Sadly this is the first year that we played and didn't make the finals. I suppose a little humble pie is good for us all from time to time. Apparently we had become too accustomed to bringing home one of the coveted jugs of pickles or one of the other lesser prizes. That being said, I am very proud of how Powder ran this morning. She worked the field expertly and handled like a pro. The conditions were tough, many people came in with no birds or only one. Usually the finals are determined by the fastest time, today only those who got their two birds to hand within the ten minute time limit moved onto the final. Powder did have her second bird, but the horn sounded as I moved into position... Disappointing to say the least. We let little Ila tag along and she had a field day romping around as you may have expected.
We usually send this by email sometime late in October to our clients for the next year. Yes, we know, it's nearly a year before a new Two Gun pup will cross the threshold into your home. Which means, right now is a great time to start looking into different training options and methods, as there is little pressure. You can read, ask questions, seek out advice, find a local trainer: observe training sessions, etc. and really see what is going to work for you. Making these kinds of decisions once you have the puppy is a whole lot like attempting to fix an airplane while it is in flight...generally not advisable.
Since I regularly get requests for books I like, I figure it's time to give the list a place on the blog.
So here it is, I have dusted off the Recommended Reading list yet once again and getting it published in time for the holidays - so you have time to add one or more to your wish list and see what Santa has to say and see if anything makes it to your stocking.
What do these books have in common? Generally speaking, they are in tune with modern canine behavioral science vs. the old school ways I was taught when I was a young man which were quite barbaric by today's standards. They relied on force and were much less effective. So without further adieu:
The Puppy Primer, by Patricia B. McConnell
- for that matter any Patricia B. McConnell book on training/dog behavior
How to raise a puppy you can live with, by Clarice Rutherford
How to help gun dogs train themselves, taking advantage of early conditioned learning, by Joan Baily. **(this is a favorite)**
Dog Sense, by John Bradshaw
The Genius of Dogs, by Brian Hare
Bird Dog, the Instinctive Training Method, by Ben O. Williams
The Drentsche Patrijshond for the North American Fancier, by B. P. O'Connor
Since we have you here in the mindset to learn and read. Here is some reading we believe will also be worth your time and why we build our guarantee around a spay/neuter in early adulthood, if you feel compelled to do it. In short, the early spay/neuter is being strongly implicated/tied to joint irregularities, tendon injury, and even increased the risk of many cancers, please take some time to review these scientific articles:
Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete
Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers
There are also some great training resources on YouTube:
HigginsGunDogs: Brad's methods emphasize a dog's natural cooperation. He uses his experience and background in training falcons on pointing dogs. We will train 1-on-1 with Brad later this year and we are very excited!
StandingStoneKennnels: This young couple has some really nice videos, and some I'm not so in love with. They use a blend of different training methods and they cover a wide range of dog and puppy topics.
Stonnie Dennis: A client recently turned me on to Stonnie. He uses a gentile technique and is a talented handler. The downside, now I have been accused of being long winded but really can't hold a candle... If you have patience and time his videos can be highly informative.
This post was inspired by having a few memories jogged after reading a favorite article by Dave Carty: Slow Down (Let Your Dog Work)
After a few pit stops on our long and winding way, we arrived to the spot. Dave got his Chevy parked in one of the standard places for hunting the area and, it became quite apparent that the temperature was already getting the best of us. Dave was immediately expressing concern over ‘dropping’ Powder to hunt, but the desire to have her down was high, since it was clear she was not going to have another season. Having an old and frail dog now myself, you take it day by day. They could have six more months, or today might be their last. I know this is where Dave was, so I just did my best to be supportive and respect his decisions doubly so when it came to Powder.
The intent was to hike down one branch of a ‘Y’ shaped coulee, mill around at the junction and then head back up the other unmolested branch. So that is what we did with very little fanfare. I still have a soft spot for Brits since my own, Mountain Sal. As we hiked, keeping an ever-watchful eye on Powder, we reminisced over some of the hunts we had shared over her. One which will likely stick out in mind for as long as I am able to keep memories neatly cataloged, is the hunt in which Dave bagged a gorgeous fully masked adult bull Mearns over a nicely stuck point from Powder. Making the event even more memorable was the high overhead passing shot Dave successfully made to bag the bird. With the bird plucked from the sky, it pitched into some heavy cover. Powder was asked to make her retrieve, which she did so with purpose and grace and with an impressively gentle mouth the bird was retrieved perfectly preserved. Dave gifted me the bird and I had it mounted.
