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Training

How to train your gundog to hunt using a whistle

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dog trainingDogs can often be sly and stubborn when receiving instructions. If you are experiencing problems with selective hearing or other obstinate behaviours, then a whistle could be the next level tool your routine requires.

A dog whistle can help you train your dog by reaffirming positive behaviour at the exact second they do something correctly.

A wide range of everyday dog whistles are available on the market and are helpful for training commands and discipline over both short and long distances. In fact, the sound of a whistle can travel much further than a voice.

A whistle is small and flexible enough to be conveniently carried everywhere you go. Should your dog wander away when you’re looking in another direction, a simple blow of your whistle will beckon her back.

Here is our guide to getting the most from your whistle training:

Tip one

As soon as your dog starts to fail at responding to commands, bring out the whistle. As soon as their response is positive, reward them with a treat and plenty of praise. This reaffirms that the whistle sound is a positive one.

Tip two

Use different cues for different pitches, for example, a short, sharp whistle could mean sit, while a long one says fetch. You can also alter the tone of the whistle to suit different commands.

Tip three

Remain consistent with your commands so that your dog will always know what you expect of it.

Tip four

Use words until your dog responds on command and then reward it with a treat. Your dog will eventually be able to read the whistle cue and then you can drop the verbal command altogether.

Tip five

Repeat, repeat and repeat some more. Multiple training sessions are necessary until your dog responds without receiving a treat.

Tip six

Use your whistle for multiple situations. Whistles can prove useful in different situations, such as breaking up a fight and calling your dog back to your side too.

Tip seven

Think of your whistle as your voice, or as a shared language between you. Unfortunately, we can’t have a conversation with our dog, but whistle commands come pretty close.

Choosing the perfect gundog for you

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Spending time with your gundog, training together and appreciating your time out in the field is one of the great joys of working together. Selecting the right gundog for you is a crucial decision because finding the perfect dog will make for many exceptional and memorable days.

The first question to ask yourself is: what kind of work will your gundog be doing? Different dogs are better suited to different roles.

Dogs such as terriers specialise in the control of pests. The Jack Russell, for example, is famous for their rat-catching abilities. Whereas Springers excel in the art of hunting. Alternatively, breeds such as Alsatians and Border Collies can make excellent dogs for beating.

Let’s find out a little more about each working breed.

Spaniels

Hunting is a spaniel’s primary job, and his strongest instinct. Traditionally, he has to hunt up and flush game within proximity of his handler. The moment the game is shot, he must stop and then retrieve on command.

Hunting at a remarkably fast pace, the Spaniel flits from side to side in front of his handler, covering a tremendous amount of ground. However, the fantastic ability to work in this manner comes with a price, he is a live-wire of a dog, particularly when young, and may prove a restless housemate. Harnessing that incredible energy requires a trainer with great ability.

Retrievers

The Retriever, despite the distractions around him, remains unwaveringly steady and only leaves the handler’s side when commanded to do so. Possessing great patience, the Retriever awaits commands while also accurately marking any shot game. He is prepared to face lengthy and complicated retrieves.

He calls on his experience and initiative, and is incredibly responsive to his handler’s every command, even at great distances.

Setters and Pointers

The role of the Pointer or Setter is to find game, when scarce in open countryside. He should then point to it, enabling the handler to advance within gunshot before the flush.

The pointing breeds are impressive and athletic dogs. These powerful creatures require large open spaces in which to run and vast amounts of exercise.

HPRs or Versatile Gundogs

The HPR is a multi-faceted dog that is becoming increasingly popular. There is an extensive range of breeds from which to choose, each with their unique working style and personalities.

At this moment in time, however, they’re still a minority in the shooting field, so specialists in their training are hard to find.

Putting in the research before you choose your field companion will be hugely beneficial to your future.

Top tips for training your young gun dog

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Training is much more complex for working dogs due to the amount of commands they must learn, the amount of times behaviour must be repeated and the long working hours required of them too.

Young dogs, under 8 months, have an extraordinary ability to learn, but they are also very easily distracted, have too much enthusiasm and are likely to forget commands more frequently too.

That being said, be sure to praise young puppies for their actions, particularly when it comes to retrieving.

Early retrieving is essential

A puppy’s naturally instinct is to get your attention and contact using toys. They may try tug of war to get you to play or will want to keep their favourite toys to themselves. Encourage your dog to bring their toys to you and drop them, as early as possible. This will help you in future.

Encourage them to hunt

Teach your dog to “find it” or “seek” early on, by not letting them see where you drop their toys, balls or dummies, and hide them in long grass. You want a dog that understands they have to do the work and encourage them to keep looking. Praise them well when they find the right object.

Get them used to other animals

This is particularly important if you live around farming areas, you don’t want your dog to be distracted by livestock or running around cattle, they could get seriously injured and it’s not fair on the farmers. Teach your dog early on to remain calm around other animals and praise them for correct behaviour.

Show your dog that they should always keep an eye on you

Young dogs are often so excited to be outside that they refuse to return on command. The trick here is to be more interesting than whatever is distracting them. By laying on the ground and making squeaking noises, the dog is more likely to come back and investigate those sounds.

