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Established 1925

Incorporated 1929


The "Come" command

Gun Dog Supply

Now that our bird season is almost over, it might be time to take a hard look at how some of our off season dog training paid off for this season. By and large, a bird's dogs performance and usefulness as we hunt throught the season is largely the result of just two factors. One, the dog's natural ability, and two, the dog's grounding in basic obedience commands.

The only one of these factors that we can directly control once the pup is home with us is the level of basic obedience training at which the dog will perform.For all pointing dogs there are just three obedience commands that are required to ensure great field performance as our dog goes about her duties. These commands are "come", "whoa" and "heel". The only other thing that is necessary is that the dog be broke or acclimated to the report of the shotgun. Over the next few months I will cover each of these areas one at a time.

The first command that we need to teach is "come". Without unfailing obedience to this command, our hunting days, will be filled with frustration as the dog will spend more time doing what he wants to do resulting in more time with you looking for him. Spending the afternoon looking for the dog is HUNTING but it is not exactly the type of hunting that we have in mind. Too many afternoons of this and the hunter will take up golf and the dog will become ignored or worse.

In properly training from puppyhood, we can build a relationship with our dog that will serve us to perfection in the field and serve as a springboard to advanced training.Ok, enough is how you do it.

Starting when pup is 8 weeks old, the basic idea is to train the pup so that his whole world revolves around his desire to be where you are. In this early stage, make the training light-hearted and even a bit of a game. With pup in a confined area, get down on the floor with him several times a day and call pup to you with a light voice, and soft "fweet, fweet" whistle with your mouth. As the pup comes in to you, extend your arms out in a funnel in front of you and welcome him in as he comes. When he gets in, make a big fuss over him, give him a treat and just make him feel that this is the best part of his whole day. It goes without saying at this point that just

I cannot stress enough that the responsibility for the dog's response to this command lies completely with YOU. Do not take the dog out if you are not prepared on any given day to enforce this command and do not give the command once you are out with the dog unless you are fully prepared to go enforce it. By this I mean that if you and the dog are out for a session and he is hunting away from you and you want to have him come in, if you call and whistle and he does not respond, you MUST hoof it to where he is ASAP...

keeping the dog with you and your family as much as possible as you just go about you business each day is very important. Some folks even recommend tying the dog to your waist with a light cord in the first few weeks so that he must go everywhere with you. Anything you can do to help the dog believe that his "place" is with you is beneficial. This helps to establish the dog's "pack" instinct with you as the pack leader. Keep this early training short and sweet, so that pup really comes to look forward these little sessions. Don't over do it and stop well before pup has lost interest.

Once you have this going well, attach a short, light lead to pups collar and when you call him in these sessions, command "come" and give him two quick, little "pops" with the lead as you whistle "fweet, fweet". As before, hold you arms open and welcome him in and make a big fuss over him as before.  Don't drag him to you, he must come on his own at this point. Once he has obeyed and received his reward release him with "ok", this means he is now free until you call him again. He will learn that if he comes, he will be rewarded and then be allowed to go on for a bit.

You should now move the session into the yard once in while. Use a regular walking lead on the dog and let him drag it around as you play with him in the yard and on your little exploring trips afield. Once in awhile, when he comes near, grab the lead and call him to you as before. It is important that in his mind, that the lead come to symbolize your bond with him. At this point you may have to apply a bit of pressure with the lead.

Again, DO NOT drag the dog to you! Call him, give the whistle as you pop him lightly, if he fails to come in, whistle and pop him again and repeat until he is on his way in to you. It is important to keep making a fuss over him each time he complies as we want him to believe that the best thing in the world is to come in to you when he is called. He will soon want avoid being called again and getting another pop with the lead. It is important to give the command when you know the dog can hear you and is likely to respond. Don't get into a tug of war with the dog when he is distracted.

Once the dog is responding well you can begin to mix in some retrieving training as well, you can imagine how well this can work out if he is already coming to you on command. With the dog on the long lead, throw out a dummy a short ways, as soon as he picks it up, call him and give him the "fweet!! fweet!" on the whistle. If the dog obliges and brings you the dummy, welcome him in as before with your arms. Love him up and reward him with a bit of "cookie". Always remember to release the dog with "ok". In the field this will be his cue to resume hunting off in the direction you indicate.

