Spaniel Journal Home Page

Saighton Spaniels
Saighton Spaniels

With the young puppies I was asked to take them as a group and let them run freely through the marsh fringes and stubble fields that ran along the lake near the kennels. By doing this 10-week-old puppies would come across pheasants, coveys of the native gray partridge and hares. This was the type of thing I had always done at home starting with my original spaniel. The main difference was that I had a litter at a time rather than just a single puppy. At first these puppies would simply run around and hunt scent when they came across it. It was surprising how quickly the Dinas Dewi litter went from hunting scent to hunting for scent, a most important distinction. Two puppies in particular were hunting in a most mature manner by the time they were 14 weeks old. Although there was no disciplined control Stinger's Image and Squall were hunting with the intensity not usually seen in a dog 14 months old or more in the States. Both of these dogs became FT Champions a few years later. Nothing was shot for these puppies at the time. They were simply having fun finding game. The less forward puppies were being pulled forward and given confidence by the two outstanding puppies. Because nothing was being shot for these puppies they didn't bother to chase the game very far. I found this time with puppies great fun. There was virtually no training pressure and you could see their inbred instincts developing. The idea here was to develop the puppy's natural instinct and ability without inhibiting it by formal training or discipline. At Saighton kennels it was always thought you could not make a dog hunt with desire and intensity, but you could easily inhibit the dogs inbred instinct to do so by too much or too intense discipline before its natural instinct was developed sufficiently. At the same time the retrieving instincts were being developed, but not while the pups were out hunting. This was done back at the kennels. Each pup was taken out individually and given only a couple of simple retrieves. I usually kept it to two or three retrieves so they didn't loose interest and become distracted.

"When the dog is mentally ready to learn, it should learn easily and quickly."

When more formal training began was always a question of judgment. The dog will usually tell you if it is ready to proceed. If the dog learns quickly what you are trying to teach it, it is ready. If it doesn't learn quickly it may not be mentally ready to do so or you are going about your training in an incorrect manner. Just as a 10-year-old child is not likely to be able to learn and understand advanced nuclear physics, dogs need to mentally mature before accepting more advanced training. Whatever is taught needs to be fun early on.

After the first shooting season was over at Presaddfed I started formally training the Dinas Dewi litter. I didn't seem to be getting anywhere quickly. I took some dogs to the States and was away for six weeks. When I came back it was as if someone had been training the dogs in my absence. The truth of the matter was that the dogs were watered and fed, but not much more. What I hadn't accomplished in a few weeks of work, I accomplished almost instantly on my return. It was after this that I came to the conclusion if you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall when training a dog stop banging your head. If your methods are correct and the dog doesn't seem to be catching on to what you are trying to teach it, leave it for sometime and try later. When the dog is mentally ready to learn, it should learn easily and quickly. Over the years at Saighton kennels I've had dogs that I've steadied and shot over by the time they were 6 to 8

Page 3

| Spaniel Journal | Previous Page | Next Page |

Copyright © Spaniel Journal 2002, all rights reserved