Don’t over exercise

This is particularly important when your dog is under a year old. If you have other working dogs it can be tempting to take the youngsters along to learn, but too much exercise can spoil their joints, and this damage can’t be rectified.

Treat from the hand, not the pocket

Dogs are smart enough to know that in order to take a treat from your hand, they must drop the toy or dummy. This will not only encourage them to drop on retrieve, it can control when they drop too. Teach them when to drop by when you offer them the treat.

Get your dog used to loud noises/gun fire

It’s important to desensitise your dog early on to loud bangs and noises. By dropping metal food bowls or clapping unexpectedly, you will help them become less skittish when gun fire is introduced. Remember there is no rush – it is important to introduce it gradually.

Carry an un-cocked air rifle during training

Carry your air rifle with you throughout all training, so that when you do eventually fire it from a distance, your dog won’t associate them with each other. This will help your dog adjust without developing a fear of when you are carrying the object.

We hope these tips help you to settle into a great routine with your young gundog.

All you need to know about Flyball

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Notts Supadogs Flyball ClubIs your dog full of energy, great with other dogs and do they love to engage in physical activity?

If you enjoy team sports, meeting other people and travelling with friends, then a sport like Flyball might be ideal for both of you.

What is Flyball?

Flyball is a race where two different teams of dogs run side by side over a 51-foot course. Each team is made up of 4 dogs and each dog must run over jumps, trigger a Flyball box (which releases a ball), retrieve the ball and then return over the jumps.

The next dog is then released in a relay fashion until all dogs have crossed the finish line. Fastest wins! 

What qualities does a handler need to have?

  • Be highly motivated
  • Make everything positive
  • Have a good recall skill
  • Have a good bond with their dog

Can any breeds make up a Flyball team?

Yes, any breeds can make up a team and they can all run together!

What is the age restriction?

All dogs must be over 12 months to compete in a team.

How many times a week should they train?

Training is ideally done once or twice a week and competitions/open tournaments take place all year round.

What kind of tournaments are there?

There are Open Tournaments, Multibreed Tournaments, and Intermediate and Starter racing. The first two are BFA sanctioned tournaments which run in accordance with the BFA rules, and all dogs and handlers must be registered with the BFA to enter the ring.

Intermediate and Starter racing is more suited for younger dogs because in this race, dogs don’t have to trigger the box and boxloaders can give the dogs plenty of encouragement. Younger dogs benefit from lower jumps irrespective of their own height here too.

Top tips:

A lot of practice is key for this sport! As a working dog, your dog shouldn’t be easily distracted but it’s important to ensure your dog always wants to come back to you. Using their favourite treat or toy can help with this and teach them to zone everything out.

Milestone Awards:

BFA points are also awarded to each dog racing if all four dogs complete the leg without error. Milestone Awards are awarded to dogs throughout their Flyball career!

If Flyball is a sport you think you’d like to get involved with, search to see where your nearest team play.

Notts Supadogs

Alpha is proud to be the current sponsor of Notts Supadogs Flyball Club, who are a great team, achieving many successes and having lots of fun whilst doing so! Find out more about them on their Facebook page.

dog on beach

Gundog training for the summer 

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The gap between shooting seasons can often seem very long, especially if your gun dog is young.

It’s interesting to note that dogs’ diets change between seasons too – Dogs are more active during the shooting season and therefore require a higher protein & oil diet. When dogs are less active, the food levels need to be dropped which is why dog food companies like us at Alpha have something for each season and requirement. See our range here.

One of the best ways to keep your dog active and learning retrieving skills is to join a summer club which will continue their training and retrieving progress.

Clubs all over the UK

There are clubs all over the country that offer training classes throughout the summer months. These classes usually start at the weekends and then extend into evenings during the week once the days start to get longer.

Many committee members attend these classes and they all have experience in the field of training gun dogs, so they know the best activities to provide.

Training for all levels of gun dogs

Classes are usually split into three groups: novice, intermediate and advanced, and this mix will give your dog plenty of chances to meet a range of new people and dogs. This also helps develop the skills of you and your dog when working together.

  • Novice skills – Novice classes involve the more basic training skills, starting from “sit”, “stay” and “walk at heel”, everything your dog needs to know from day one.
  • Intermediate skills – Intermediate classes move towards hunting-specific skills, such as “basic retrieving” and “short handling exercises”.
  • Advanced skills – Advanced classes involve teaching your gun dog to hunt and quarter its ground. It will also introduce them to gun shot and more advanced handling, as well as retrieving exercises to fully prepare them for days of hunting.

Even if your dog is already well trained with all the skills it needs for retrieving, these classes can be a great opportunity to progress or refresh their skills, preparing them for the forthcoming season.

These clubs are also a great opportunity for the owners for meet and swap information about shooting and retrieving in their local area.