It is helpful to avert your eyes from his a bit as he comes in, so as not to discourage him from coming in. But do remain stern otherwise. One call, two quick whistles and then give the pop on the lead if he is not on his way, and PRONTO!! I might also mention to those of you who, like me, must wear glasses that it is helpful to never try to train a dog when you are wearing tinted lenses or sunglasses. Dogs respond alot to us at all times by reading our body language and eyes are a big thing to dogs. I had a heck of a time with my first dog until I realized that the dog could not see my eyes and she showed alot of confusion at times until I went to glasses with clear lenses. With training dogs, like most things, it is details, details, details.

Next comes the big step. Take the dog out where he can hunt wearing the long lead, but where you are reasonably sure there are no birds. Walk around just a bit holding on to the lead and call the dog a few times when he is not expecting it. Enforce the command and reward as always remembering to always release the dog with "ok" as you send him off to hunt in a new direction.

Then let go and let the dog make a short cast or two. When he comes near enough so that you can get ahold of that lead without making a big deal of it, call him in and see what happens. It is important at this point to have hold of the lead before you call him so the the enforcement is immediate should the dog fail to respond.

By now, our pupil should really be getting the idea that you are always in control and learning that he will hunt only where and when you say. By repeating these sessions several times a week by the time that pup 6 to 9 months old, you should be well on your way to incorporating this lesson into a full fledged "run".

When you have the dog out at this point, still dragging the long lead and he is hunting away from you,, at times this may mean jogging several hundred yards to run him down. But get ahold of that lead ASAP and let him know that you did not appreciate having to come get him. Use a sharp, snarly tone and call him in. When he comes, get down and welcome him in and praise and reward him as before. Obeying the command must always be rewarded no matter what you had to do get to the dog to make him obey.

For real hardhards who seem to be off in their own little world at times, I recommend actually running the dog down and tackling the dog and rolling him over, giving him a good shake or two to let him know that he must pay attention and obey or pay the price. Once you have shaken him up a bit, grab the lead and back off and call him, he will come rushing in now most likely. Give him a big dose of praise everytime he obeys even if you had to run a mile to catch him. I don't know how many times I have had to say "Good dog!" through clenched teeth! This seems to work wonders towards turning off that "convenient hearing" that can develop with some young dogs. I feel that this is much more effective than a shock collar in the long run. If the dog feels that if he does venture over that next hill after he has been called, he may very well run into the boss over there and find him in a very foul mood. Training in this manner makes the dog want to get back to you ASAP when called and get the praise and lovin', rather than risk a good dressing down. Remember to release the dog and step off smartly to continue hunting off in the direction of your choosing.

The basic thing is that the dog must learn that he has a choice; he must come when called and get some lovin' or you are going to appear at the end of that lead he is dragging and get in his face about it. If the dog truly sees you as pack leader, he will choose to come in everytime if you are consistent in enforcing it everytime. If you choose to let him get away with not coming in when called at times, you are, in fact, teaching him that your calling him does carry any weight.

Soon the dog should be hunting with you at all times, checking back in and turning with you as he hunts without alot of "hacking" on your part. Be sure to praise and reward when the dog comes in on his own, remembering to release him off to resume the hunt. Dog's get a big kick out of obeying commands and getting praise, on their own without being told. It is at this point that the dog is truly becoming your hunting partner.

In time you can switch to running him with the shorter lead attached to his collar and then to no lead at all. But, you still must enforce the command at all times if he chooses to ignore you. Remember, only give the command when you are sure he can hear you and is likely to respond and if he doesn't you must go get him even if you are hunting. It does no good to yell at a dog that is already a quarter mile off busting birds or chasing deer. If the young dog does here you at all at times like this, all of your yelling simply teaches him that it is more fun out where he his. Call the dog once, be sure he hears it and then go get him if he does not come in. In this way the dog will stayed "tuned in" to you and not learn to ignore your fuming and fussing at him.

This all does take time, but surely, with diligent application, by the time the dog is into it's second season, the two of you will surely be working as a team, hunting where you want him to hunt, under nearly perfect control as he strives to find birds for you to shoot for him instead of you hunting for him with him off looking for birds for himself.