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Cocker spaniels or Other breeds. - gun dog training.(24 Posts)
I’m not a first dog owner. Had springers before so know about spaniels and their activity levels. I live two seconds from a huge forest which is where I took my springer every morning for training and exercise. So keeping them exercised is not a problem and something I enjoy. Was always my favourite part of my day walking in the forest especially in the winter when it was all frosty.
I’m after advice from people who have cocker spaniels.
I’m thinking of going down this line for my next dog. I never did any gun dog training with my other dogs so wanted perspectives on how this works , was it beneficial etc etc.
Do u have a working or a show cocker? What do you do with each. How much training was needed outside of the training sessions. What was ur ultimate goal. Do you work at the same time or do you dedicate your time to training them.
Do you have a cocker spaniel and do something different with them.
Or. Do you have another dog breed and do this type of training ?
I have a working cocker. I did gun dog training for I think over 18 months but I had no intention of working him. It was to understand the breed and get tips on what makes the dog tick which I never got from any normal trainers.
I do hunting (balls) and still use some of the commands (like there there there to say the ball is in that area) on our walks which essentially turned recall around to 100% even when faced with deer and rabbits. I walk in rural places and without gun dog training I would have done normal walks and he would be bored and would have gone off hunting on his own which is not what you want.
Despite being something I would highly recommend we didn't continue as I couldn't put the time in to progress.
I have done agility which was ok but got easily bored. The best training he really enjoyed was scentwork cause he loves to sniff.
I do work full time but he goes to daycare which he loves. We don't do much training now because he is an adult and is quite happy to potter and then run after a ball.
I have working-line gundogs and have found gundog training to be incredibly helpful.
The dog is given the chance to fulfil its inbuilt drives which makes it happier and more chilled.
You are shown how to do this, so you can influence your dog's mood.
You will be taught really useful things like the stop whistle: being able to stop your dog can prevent prolonged chasing, or the dog running towards you into danger (it saved one of mine being hit by a bike).
You end up with a high-drive dog with a decent level of obedience (if you do your homework between classes), that walks well on the lead, recalls well and doesn't eff off over the horizon for half an hour in search of rabbits.
I have spaniels but do not like gun dog work in real life.
They do all do the basics like retrieve, directional and have entered in field and working trials. I am veggie so gundog work is not for me
I prefer other disciplines to gun dog work - I find it boring and tedious. I much prefer scent work which the spaniels love.
I do agility with them they love it too.
Dogs just love to be doing stuff. It doesn't really matter what they are doing as long as they are thinking and are busy. If you fancy gundog do have a go you may love it. Althuogh the training is still a bit in the dark ages so be prepared to look around for a good modern trainer.
The way they still teach the stop whistle makes me cringe
And yes, would agree with Bitey that many dog trainers do not 'get' working-line gundogs.
Also if you want the dog as a pet, it's probably best to avoid one with a lot of field trial champions in its pedigree (FTCh under the name, often in red). IME dogs from those lines will be harder work: more driven, more active and more prone to being pains in the arse (lovely, but a bit OTT).
I have a working cocker but didn't do gun dog training with her but wish I had. She is a great dog and obedient. But I have heard how much dogs and their owners have enjoyed the training. She is a bright dog and would have enjoyed the challenge as well as giving me more confidence.
The way they still teach the stop whistle makes me cringe
How were you taught it, then?
I have a show type cocker. We did gundog training when he was young with a modern trainer, using clicker training and play. It was brilliant for getting him focussed on me and made us both very happy. We did dummy work, retrieve, hunting, and eventually I did take him beating, which he loved. The only reason we stopped is that he’s deaf now as he’s quite old! Teaching him to find was also very handy when DS threw things like hats out of the pushchair
We taught the stop whistle with no harsh methods, and it was reliable enough to stop him dead on the chase... no need for any cringing, just choose the right trainer
* The way they still teach the stop whistle makes me cringe*
We stopped going before we mastered the stop whistle but the way it was started was to walk on lead and whistle as we stopped and waited then continue walking and repeat.
2 year old working cocker here. We did normal puppy training and gun dog but he doesn’t enjoy retrieving. I throw a ball and he just watches it.
We do agility once a week and scent work which he loves and is amazing at it. It also helps him listen to commands, teaches self restraint and to make the right choices. His recall is now 99%.
Otherwise he needs two good walks a day, some mind games and a lot of affection. He is never happier than when snuggled up on the sofa with us.
We've always had cockers and springers our last cocker was put down due to arthritis, my husband says this is a new problem due to over breeding. So we got a German wired haired pointer to work, he's been brilliant already showing promise as well as been a wonderful family pet (all our dogs work & our family pets, with two small children they have to be ok with them)
How do you teach the stop whistle Grumpy?
keeperswif, GWPs are awesome. I saw one on a moor this summer, size of a small pony, stunning dog, great nose.
