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Creating a Partner and a Bond
by Martin Deeley

In the last article we talked about the very early days with your pup and mentioned that your pup is learning from the moment you pick it up, in fact he is learning every waking minute. He is constantly learning from the environment and the people with which he interacts. It is important to decide what you will expect from this partnership with your dog, what will be expected of him within the family group and what type of work he will be expected to perform. So often we inadvertently create habits in pups which work against us as we begin more formal training. So know what you want to achieve, plan your training, prepare for it and avoid this trap. As the 'senior' partner in this relationship you have a responsibility for creating the right habits and behaviour. To do this you need to manage the pups activities, and to mould and develop the habits and behaviour you want in your dog through the use of pre-thought out training and positive experiences.

Owners of dogs that we admire often have one common factor that enables them to develop the behaviour and working ability we appreciate in their dog. It's the capacity to create a positive and strong relationship with their dog. Their partnership has been built on respect and clear understanding of each other, and is the bond which ties them together. With some dog owners this comes naturally, with many it has to be learned. In fact as owners and trainers we need to change our habits and behaviour, and train ourselves as much as our dog does to achieve this.

Some have claimed that a strong bond is created through feeding and just spending time with your dog. Teaching the dog obedience is also recognised as a factor in creating a bond. These do help but it is how you do it more than just going through the actions. The word 'obedience' in many owners minds gives the impression of a military type of compliance and interpret this in a way that makes them feel they should be military in their approach to training using strong loud commands and making the dog obey. Although we want a gundog to do what we want when we command it, if we approach it from a different perspective we can develop other ways of training and achieving compliance. Your dog has natural instincts - it wants to run, to hunt, to find game, and to share the find with its partner. If we now take this concept, our training approach can take on a perspective based on reward and sharing. By placing the pup in a position so it can do right, by concentrating on avoiding the situations where it can do wrong, we avoid many adverse reactions to our partnership and minimise the amount of corrections that need to be given. Although there has to be consequences for wilful action, too often owners punish their dog when the dog does not understand the reason for the correction. This can create problems within the relationship and lead to unwanted behaviour. Patience is a virtue as a loss of temper and unfair punishment takes seconds to administer yet the consequences may last forever.

"Quality time is time spent doing things together which are rewarding and enjoyable."

Man and gundog is a partnership, we are working together and need each other in order to succeed. In a true partnership each one is working for the other and receiving reward through joint success. But this should never be viewed as an equal partnership because you must always be recognised as the 'Senior' Partner. There will be times when your dog's skills and natural abilities can do a far better job than you can, equally there will be times when yours will be far better than your dog. Your dog has to recognise this and although he has his own job and responsibilities, in the final account you should be the one with the main say in what happens. What is more rewarding than watching a dog sent for an unseen wounded bird, take the handlers commands, looks back for help when it cannot figure what to do next, and then when it hits the scent of the bird put it's head down and use its own natural skills and intelligence to find and retrieve it. Watch any gun and his dog when they have achieved this and then see the pride and enjoyment in their

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