Sunday, 18 June 2017

Training a 'rescue' working dog breed

Our lovely Working Cocker spaniel, Jamie, has reached the grand old age of three!  He's really doing nicely now, after a LOT of hard work!

The young family who originally owned him loved him to bits, and looked after him beautifully, but weren't able to give him the time and attention he needed, so he was developing some problems. We have lots of experience in dog training, but this one has been a particularly big challenge! Consequently we had been scouring the internet for advice, and came across the excellent Pippa Mattinson .  No we did NOT want to train our dog to be a gundog, but the initial methods recommended for training this breed seemed ideal!

Some months later, certainly Pippa's methods have been enormously helpful - I can't recommend this trainer's methods more highly - and Jamie has made great strides, but this extremely experienced trainer stresses the need for 'proofing' stages in training a dog, and the Working Cocker, specially bred to hunt, has such strong instincts to find his fun 'across the next field', that 'proofing' is a tough nut to crack!
We were finding that although encouraged by lots of progress, we still didn't have 100% confidence tbat we were 'there'  - an absolutely essential requirement before we could really enjoy allowing Jamie to enjoy free running - we devised many alternative means of providing exercise, such as bike running  (OFF ROAD, of course, or on very quiet roads at non-busy times of day) or swimming.

But then I remembered some methods we had used extremely successfully with a previous dog, and decided that Jamie had reached a level where we could try them! In Sylvia Bishop 's book we found a training method which was COMPLETELY different from any other we had tried or even heard of, and  it isn't easy, as her instructions are exacting! But with my husband and I working together to the n'th degree to even make a start, we at last seem to be  moving forward again!  Very hard work, but my goodness it's worth it! What could be more rewarding than to find that on the command "Watch", your dog whips his head around and fixes his eyes on you?

Pippa Mattinson's methods involve food rewards, and indeed these were helpful (we ALWAYS now carry a little sealed pack of cat food with us, as this is invaluable in an emergency!) but for Sylvia's objectives we needed to find a REALLY TOP HOLE game that would reward Jamie for correct responses. So with his 3rd birthday coming up off we went to the ever helpful Direct Pets   in Berwick, who have a good range to choose from!  Sylvia' s methods are based on training what she calls "THE WANT", so we needed to find something that we felt that our dog would really love!  Took ages to find, but this is a WINNER
! Jamie absolutely loves his training, and we're getting there!

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