Socializing a Puppy

socializing bird dogWhile choosing the right puppy to be your gun dog is obviously important to their success, you’ll still need to develop your puppy into a healthy, well-tempered adult dog. Before tackling more complicated training, you’ll need to make sure your puppy is comfortable interacting with other people and situations.

You should get serious about socialization when your dog begins to establish its independence and has reached a sufficient level of mental development. For most dogs, an ideal window is at an age of around six to eight weeks, but every breed—and every individual puppy, for that matter—is different.

Every dog, however, should be introduced to new people and environments at an early age. This is especially true for potentially uncomfortable interactions, like with the veterinarian, obedience teacher, kennel, and groomer. Whether you’re with family, friends, or complete strangers, encourage other humans to gently handle your puppy to get him used to interaction and build confidence. Socializing with other dogs is just as important as human interaction. Dog parks are a great place to meet other puppies and build confidence in being around them.

Interacting with others is very important, but you’ll want your puppy to show unmatched companionship and loyalty to you, so take him with you wherever you can, personally introducing him to new experiences that strengthen your relationship. Play with him, displaying a positive attitude, and use his name over and over. It’s okay to let him wander a bit, but always keep a watching eye and be ready to intervene if necessary. Your dog should know that you are in charge, and also that you’ve “got his back”.

One of the most important aspects of bird dog socialization is managing frightening situations. Overcoming fearful situations should be a huge priority. At first, you should protect a puppy from things like loud noises, slowly introducing him to them over time. If a dog is frightened of anything from a lawnmower to a stereo, divert his attention by showing enthusiasm for something else.

Also, remember that you are perhaps more capable than anything of inspiring fear. While it’s important to be stern when your dog does something wrong, scolding him without a clear and present reason for doing so will only confuse him. Make sure that other humans are consistent with disciplinary signals as well. It’s most often better to reinforce and encourage good behavior than it is to punish bad behavior.

By socializing your puppy into a healthy and respectful adult dog, you can set the stage for a healthy and productive hunting relationship. Introducing your partner to the world is healthy for you as well. For expert training that will work wonders for both you and your dog, visit Valhalla Kennels & Gun Dogs today.

How to Pick a Puppy

choosing a puppy for a gun dogChoosing the right puppy to train into a bird dog can be tricky business. Imagine looking at young child and trying to determine which natural gifts they will grow into. It’s difficult to make choices when the consequences are so far into the future, and when so much commitment is required to bring the most out of the puppy you eventually choose.

It’s tough to decide, and it should be. But there are plenty of key signs that can make you confident you’re choosing the right hunting partner for your future.

First, remember that every breed is different, with their own advantages and disadvantages. Some are better than others are with different climates, terrains, and hunting prey. Do some research and talk with experts about which breed might be best for you, while maintaining an open mind about factors you might not have considered thus far.

Once you’ve decided on a breed you like, and you’re visiting a breeder, surveying available puppies, use indications of health to narrow your search down to some reliable choices. Make sure you have verifiable proof of veterinarian examinations and shots administered. Use your own judgment to determine whether a puppy looks vibrant and healthy, and avoid those that look sickly and skinny. A dog’s fully-grown size can be estimated fairly well at an early age.

Perhaps the most important factor in determining a good puppy to use as a bird dog, and the most reliable, is a record of the puppy’s pedigree. If their parents are good bird dogs, this is a huge indicator that you have a winner on your hands. If you can witness the parents in action yourself, that’s great. But referrals or videos of work in the field are nice as well. As with any animal, a puppy’s genetics play a huge role in their development, from sense of smell to the way they behave in different situations.

Speaking of behavior, it never hurts to interact with a puppy you’re interested in to get a sense of what their future could hold. Play around with your puppy, making sure they’re not too testy or too calm. However, don’t put too much stock into how they act as puppies, as they still have a great deal of growing and training ahead of them. The best candidates are those that have a history of being handled by people.

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a select few, and you can’t seem to find any quantifiable differences between them, trust your instinct to make the final choice. Settle on the puppy with which you feel the strongest underlying connection. After all, you’ll be spending a great deal of time with your new friend.

Valhalla Gun Dogs & Trainers has been a premier Colorado upland bird hunting club since 1989 and a kennel since 1998. Visit our website or give us a call today if you’re interested in expert, year-round training for both you and your canine hunting partner.

Bird Dog Training: Range

I’m addressing a question I get asked on a daily basis by clients, “How far should I let my dog range”. This is a reasonable question.  First I’ll define range.  This is the distance that your dog hunts in front of you.  Let’s not over complicate this simple idea.  I could break this down to breed specifics, talk about pointers vs. flushers, scenting conditions, wind directions, cover density, etc.  For the sake of discussion, I’m going to keep this as basic as possible.

I put a great deal of time into training a gun dog.  I start each pup in a specific manner and methodically move them through the training process, with the ultimate goal being a finished gun dog.  That being said, how far should we let them range?  Simple, if I’m hunting and my dog is flushing birds out of gun range, the dog is too far out in front of me.   If I’m hunting and the dog is pointing at greater distances, let’s say 200 yard out, sticking birds, holding them rock steady until the flush and shot, and making flawless retrieves, then that is a range the dog is capable of handling.

I think a better question to ask is “how do I control my dog’s range”? Whether you have a 40 yard bootlicker or a 200 yard rocket you still need to maintain control and adapt to conditions.  I preach to my clients, that many people have sporting breeds but very few have hunting dogs and the difference is how the puppy is started from day one.  So let’s remember the basics. We start off with every pup dragging a check cord.  We do this for a reason.  Yard work is the foundation for every future gun dog. 

If we do not lay the foundation, range will be just one of the many problems you have with your dog.   Maybe you need to go back to quartering drills to bring them into check.  Maybe some reinforcement with the whoa command or sit to the whistle.  All the simple drills we spent endless hours training before we transitioned the dog to the electronic collar need to be revisited.  Remember guys, we should be able to drive our dogs through the field like high dollar sports cars. When a command is given we require an immediate response from our dogs or they are instantly corrected.  So my general rule is I give my dogs enough rope to hang themselves.  If they are doing great and sticking points I let them range.  If they need to be brought in a bit we go back to our quartering and whoa work and the basic foundation we laid in the beginning.