I digress - after hiking ever so slowing down to the heart of the ‘Y’ the heat continued to rise, and it was clear Powder wasn’t really liking the heat. It was easy to see in her gait, how much water she had taken, so it was no surprise the level of Dave’s concern was ever so increasing with every few minutes. We paused in the shade in the crook of the ‘Y’ and talked about the easiest way to go back up, how best to try and keep Powder in the shade and debated at what point do we consider picking her up to carry her. The more we debated the pros and cons of our ideas, interspersed with our normal casual conversation Dave became very frustrated with himself for taking her ‘this far’ and that she hadn’t even gotten birdy. The risk wasn’t worth it, and I understood. As we talked about all of these things Dave kept his gaze uphill, presumably looking at the peak which the truck was parked just below. I, on the other hand, was watching Powder.
So as it is we are likely to call this 'heeling' and/or 'leash manners', it is both and not at all, at the same time. We have been getting more and more into the Higgins Method of dog training, and frankly it is a direction I have been pointed in for years and didn't realize it. Brad really doesn't like using the words we have assigned to conventional tasks and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this about it. Those old commands come with a lot of baggage and the baggage can be hard to leave behind. I mean after all the use of 'heel' has just as much been ingrained into our minds and how we employ it.
I wrote an article on this topic not long ago "Stop your dog from pulling!," and I am not disavowing what I wrote. Rather, I am going to build on it since I have learned more in how to put these things together. The title of the article reeks of disciplinarian style obedience (which wasn't intended and rather unfortunate). Having a dog that knows how to walk nicely with you is right up there with having a dog with a bullet proof recall. It can save your dog's life and on the lighter end of the scale make walking with your dog so much more pleasant.
Allow me to digress a little - over the years we have been using more 'classical conditioning' methods vs old school dog training, also known as 'operant conditioning', as outlined in 'Super Socialization' I recently posted. With Ila we have pushed further into this and have achieved some really nice results without any pressure.
Both methods I have highlighted here are very similar to using a JASA collar to teach this, without the expense or need of a JASA. In practice the 'figure-eight' you make in the lead ensures it is in the correct position to do its job. Through this it allows the dog to teach itself how and where to be when walking with you.
Your dog does need confidence walking on leash in order to employ this method. So if she is pulling hard at the leash, she is ready. The dog controls the 'pressure' it takes on. The dog really does all of the teaching it needs vs you pressuring the dog into position. Now that Ila's confidence on the leash has made her a bit of a nuisance, her 'leash work & heeling' has moved onto the phase of using Brad Higgins' 'The Walk' method and with really good success at that. So get ready to add another layer of teamwork and trust:
Kat from StandingStone Kennels uses essentially the same method, and she explains the use of the method a little more and maybe a little better. You will see she uses an EasyLead which in comparison to the light line Brad uses, I feel, is slightly less effective. Make your own mind up:
aka, Udo fan't Suydevelt. He is a stunning dog with a resume to match! Cooper is a Dutch, Belgian, Luxembourg youth champion, Youth Winner '14, Junior Benelux Winner, Herbst Jugend Sieger, Belgian champion, Belgian winner of the Raspeciale and, to top it all, Junior World Winner 2014! This is being modest, as his resume literally goes on and on and on... Enjoy this little gallery of this handsome boy. We strongly feel will be very complimentary to Mila and vice versa in all ways possible. This is without question, an exciting opportunity for the North American Drent community. As you might expect Two Gun just might have something else we have been working on...and hope to make that announcement soon. Until then, enjoy.
We have all read at least something about the importance of socializing a puppy. The need to get pupper out and about, while being aware if not slightly paranoid about the ‘fear period’. Well, that isn’t too far from the truth. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, when do I start training pup? And my answer has always been and will continue to be, right after you take possession of your pup – that is when it starts. With no pressure, some selective extinction, and positive reinforcement you can head so many bad behaviors off at the pass. Allowing, aka fostering, annoying puppy behaviors only serve to set your pup up for a lifetime of some unbearable habits. Somehow people with toy breeds find this cute, but for us, our Drents will be too big, too strong, and too smart to allow these habits to persist.
From age 6 to 16 weeks pups are super impressionable. We, your breeder, do the best we can with the two weeks we have of that time with visitors, oddball sounds, water, and so on. What have you planned for the following 8 weeks? This is a critical investment period. Just like putting money on Sun Microsystems, or Facebook at their Initial Public Offering…it doesn’t take a lot to really become something noteworthy and lasting. What is the investment that you have made? If you have spent your ‘money’ on Coors Light, there is still time to turn it around if you are ready and willing. But it will take some sacrifice and a bit of discipline on your part.
