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The next day found the guns still in a slump. Then my friend's dog did something it had never done before - it started barking. At first it was nothing more than a short yip-bark after the bird flew on. Later, after two missed birds in a row, this dog became so frustrated that he proceeded to bark incessantly. Most dogs get out of their frustrated state by breaking, but this guy had been disciplined from an early age that breaking was not an option. Nevertheless a release was needed and he chose to bark... and bark... and bark. It was too much and the dog was excused, his eyes glazed. He was still barking as he was taken off the line. My friend, feeling quite embarrassed, left right afterwards and has not trialed since. This dog has gone on to prove itself in the grouse thicket, and so some might conclude that other than a misfire of his mind at a field trial, the intensive early training did no harm. But I can't help but wonder if this dog had been allowed to be a puppy a little more - allowing his brain to catch up with his talent - if he couldn't have been one of the great dogs in the game. This really was an animal of superior ability.

This dog was trained intensively from an early age and it almost broke him, so how much, how often should a person train? The short answer is; when you can.

"Those who take their time and concentrate on what's appropriate for a pup at a particular age, experience a very high percentage of success."

Quality of training is far more important than the quantity of time. If you can quality train more often that's great, but don't worry if you can't get free more than a few times a week. It is what you do with that time that's important.

With Spaniels in particular you can repeat a lesson too often. Too many concentrate on lesson repetition to the point of boredom for the dog and so the dog will vary the game, to the frustration of the owner! Close Bonds with your dog come from not only acceptance of roles in the relationship but also mutual respect. Respect your dog's intelligence.

Dogs are pack animals and the trainer "must" be the pack leader, the Alpha! The dog you are training needs to clearly understand where he is in the pecking order and accept that relationship.

I recently got an older pup back that had been staying with a very sweet gal who could get him out in public and socialize him. Living out in the backwoods my dogs don't get the kind of exposure to different people that they should, so I sent this guy off to live in town for a few months. She succeeded well in the socialization but the dog ruled and liked getting his own way. I have done very little with this pup since getting him back other than be consistent and go give em a reminder that it is I, not him, that was leader of the pack. In less than a month we re-established the pack hierarchy. He is happier and so am I, yet I did nothing special other than be consistent and insist the dog understand his role in the Pack.

If you understand and practice clear commands, attentiveness, respect, and your role as Pack Leader, you will reach your training goals. Good Luck!

Bob and Lillie

Bob Sansom is a professional trainer, handler, and field trial judge. He owned, trained, and campaigned NAFC Winter Winds White Knight, also known as Duffy. He breeds field trial and gun dog springers at his Winterwind Kennels. Bob is the founding member and President of the Tilden Valley English Springer Spaniel Club. He resides near Marquette, Michigan.

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