© 2012 Joshua Stark
Now that I have a spaniel(ish) dog, I've been looking up spaniel training on YouTube, and what I've found are some really, really inspirational videos from folks from the United Kingdom who make training dogs look like a snap.
I've never had a problem with basic obedience out of any of my dogs; I recognize I've been really lucky with my dogs, too. But I've never been able to train for distance - getting dogs to stop what they are doing and instead of coming back to me, look at me for directions. This is my next project for Rosie.
My hunting dogs have all had a great drive, a wonderful desire to please, smarts like you wouldn't believe, and above all, loved me to pieces. Rosie is a bit different, so far. She comes to me for protection now, and she comes fairly regularly to the recall, but she lacks some enthusiasm. I'm chalking it up to her being sick (looks like a cold, but no cough) and to youth. She shows some real action for about five or ten-minute spurts, and then she has to take a break, so it probably is the former. (She also lost a tooth last night, so there is much going on.)
I know she's smart, she's passed all the tests I gave her, and she's nosy as all heck - she's even become our early warning dirty diaper detection system. And she loves the kids. I'm hoping that when her health improves and her teeth come in, she'll get some bounce in her step.
The past two days we have been working on coming when called and sitting. The recall is kinda tough for both of us, but especially me. I'm trying to tighten up my commands so that I don't start bad habits, and I have some trouble remembering that her name doesn't mean "come!" I'm also using a new hand signal that will be helpful in the field, but that feels really silly, especially when I'm motioning to a dog that is seven feet away. She likes me whistling, so if that's how it goes, then so be it. The biggest thing for me is that she comes back.
Sitting has been going very well, although she's funny about it like a puppy should be. She'll get so excited to sit that she'll go ass-over-teakettle backwards sometimes. I love it.
I'm also uncomfortable using a leash during training, as I've trained all my other dogs just by being out in the yard with them. I'm not using the leash too much right now, but I might start using it more just because all the cool guys on YouTube are doing it (and by "cool" I mean tweed-and-rubber-boot-wearing, thick brogue talking types with dogs they could probably train to fly an airplane).
One interesting book I picked up is "The Intelligence of Dogs" by Stanley Coren. It's not a training manual, it is a book about dog smarts. I'm enjoying it, but then again I am a gigantic nerd, so there you are. One thing I've noticed is that I've always gravitated toward the smarter end of the breed spectrum, and my last dog, Irma, was a mix of the smartest (border collie) and the fourth smartest (golden retriever) on the author's list. The English Springer Spaniel, by the way, Mr. Coren ranks at 13.
And speaking of nerdy, I've even been researching dog whistles, of all things. I've settled on a pealess Acme 10.5 because I don't think I'll need anything super-loud and I don't want a pea in my whistle (that sounds funny). I've never used a whistle on dogs, but I'm not confident in my own whistling to be loud enough.
Really I'm just pleased as all get-out that I've got a dog, and watching my kids with her, I know I've made the right decision. Just today, for example, Ruben decided it would be a great idea to hit her with a metal measuring cup. The good dog just sat there and took a couple of swipes, then got up and walked over to me. When I noticed what he had just done (and was trying to do again), I laid down the law to the 19 month-old, for all the good that'll do, and gave Rocie all kinds of fuss.
And Phoebe and her caniphobia? Day-before-yesterday, she started feeding Rocie out of her hand.
I'll end with a wonderful video extolling the virtues of FTCh Buccleuch Pepper, an advertisement for those looking for a champion Springer sire (and who, if you wanted to call him, would come to "Paper! Come here, Paper!"). He is our goal: