One aspect of spaniel training is that of steadiness.
If your dog is going to be a working dog then you will need him to be steady, which means that he doesn’t chase things when he flushes them and also that he waits until you let him go for a retrieve.
Teaching a spaniel to be steady is yet another step by step process that builds upon the sit and stay, sitting at a distance and the stop whistle commands. It is a fun aspect of dog training but it is important that you don’t rush into it and you take your time.
Working with my young spaniel on his steadiness
I’ve started cocker spaniel steadiness training with Nimrod recently. He’s just about eight months old and is coming along really well.
I’m very pleased with how much he enjoys retrieving and he’s keen to get to grips with the canvas dog training dummies that I use.
The effort that we put in when he was a baby has paid off, literally we let him carry anything around and praised him when he did.
Nowadays, everything is fair game to Nim, slippers and shoes disappear as do books, spectacles, he even likes getting coal out of the coal bucket and carrying that.
Up to now I’ve been letting Nimrod run into the dummy when it is thrown.
This simply means not stopping him and making him wait to ‘fetch’, by letting a dog run in like this we aim to develop keeness through effectively letting him chase the dummy.
Clearly that’s okay for a while but, in a working situation or competition, we want our spaniel to wait until he is told to get the retrieve.
I’ve done a video to help with this which is below and it should help you to understand what I’m trying to convey.
I put Nimrod on his lead and threw the dummy so that he could see where it went – this is important we don’t want the dog to fail so let him see it fall to the ground – and not too far away.
Then I made him sit or ‘hup‘ as I use.
Making sure that I am facing Nimrod so that the dummy is behind me I carefully take off his lead.
This allows me to grab him or stop him with my legs if he decides to run for the dummy.
If he shows impatience simply repeat the hup command, reinforced by the raised hand signal.
Once Nimrod had settled I immediately sent him for the retrieve using the command ‘fetch’.
Encouraging the retrieve
You’ll see from the video that he worked out the retrieve using his nose.
It’s important not to panic and to try and let the dog scent or wind the dummy so that he gets it himself.
If he struggles or starts to look at you for help then encourage him and, if necessary walk slowly towards the dummy, so that, in effect you are helping him to find it.
You must ensure that he is successful. Give him lots of praise.
If he doesn’t show much interest, then, stop, do something that he is good at, practice another aspect of his training such as sitting at distance, then call it a day.
Try again another day.
If your spaniel is reluctant to pick the dummy up, then try something else as a retrieve.
Some spaniels can be a bit fussy over objects that they out in their mouths.
You could try a tennis ball such as these dog tennis balls, a fur lined dummy, a rolled up pair of thick socks.
Keep trying and find something that your dog will pick up readily.
I’ll make gradual progress with Nimrod, increasing the amount of time before I send him to fetch and the difficulty of the retrieve.
As in all things with cocker spaniel training, little and often is best. Keep your dog happy and you’ll do great.
This is one of the more exciting aspects of spaniel training and, when you reach this point, things will start to pull together with sense being made of all of the previous training that you have done.
Take your time with steadiness training and don’t overdo it.
Remember that every time you train you give your dog the opportunity to make mistakes so, take it slow and steady and have fun.