Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Discussion of behavior issues, training and solutions here....

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The Real MacKay
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Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by The Real MacKay »

Hello all. I have been reading the posts now for a few months and I sort of have an idea about what my pup's going through. First, a little background. I had a Golden and a Lab before. Always had one dog at a time. Each has been a male. None were neutered, although my Brittany Mac, is going for neutering tomorrow. He is 10 1/2 months old. He is housebroken, crate trained and spends too much time in there because he counter surfs, table surfs and knocks food and drink over regularly. When he is outside, he comes to the sliding glass door and scratches it with vigor. He has completely destroyed the wood with deep grooves and bite marks. He has extraordinary prey drive. Squirrels, birds, deer, foxes, etc. If he smells, sees or hears another animal, he gets that rigid point and wants to stalk in. I intend to bird hunt with him in the fall, so this is all good. However, when I take him to dog parks, he becomes humpty dumpty. Any breed, size, gender seems to be his target. Other owners don't like it and express their discontent with vigor (I live in NJ!). He has had other dogs bite his ear, neck and paws. He's had antibiotics for any bites that punctured and became infected. He definitely needs the surgery because I am not going to breed.

I usually ride a bike at full pedaling speed and run him about 3 1/2 miles each morning. He gets lots of hard exercise and a few 30 minute walks each day. Now, training is my real problem. He is a good looking dog. He weighs 31 lbs and has nice solid muscle and structure. He eats Blue Buffalo puppy food. Although he has lately stopped clearing the bowl and only eats about 2 cups worth daily. He was eating 3 cups daily until he got bitten and started taking antibiotics. But he will not come when called, unless you are in the backyard and have treats. He sits well and usually holds as this command was taught at every feeding. So he knows the basics, sit, stay and here. But he really doesn't follow well off lead. I have had to chase him for great distances and time whenever we go to a wildlife area where birds and small game abound. I am conditioned by the very easy training that my retrievers showed me. They learned fast, were very eager to please and received positive reinforcement whenever they did what was commanded. Mac the Brittany kind of looks at me with utter disdain and then ignores commands. That gets me a little hot as I know, that he knows that I can't enforce anything when he is off leash and therefore, I usually use a prong collar and 25 foot long check cord to maintain control. I know that he understands the commands, he just chooses to comply when food is the reward only. All other times its a negative reinforcement that gets his compliance. If I take him hunting, I want to be able to trust that he won't run for miles and ruin my day as well as other hunters' and dogs' days afield.

Please offer candid advice. I am having him neutered tomorrow. If he continues with his dominance displays (barking, jumping and humping) afterwards, then I may be looking to have a professional trainer try him out. I have never neutered a dog before, but if I have to send him to rescue, then that will have been done and he will have continued being aggressive towards other dogs and people. I hope he calms down afterwards. I don't want to give him up, but I am only one person in house of four who have all had enough of his behavior. Thanks for your time and advice. Enjoy the holidays!

Barb Wright
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by Barb Wright »

Lots to consider here....one thing I'd like to know is how long you have had Mac? Did you get him as a puppy or is he fairly new to your family?

One thing I think I can say right now is that neutering is not going to change his behavior....most of what you described are training issues, not personality issues, which neutering doesn't change to much extent anyway. A bit more info would be helpful. I'm sure several of us have our thinking hats on...will get back to you.
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by Lisa »

Hmmm - lots of thoughts here.

First - the humping. That is not always a dominance activity. It's an arousal activity, and by that I mean any kind of emotional arousal. Dogs hump because they are excited, anxious, sexually aroused, or possibly displaying dominance. Most often, humping is due to excitement or anxiety. At that point, it becomes a training issue more than anything else. The dog needs to be removed from whatever is arousing them, given a chance to calm down, and then try again. When my own dogs or fosters start humping other dogs, I simply take them by the collar or scruff of the neck (gently), give them a firm "no" and pull them off the other dog and walk them away. I turn them to face me, and we move to a distance where the dog can calm down and focus. I'll work some behaviors that I know are solid - a sit or touch or lie down - and let the dog get their brain back. Then, I release them to go interact again. If the humping starts again, I repeat my earlier actions. The dog will learn that humping is not okay, and they will learn self control. Just neutering a dog will not curb the behavior, because it's not simply linked to their hormones. Heck, I have had female fosters that hump worse than males...it was usually a stress behavior.

As for the other stuff...dogs do not generalize well, they do what's rewarding, and Brittanys are a thinking breed. Add that all together and you get a bit of a training challenge. Just because your dog knows sit and come at your house or in your yard, does not mean that they have generalized that behavior to other places. So, you need to practice the behaviors you want in lots of new places with lots of good rewards. You'll need to start on leash, with minimal distractions and high value rewards. Remember that outside is so much more interesting than inside or the yard. Also, chasing critters is so much more rewarding than a dog treat or praise...you may have to amp up the reward value...maybe a pheasant wing on a string for him to chase for a bit, or some steak or chicken bits or something else that he really, really likes. And, then you get the thinking bit. Britts are problem solvers, so physical exercise alone isn't usually enough. They need to have their brain exercised. You might try some short training sessions throughout the day (no more than 10 minutes at a time), where you either reinforce already known behaviors, or teach new tricks. Also, interactive food toys like the Buster Cube are great for getting their brain going. You could put half of his dinner in the Buster Cube and have him work with that to get his food.

