the training. I remember our labrador when he was around that age, and labs are bloody strong dogs, especially whilst young. He was a right arsehole and I thought we would never get through it. We did though, and by the time he was about two years old he was much more settled.

Does your dog respond well to food treats? What are his favourites? Have you tried having some shreds of ham, cheese crumbs, bits of sausage etc. in your pocket. Make sure he knows they are there. Use them sparingly, but enough to pique his interest and reward him for not pulling on the lead.

You could also try a head collar such as a haltie or a gencon as those do take the power out of any attempted lunges and may be safer for you. I had to use one for my labrador because I still had a toddler DD at that time so had to be able to make him walk beside the pushchair without yanking.

BiteyShark Sun 12-Apr-20 14:36:31

I am multi tasking so hence coming back with more snippets to post.

On the working with them just to give you an example. I learnt a command at gun dog training which means the thing they are after is close by so they need to get their nose down and hunt it out. We don't actually use it as it was designed but we do use it when he can't find a ball hidden in undergrowth or a treat hidden around the house as he stops and look at me for guidance on where to hunt with that command. This was such a simple command but I would never have learnt it other than at gun dog training and it has transformed how my dog looks at me on walks. He is wanting me to help as I am no longer this person who just walks but now I am his hunting companion.

SoapIsYourFriend Sun 12-Apr-20 14:37:54

Agree with PP. How can we possibly comment without a photo wink

We don't have a spaniel but I also recommend a gun dog trainer. What about agility when he is a bit older. Sounds like he needs to work.

One of ours was such hard work for the first two years but is so good now.

FATEdestiny Sun 12-Apr-20 14:51:30

I have a cocker spaniel. Absolute arsehole from 9m-18m, you're problems will be 80% down to age (and 20% breed).

My spaniel is 4yo now and can be walked in the countryside off lead and be ignored - she always behaves. I could walk her off lead on pavements and she would stay to heel. I don't, but she's trained enough to. There is hope. Some things that worked for us:

- Halti head collar for all lead walks. Stops pulling and teaches loose lead
- Short lead and always on the same side of me (My left) for lead walks. Teaches walking to heel and that when walking to heel she isn't shuffling around, she's focused.
- to counter strict behaviour on lead walks, I have (a) waist lead running and (b) off lead shuffling EVERY DAY.
- I run with my dog 5-10km every day. This is just a trot pace for dog, but the milage covered is there, and some consistent daily exercise. Bungee lead attached to my waist (on left, same as walks).
- My dog ever pulls ahead when running (like sled style canicross), I think due to all the very strict lead training to never pull. So stays on my left, aside or just behind me.
- After our run, we have about half an hour off lead walk in the countryside. I don't do hunting/fetch type training. Some things I do (or did, when younger) is
- Regular call-backs. Until I trusted recall DDog would be recalled back to me if further than about 5m. So off lead consisted of DDog doing circles away and back to me all the time, as recalled. If recall was bad one day, then the recall would be a shorter distance or even to heel.
- I use the command "here" for come to heel and the sound "Ay" for stop or a warning and "waaaitt" (as an elongated sound) to stay where she is. These commands just developed organically, I didn't go to a trainer.
- "Here", alongside pointing to my left side as we walk to heel, I use with any dog in the vicinity. My DDog isn't especially food driven so don't use treats, I think she just likes the training. She has always been nervous of other dogs so her walking to heel is to allow DDog to feel safe, secure and protected with me.
- "Ay" would be if we come across a duck or squirrel, or cat and I know she wants to give chase. I then judge her body language. If she stops but looks like she wants to chase, I'll call her back to me with "here". If she seems ok to stop I'll add "wait" until the temptation to chase passes.
- Behaviour at home is important too. It's been eluded to by PP. DDog spends large chunks of the rest of the day sleeping in her own basket, her own space. Shes not made to do this, she chooses to. But as a teenager it wasn't natural and she needed encouraging to have this down time away from everyone.

MrsNoah2020 Sun 12-Apr-20 14:52:43

Echo the others - get a gun dog trainer, lose the long line as it will just confuse him: he should be either at heel or off the lead. And hang in there- this will all get better with time.

Glendaruel Sun 12-Apr-20 14:54:16


This is similar to the one I got and was a godsend. She had one that had a bit across her nose but she pulled until it cut into her. This one she pulls but turns into the pull and then stops herself.

justasking111 Sun 12-Apr-20 14:59:42

They are very intelligent hard work as teenagers, but so rewarding, ours walk so close you could trip over them now. But when working they are absolutely amazing.

madspringer Sun 12-Apr-20 15:24:22

I don't seem to have the option to add a pic! Luckily for him he is very cute... Because he's definitely an arsehole at the moment!

We did have a couple of sessions with a force-free gundog trainer, but it most definitely wasn't force-free and we just didn't feel they were the right person. We are using a great positive trainer at the moment and I think I'm feeling the strain of not having our sessions as my safety net at the moment. I'll have a look for some other local gundog trainers.

I'll look into haltis, thanks for the tip. That might help some of our walks feel a bit less fraught. He has a Perfect Fit harness which I think actually has a front loop so that might also help with the right lead.

He's actually brilliant at home - very calm, happy to be alone and very well behaved. It's just as soon as we leave the house that the problems start! We'll keep persisting - I keep thinking of how I read that this is the age that most dogs are rehomed, and that this is hard and it will pass! He has flashes of great behaviour and I hope it's a glimpse into the future, but god it's tiring!

OP’s posts: |
FATEdestiny Sun 12-Apr-20 15:53:08

I'll look into haltis, thanks for the tip. That might help some of our walks feel a bit less fraught. He has a Perfect Fit harness which I think actually has a front loop so that might also help with the right lead.

Head collars like halti are brilliant. I cannot recommend them enough.

I have had the Perfect Fit harness with front loop that you mention. Might just be my dog but it gave her some "shoulder" (front leg, top joint) issues by pulling her from the chest area.

We found that joining the lead under the chin was much better. It meant that a slight pull turned the dogs head, not pressuring any joints. A forceful pull wasn't even possible so no possibility of damaging the neck.

On a chest loop the dog will still have the power of the body behind direction changes. So a pull can be resisted by the dog bracing their body to allow them to keep pulling (which lead to shoulder issues for us). I'm not sure of I've explained that very well? But when loop is on chin rather than chest, there is a non-damaging movement (of the head) which physically stops the pull immediately and makes it impossible to carry on unless not pulling. Whereas on the chest a pull is still possible if the dog is persistent enough.

I love love LOVE head collars. The best I found was a company called Kumfi, which I found in B&M Bargains of all places! They do a chest loop harness, but same issue as above. Their head collar though is better and comfier than Haiti in our experience.

The Pets at Home head collar is also ok. But only £2 cheaper than Haiti. Halti is better quality though so worth the bit extra.

The head collar was the game changer for us. We teamed it with a short lead so that all on-lead walking was to heel and focused, not snuffling around. I think this helped later on with expectations when off lead but called to heel. It's like being to heel meant not focusing on what's around us, just staying close and behaving. It's the 'ying' to the 'yang' of off lead permitted exploring.

LochJessMonster Sun 12-Apr-20 16:00:26

First off (and in the nicest way) I skimmed most of your thread the first time because everything you are complaining about is so predictable! Everybody has that walk where they are in tears and feel like giving up.
It’s all part of being a dog owner. 1 year old dogs are the worst.
Recall, lead walking etc are the hardest things to train.

It will get better. Once he’s over a year and you can start running with him, get the initial energy out, you can then work on the other stuff. Look up Canicross and how to safely introduce your dog to it. It does wonders for their energy levels and their bond with you.

A gentle leader/halti is a good idea, I only had to use one for a few months before my dog got the hang of loose lead walking.

You are at the worst stage, hang in there!

ihatelockdown Sun 12-Apr-20 16:13:23

We have a working cocker (but kept as a pet) he's awful on the lead but is fantastic off the lead, we mastered his recall not with treats but with his ball! But it's def the worst age for them as they're rebelling!

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