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January 05, 2010

Controlling your dog will lead to better hunting

Posted in: News

Winter is an ideal time to work with your dog on control issues. Whether you have a hunting dog or just a playful house mutt, there comes a time when controlling your dog is critical to either protecting them from harm or becoming a better field partner.

There are two commands that are absolutely essential. The first is “whoa” and the second is “come”. Almost every other direction you will give your dog is built off these two basic ideas.

Rule No. 1: Training must be fun and it has to be done in very short time intervals. The dog should see this training as a game. Dogs, by their very nature, want to please their owners. They seek your approval. By understanding what it is exactly you want your dog to do, there are easy tricks to get them to do exactly that.

Rule No. 2: Consistency is the key to success. Accepting nothing less than perfection on even the littlest points builds confidence in the dog. They need to understand exactly what you want and you must signal that every time you work together. If you are inconsistent or accept less than perfection, they get confused and discouraged. And, as you build to complicated tasks, the very basic steps must be learned completely.

Rule No. 3:  If you are not willing to put in the time, blame only yourself if your dog does not behave the way you want it to. Remember that a dog’s life starts anew about every 15 minutes. Training is a matter of repetition over time. Each repetition builds muscle and brain memory.

The “Whoa” command is probably the most essential command you will ever teach your dog. For the average house dog it can save his life if he is running toward traffic. How can you get him to come if he won’t stop? For bird dogs it is again the most valuable of commands. You want the dog to hold his position and point the moment he smells the bird scent.

To teach this command you need two stakes in the ground about 30 feet apart. To one anchor attach a 15-foot rope. Stretch out the rope toward the second stake and mark on the ground where that rope will end. Attach the end of that cord to the collar of your dog. Then attach a regular leash to the collar as well. Slowly lead your dog to the end of the cord.

Just as you reach the end of the rope, command “whoa” and then take two steps forward and turn toward your dog who has reached the end of the rope. Keep your leash taut. He will probably try to go right, left, backward or lie down. Give the command “whoa” again and force him to remain standing.

Do not holler at the dog or be aggressive with him. Rather, repeat the command with a firm but calm voice. This will tell the dog you are not mad at him but that you are insistent. You should keep physically still. This will show him that you both need to stop. If he moves, gently bring him back to the end spot with the leash.

Do this for about 15 seconds or so. Now lead him back to your starting point and repeat. Do this four or five times. Now, this next step is important. Let him loose to romp and play for a while. He must associate the fact that if he does this one thing for you, he will rewarded with active play. Training must be short, purposeful and then fun.

This first step may have to be repeated for several sessions until he understands that he must stop on the command “Whoa” and stand still. When he stands for you with you directly in front of him, you can now proceed to walk a little to the left and right. Repeat the command “Whoa” and walk to his side a bit. He will turn his head and start toward you.

Gently but firmly return him to his spot. Don’t yank the leash or be rough with him as it will make him afraid. However, be firm and insistent. No movement on the dog’s part is acceptable. This lesson is probably the hardest and may take the longest. Again, make the lessons short but insist on perfection.

The next step is to lead the dog from the stake to the end of the rope an command “Whoa.” By now he should stop and be steady. From the other stake, stretch a rope to the collar and snap it on. The two ropes from each stake should be taut. This will hold the dog in place. Do this gently so the dog will not be afraid.

Now, issue the “Whoa” command and walk down along his side. He will want to turn as you do so. The front rope will stop him from backing up from the spot, but it will not stop him from turning. Anticipate he is going to want to turn to follow your action.

Put your hand down next to his head and your other hand along his back. Keep his head facing forward or in line with the two ropes as you walk around him. The back hand will keep his hind quarters in line. Softly repeat “whoa” as you do this. It is better to teach this keeping him in line with the hands before he actually turns.

Again, do this three or four times, always leading him to the end of the cord, giving the “whoa” command and insist that he hold his position as you walk to his side. Now try it standing erect without the hands gently holding him in line. If everything has gone well to this point, he might not need any correction. However, at any movement, reposition him and repeat the previous steps.

The next step is to do this without the rope. Put a leash on him, walk him forward, command “Whoa” and drop the leash. He should stand there quietly as you walk around him. Be sure to reward him with a treat and/or play when he does what you ask.

Remember that training should be fun for both of you.

Source: GloucesterTimes.com

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