By and large there are nine factors to consider: Socialization, Adaptation, Exploration, Puppy Play, Social Dominance, Separation, Fear, Training, and Imprinting.
Take a moment to study this super sweet chart, it will serve as your road-map to either stay on course, or to find a successful path.
I am guilty as charged with oversimplification and incorrectly calling the bulk of puppy development ‘socialization’. Some old habits just refuse to let themselves go. None the less, Socialization is currently defined as allowing your pup to adapt and explore its environment. Ideally you set everything up to be as positive as humanly positive. Keeping a sack of hotdog nubbins handy can really be useful of making these, sometimes surprisingly challenging situations, into positive fun experiences. In this Play Socialization period pup is learning how they are supposed to behave. Are you teaching pup to sit quietly before feeding time or before greeting a new person? Or is this time of chaos, clawing, and yipping? And all it takes it to wait until pup settles and then offer pup its bowl, in no time at all, pup will sit quietly for feeding time. This is the foundation you are allowing to be built, these are the coping behaviors pup is learning at the same time pup is building confidence and learning basic decision-making skills.
Adaptation is how your pup reacts to the different stimuli you have presented to him. It is the other side of the coin so to speak, it is what we see, the reaction from the socialization. This window begins to close around 12 weeks. If you have missed this, there is still merit in designing positive experiences which involve vacuums, the terrifying fire hydrant across the street, bikes, and so forth. Use those high value treats to get pupper to accept that Dyson, the cardboard box you have randomly placed in the middle of the living room, or what have you. Take it slow and incrementally. Show pup its okay, and it might even be fun. You will not regret the time spent.
Exploration, this is when your pup starts to socialize itself. They have the confidence to step out and explore on their own. This too happens between 7 and 12 weeks. Expect pup to not want to be too far from you. After all, who doesn’t want to be too far from their security blanket? Your job here is to simply support them, and help ensure their exploration is safe, fun, and positive. Also expect pup to try to consume the damnedest things during this time – be on the look out and be ready to fish the craziest stuff out of pup’s mouth. This is also when they start to explore chewing, and you will need to be able to redirect pup to what is acceptable. Shouting ‘no’ across the room is simply not adequate. Offering pup an acceptable alternative is an absolute necessity. Your pup may be very trustworthy, but allowing them unsupervised access would be a rather poor decision. Encourage his exploration, but also be ready to redirect.
Puppy Play, yes, it is also important to let your puppy to be just what he or she is. A puppy. Yep, that’s right just play with your puppy. This is much more important than you may realize, this seemingly unstructured time helps to build trust, and with trust comes affection. This is the foundation of what makes a Drent super awesome to own. They love to please their boss. Use this time to help shape boundaries. With very little effort this play time will serve to support the manors you have been working on in the other areas of his early puppy development. You get to control the intensity of 'what right looks like', so do so. Use treats, and toys. Relax, have fun. But keep your head.
Social Dominance takes place between 10 and 16 weeks and this is when pups begin to identify where they are in the pecking order. Recognized by most, are the three categories of the social hierarchy: Aggressive-Dominate, Sub-Dominant, and Inhibited-Submissive – there are other subcategories, but that would be a whole other thing to write about… Most dogs tend to be somewhere in the Sub-Dominate element of the social dominance spectrum. Meaning they are confident, capable, and able to display both dominate and submissive behaviors based on different situations. The Inhibited Submissive pups are not able to assert themselves and tend to be the target of the more dominate dogs.
Whereas the Aggressive-Dominate dogs learn their behaviors while playing with litter-mates, and will continue to practice their behaviors, generally through play, with you. It is important to recognize the signs and do your part to temper these behaviors early on. Behaviors like mouthing, nipping, or biting need to be redirected and focused in more appropriate ways. Generally, through constructive play, and having a positive redirect is all you need.
Separation, a dog has to be okay with not being by your side constantly. This is where crate training pays its dividend over and over. Get that puppy Kong loaded with peanut butter (and freeze it) or freeze carrots, and/or pups’ favorite toy and have pup sleep in its crate, even if this is right next to you as you write an article, or Facebook with your friends. At first this may only have to be for a few minutes at a time, and work towards extending it as they get comfortable. Also, you may need to shorten the time as you move pups kennel further away from you. Just play with the variables. Set pup up for success. You want to avoid traumatic events, leaving pup in the crate for extended periods, and you want to really avoid allowing pup out while it’s crying. If you must, use a distraction if pup is squalling and move quickly once it has stopped – you want to avoid having them make the connection that their protest was the key to them getting let out. A nice sharp clap of the hands can be just what the doctor ordered. Don't be afraid to put pup on a schedule. In short, like all thing’s puppy, when in doubt create positive experiences. You will not regret it.
Fear. More or less between 8 and 10 weeks is the famed and feared ‘puppy fear stage’. In short, don’t force a puppy. Do what you can to control and shape the situation to make it positive. Do your best to not coddle, as this only serves to reinforce their fear reaction. Your best bet is to practice ‘extinction’ aka, ignore the fear response, and devise a way to get a positive response. Break the situation down into steps. Sometimes those steps may need to be further broken down. Be sure to then reward each step that has been conquered. If you can’t make it positive – just stop. It should go without saying putting the pup into a situation where you have little or no control is just a bad idea – don’t do it.
Training. Yes, you have to train your puppy starting right away - even Drents. Everything you do or don’t do is training him something. You do have to understand that puppies have attention spans which aren’t that spectacular. However, once you come to realize puppy training is all of the things you have read thus far. From getting them out and about, play, familiarization with their crate, waiting until they settle before putting their food bowl down, doing the recall game, and of course potty training. Puppy training works best when it tends to be play centric, rewards for the desired behavior are regularly offered. Negative reinforcement with young pups needs to be refrained from. If they are doing wrong guide them to what is right, and praise once the correct behavior is offered.
Imprinting is really what all of this is about. With a constant and consistent message of what is appropriate, and welcome will become imprinted upon the pup. This is why correcting some bad behaviors in older dogs can be nearly impossible. It’s like a stain on a favorite shirt, it isn’t coming out, no matter how many times it is sprayed and washed. So, don’t be careless with how and what you do with pup. Be deliberate, take advantage of the malleability of these early weeks shape the dog you want to live with for the next ten or so years.
Great, so what kinds of things should I be doing? Well there are 12 things which should be done before week 16 comes to a close:
1) Meet 100* strangers: 40% Men, 40% Children, 20% Women, and of as many different races and ethnicity as possible.
2) Body handling: Make sure that puppy enjoys every inch of his body being touched and poked and prodded.
3) Meet 100* dogs: all breeds, sizes, ages, sexes, and reproductive status. Just make sure the dogs are healthy and friendly. It is perfectly fine for a dog to gently correct your puppy for being rude, but we do not want the dog attacking or over-correcting your puppy.
4) 10 Different floor surfaces: From wet grass to metal exam tables to rickety old decks. Think about all the different textures puppies will experience in their lives.
5) New environments: Parking lots, busy streets, children’s parks and playgrounds, vets’ offices, pet supply stores, cafes, etc.
6) Household noises: From dishwashers and pots & pans to vacuums and blow dryers, as well as thunder, fireworks, and cars whirring by on a busy street. Don’t forget babies crying, children laughing, and people shouting! YouTube can be your best friend...
7) Children’s toys: From remote control toys and noise-making toys to balloons and kiddie pools.
8) Things with wheels: strollers, bikes, skateboards, shopping carts, etc.
9) Costumes & appearances: everything from hats and helmets to beards and masks, lab coats and hooded jackets to high heels and big boots, canes and walkers to umbrellas and people carrying boxes/big bags e.g. mailman/UPS/FedEx. Have you chatted with your mail delivery person? Maybe it is high time to meet the actual mailman with your puppy. Don’t forget the treats!
10) Household objects: computer printers, stairs (both open stairs and solid stairs), step stools and ladders, trash bags (both black and white – it does make a difference), exercise equipment, lawn signs…
11) Smells & scents: From grass to gasoline at a gas station or window cleaner, perfume, pizza… whatever you can think of. Obviously you don’t want your puppy breathing in chemicals, but you also don’t want your dog to freak out when he does a ride-along at the gas station, when you wash the windows, or when you get dressed up for a date. New smells can freak a dog out.
12) Dog stuff: Leashes, collars, harnesses, crates and gates, food dishes of various types, car rides, and TOYS! Toys of all types. Yes, you actually have to teach them what toys are appropriate, or they won’t know what to do with them.
*100…really, it’s a nearly impossible goal for normal working people. The point is, push yourself to get pupper out and about. Be smart, be safe with where you go. Just be sure to make the time, because soon the 16 week door will close, and you will not be able to reopen it.
Clover (No. 4) wishes everyone a Happy Independence Day, and to our British friends, we are glad you got over your whooping and hope you enjoyed the day working..
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fifty some years later this is what you get.