Useful links:

See what clubs are offering summer training near you.

dog jumping

How to use treats to train your dog

By | Alpha Feeds, Training | No Comments

Food is one of the most powerful motivators for dogs which is why it is such an effective tool when used in obedience training – it can be one of the best ways to reinforce positive behaviour and makes learning much more enjoyable for them.

Some trainers argue that treats are only suited for non-professional trainers, but there are numerous training books that support the method, particularly when your dog is first learning.

Treats can help build positive reinforcement when introducing tools such as a whistle and when your dog is young enough to be distracted more easily, but remember that treat training doesn’t have to be long term – it can simply help your dog get to grips with what you’re asking to do.

So, here are some rules and tips which could help you out when training your working dog with treats:

  1. Treats should be small and quick to eat
    The edible rewards you use should depend on your dog and how much reward you want to give it, however we recommend choosing treats that can be broken up, free from artificial additives and tasty such as our training treats – they are also wheat gluten free.
  2. Reward during a calm state
    If food excites your dog then remember to wait for it to calm down before rewarding with a treat. We want to reinforce calm behaviour rather than excitable.
  3. Reinforce rather than bribe
    Use treats between verbal praise and affection. The goal is to not have to bribe your dog with proof of a treat every time, but to reinforce the good behaviour after reacting well to instruction.
  4. Reward each step, not just the finale
    Rewarding progress is a great way of saying to your dog “yes, that was good!”, even if the entire command wasn’t met. They will eventually work out which reactions are good and get ever closer to the goal.
  5. Introduce a whistle or clicker
    If you’re worried about overdoing the treats or becoming a distraction for other dogs with treats in your pockets, then you can introduce a whistle or clicker alongside a treat. Then slowly fade out the treats until the dog understands what that clicker or whistle noise means.
springer spaniel

How to improve your dog’s recall

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Stopping an errant dog and getting it to come back is one of the biggest challenges of gundog training. Losing control of your dog can not only be embarrassing but it can cause harm to any game animals it’s chasing, and can even put your dog’s life in danger.

It doesn’t take a dog long to learn that they can outrun you, and their basic hunting instincts are incredibly strong, so it can be extremely useful to have the following recall tricks up your sleeve:

Start early

It’s a fact that dogs learn more in their first sixteen weeks than the rest of their life. It is at this time that they are at their most receptive, soaking up information and experiences like sponges so it is important during this stage that they learn their own name. Learning tends to be permanent when taught at this age, but if that time has passed don’t worry, not all is lost!

Use a lead to start basic training

When you first start lead training, it is important to start in an enclosed space as this will give your dog enough freedom to learn and yet keeps you firmly in control. As the dog gains understanding of what you’re asking, you can allow it more and more freedom. Cues and rewards help with this training, and details of each are listed below.

Use loud hearing cues such as a whistle

There are some obvious benefits to using a dog whistle for dog recall. For one, whistle sounds travel much further than that of the human voice, especially on windy days and they don’t show emotion or panic, unlike the human voice. It also provides consistency when helping your dog to learn.

Reward good behaviour

The best way to your dog’s heart is through its stomach, and giving them high-value treats shows them that they’ve done a good job. However, all dogs are different and whilst most dogs would take a food based treat as a reward, others may prefer to be rewarded in another way e.g. by playing with a ball.

Never punish bad behaviour

It can be very frustrating to lose control of your dog, but any punishment upon their (eventual) return could be very confusing. The last thing you want to do is give you dog fewer reasons to return, so always reward a dog when it recalls successfully. Keep enforcing that positive behaviour.

TRAINING CLASS TEST RESULTS 18th September 2016

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Prize-line-upUNITED RETRIEVER CLUB
North Midland Area
TRAINING CLASS TEST RESULTS
18th September 2016

The Training Class Test brought the season of training on dummies to a close, ready for dogs and handlers to move on to picking game in the shooting field. Mr Robert Bower again invited us to Manor Farm, Carburton, Notts where we had varied ground for judges David Bellamy and Anna Wagland to test the dogs. As is usual this test is unclassified and divided into three separate classes. The day was sunny and pleasant, and the undulating ground included pasture, a block of maize, and mixed woodland dissected by rides. Three different breeds took part in a friendly atmosphere, with the tests designed to reflect the different stages of training for the three classes.
The awards and prizes of Alpha dog food were presented by our host Robert Bower and the awards were as follows:

Results:-
PUPPY & BEGINNERS
1st. Mandy Minshall’s Lab d “Connor”

NOVICE
1st. Nessa Thompson@s Lab d “Pepsi”
2nd. Paul Williams’ GR d “Macy”
3rd. Caroline Hewison’s FCR d “Reef”
4th. Marlene Dobson’s Lab d “Spice”
CoM. Cherry Wood’s FCR d “Raven”
cake
OPEN
1st. Christina Robinson’s Lab d “Eddy”
2nd. Phil Robinson’s Lab d “Quin”
3rd. Terry Dobson’s Lab d “Brigadier”
4th. Nessa Thompson’s GR d “Willow”
CoMs: Polly Morten’s Lab d “George”
Mandy Minshall’s Lab d “Flynn”