And Polly, I use three ways to teach and reinforce the stop, none of which involves brutalising the dog. Shout and whistle on recall, sit at distance, and whistle and tennis ball.
So, again, which method makes you cringe?
We have a young lab from working lines. Our puppy trainer fortunately has labs too, and used to compete one. We are training her the commands and principles to enrich her life. She naturally retrieves and we were warned she will get confused if we punish her for her natural behaviour. So we absolutely don't. She is an angel puppy, so happy and willing. Loves using her nose. If we don't give her a challenge she quickly become antsy and misbehaves. We're also looking to train her for search and rescue as that's what DP does. She may never go out with guns but she'll know the commands and she may get to work with S&R. I would never get a working line animal unless I had a job for them to do.
I grew up with a show line cocker. She was great her nose too, she even went beating once or twice when family friends invited us on a shoot. But she definitely did not have instinctive drive to work. So she enjoyed enrichment snuffing (amazing at scent trails with 0 training) but she could take it or leave it. Compared to my friends working line cocker, who was absolutely nuts, always on the go, needing something to do. Their cocker was destructive because they tried to keep her only as a family pet. 0 enrichment playing into her instincts.
Oh I forgot to say one of the reasons we could not continue with gun dog training is that he is afraid of guns 😬.
Would climb up the back of my legs at training and even now when we hear a shoot in the countryside he looks concerned and wants to go home.
Our daughter does training with her cocker. They both love it and he is brilliant to watch.
We have recently taken on a retired setter fresh from the grouse moors. She was owned and trained by one of the gundog school proprietors where our daughter trains. She’s never been a pet before and lived in kennels on straw. Lots of awards from various trials.
She is happiest when allowed to be part self-employed, running freely with less structure than working but still under close command. She’s an absolute poppet but doesn’t know how to play. She’s learning and we’ve bought some agility toys for the garden, to encourage her to learn and think still. We agreed not to work her now she’s retired but she needs brain stretching still.
Properly trained dogs are so much safer, and easier to be out and about with. They have such good recall and patience. It’s good for socialisation too.
I didn't mention brutalising when teaching the stop whistle
Often the recall and stop method just increases frustration in many dogs. They are called towards you then the owner throws a hand in the air blasts the whistle of steps into the dog to stop forward movement . Also seems to take ages for the dogs to learn exactly what they have to do.
Teaching stop with food over the dogs head when the dog is walking away from you is easy to tell owners how to do it and it takes most dogs about 30 secs to learn. Easy and happy clear instructions and dogs love doing it.
My dog learned stop first time with the recall and whistle.... She stopped 20 yards away and was then called in to loads of praise.
I might add your other method to my repertoire, though.
We used to do stop whistle exercises with a toy as well. Once the dog had learned to sit to whistle we would play with a toy, then lift the toy up and ask for a sit (verbally at first, then with a whistle). Then as soon as they did, praise and carry on playing. They all really enjoyed it. Eventually you’d have a longer pause, maybe take one step back then back to the dog, maybe later walk around the dog as they sat - but always carrying on the game afterwards as a reward.
We never recalled from a sit either - a sit meant sit until you went to them to release and reward.
This is all really helpful. Thank you x
So. It maybe that the dog doesn’t really go for gun dog training. So I would have to wait and see what they are interested in. I wanted to do agility with my last dog. But because of his reactivity and anxiety issues it wasn’t possible. So I did most of the training myself mostly in the woods or at home.
I could never crack a reliable recall no matter what I did and was hoping that gun dog training would help with that. Also as I know that’s what their roots are.
After the problems I had with my last springer ( sad and hard story ) I wanted to get this right.
Lots to think about. Thank you for your answers.
I would look for a pet dog trainer with gundog knowledge then. You don’t have to do ‘serious, we’re going on a shoot’ style training, but a trainer who understands your dog’s drives will be able to help much more than one who doesn’t. Things like channeling their hunting instinct so they are working with you rather than for themselves - they may never flush a bird and that’s fine, but you can be playing games with tennis balls in the woods, for example. I used to ball up my old gloves and use them for ddog to hunt for, or a small soft toy that lived either in the laundry basket or in my welly - so it smelled like me. That sort of thing can really help.
Best of luck, whatever you decide.
* I could never crack a reliable recall no matter what I did and was hoping that gun dog training would help with that. Also as I know that’s what their roots are.*
It helped with my dog. I was told to keep him close as cockers are bred to work closely whereas some other gun dog breeds are the opposite. To do things like hunt together so he didn't make his own fun. As I mentioned I dropped out quite early on but that foundation really did make a difference even though he is a non working pet.
But equally scentwork training really hit all my dogs hunting instinct as well and because you have to work together it really helped strengthen that bond.