Build a Relationship
In these first early months with your pup the most important aspect of your work with the dog is to build a relationship that will result in respect and a liking for each other. Some people find it difficult to admit that they ‘love’ a dog but they will admit to liking it a lot. But like it you must, if you are to put effort into the work and get enjoyment out. If you like your dog and can show it, there is no doubt that the dog will respond. Your dog in return will like you and through training should learn to respect you more. However, if you don’t like your dog then you will find it difficult to understand its actions and accept its weaknesses. Not every dog is the same and there are many cases where people have suffered a dog they do not like because they see it as a weakness of their own to give it up. My own feeling is that it is also wrong for the dog to suffer, because there is no doubt that it will. What is the wrong chemistry for one ‘man’ and his dog may be right for another ‘man’ and the same dog. We are all different animals and cannot expect a relationship to ‘gel’ in every instance. If you feel that you just cannot get on with the dog then don’t be too proud to let someone else have the dog and don’t be too conceited to accept that they may do a better job of working with that dog than you could. Your next dog could be the one that responds perfectly to you and creates a partnership that is unbeatable.
Spending time with your dog, training it and enjoying working together helps to build a good relationship. I have heard it said many times that if you want to build a good relationship then you should always feed the dog yourself. I certainly do not believe this to be true. It may help, but true respect and a bonded relationship comes from working and achieving together where you give the dog the training and jobs to do which it really wants to do. With a gundog that is all aspects of gundog work and particularly going shooting. When you can read your dog accurately and in return it reads you and your wishes that is when a real relationship has been formed. You work together as a team, a partnership which, almost silently, performs a job as natural as wild animals hunting in a pack. A glance at each other, a hand signal from you, a cock of the head and glance from your dog, a change in body action as the dog picks up scent and tells you to be ready, you know each other and are working with the same objective in mind. A relationship is formed and bonded but behind it is a lot of training and hard work from both of you, mixed with a fair amount of affection.
Always give your dog time to learn, some learn quickly, others not so quick and the speed of learning can change as your dog progresses and a dog which developed quickly in the early days of its life can slow down as it gets older whereas a slow developer may learn much quicker once things begin to click. Don’t try to show off with your dog to friends. Don’t try to advance in big steps, take it a little at a time, let the dog be successful in easy stages and in this way as you both succeed the relationship will grow.
If at six months old your dog will sit and stay on command, come when called, walk on a lead comfortably, do a simple retrieve and hunt for a hidden one then you are setting the foundation upon which a good gundog can be built.
During these first formative months you are creating habits, make them good ones – the foundation upon which the rest of your training can develop. Don’t only train your dog but also your family to treat the dog correctly and not make problems for you. By making your times with your young dog happy and enjoyable, you will create the foundations to build upon and a relationship that will last a lifetime.