I'm sure others will have some more ideas, those are just the ones off the top of my head. Also, at 10 and a half months, he is still really a baby, so you have to keep that in mind when working with him.
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rtropeano
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by rtropeano »

Lisa gave you excellent advice.

additionally, jumping and barking are not necessarily "dominance" issues, and more likely a result of being rewarded or reinforced, i.e. dog barks at mailman, mail man goes away....the mail man going away reinforces the bark - (not that the dog is trying to be dominant over the mail man).

Before going back to the dog park, I'd really work on getting a solid recall and an emergency recall. - there's a good pamphlet called, "Really Reliable Recall" that I used to train my dog (others on this board have used it as well). If you're dog has an emergency recall - you should be able to call him off situations where he is starting to get into trouble.
When you do go to the dog park, you'll want to make sure your do checks in with you often. This will interrupt play that is potentially becoming too intense.
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by The Real MacKay »

Thanks to each of you for the responses. I have certainly used many training environments and techniques. It is not lost on me that Mac would behave very differently outside than inside. For example, while training sit, stay and here inside, he was fairly focused and performed well. Outdoors, he would start barking, jumping up and nipping. If I moved in he would play bow and start running around the yard. So, often I leave him outside and wait to try again after a long walk. He is at his best on leash, walking in forests, fields, beaches and shorelines. I have found him to be a great challenge to train off leash. He just knows that he doesn't have any restraint and chooses to ignore or disobey. It is disappointing to see him demonstrate such indifference to training.

He was neutered yesterday and he came home with a slowed and unstable gait which is now improved. He has not barked once since his return last night. He still jumps up on counter and couch, but he has been very responsive to here commands. The real test will be in about one week when he is fully healed and can run again. While he recovers, I am giving lots of positive attention and just being available for him. He has lost the defiant and challenging "play" energy, but is still too soon after surgery to know for sure if he will be more biddable. I hope that he can start to improve.

A few more facts about him. He comes from field trial lines that include a few "Brittany Hall of Fame" dogs. My daughter picked him from photos and I honored her choice because I trust the breeding. Yet, some cues about his alpha tendencies were there from the start. Photos of his play with his litter mates show him taking the dominant postures in play. When we picked him up at 8 weeks old, he showed that he was the most aggressive and dominant pup in the litter. I make him sit before each feeding, as well as before leaving for walks. When he has growled at me, I always take him and pick him up and look into his eyes without any verbal reaction from me. He will sit best for me when commanded, but he has not been totally reliable. I haven't given that command yet because he had surgery and I will let him heal for a few more days before resuming training.

I hope that I can get him to be an eager to please dog who can be trusted in the home. He had seemed to be like those hunting dogs I remember as a kid. They were always outside and nobody played with them because they were moody and nippy and couldn't be trusted around kids. I hope my Brittany can start to earn our trust. Thanks again to everyone who has some advice to offer. I will be looking into the Buster cubes and recall training because I know that you have experience with Brittany dogs and have tried different tools and methods. Thanks for sharing!

Keep it going as I want to succeed with Mac.

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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by MaggieRocks »

I would be a little concerned about the "hard exercise". At only 10 months old, his joints aren't yet fully matured.

Also, each dog is different, but 2 cups of food sounds like a lot (and 3 cups a day sounds like an ENORMOUS amount of food for a brit!) Keep in mind that the "suggested" amount of food listed on any bag is the manufacture's suggestion-not necessarily the amount a dog should actually be fed. Maggie, my biggest brit at 41lbs, gets slightly more than 1/2 cup twice per day. Sammy is actually a bit smaller, but is fed more-but still only 3/4 cup twice per day. Two cups a day sounds like too much food for a pup.

You say he was the most aggressive and dominant in the litter. There is a difference between aggression and dominance. A truly "dominant" dog is normally not aggressive. No matter which he might be (or if it still just the puppy behavior coming out) I would definitely NOT be taking him to a dog park if this is resulting in "puncture" wounds. Dog parks are not necessarily a good place,and not every dog should be at a dog park.

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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by adele »

My little female was a terror at 10 months! It took me a lot of practice and patience to get her into shape. A lot of practice! Yes, she knows when she's off leash there is nothing I can do if she fails to listen..but I've got her to the point that she usually listens - we still have the occasional bid for freedom but she always returns now, just sometimes on her own schedule. When Lola was young she wouldn't even take treats if she was outside, she was just too interested in running. I just kept at it and at it and at it. Lots of practice indoors and then in the yard...and once he's good in the yard take him into the field.

call him when you know he's going to come and give him treats. Don't call him if you can't enforce the "come" and you suspect he isn't going to do what you ask. If you call him when he isn't likely to come he'll only learn that he can ignore the summons. If you can find a safe place - maybe the dog park when there are not other people around - I find hide-and-seek works really well to get him to pay attention. But you need a safe place for that.

It doesn't sound like he is ready to be offleash at the dogpark. He needs to learn his manners first. I don't really buy into all that "dominance" stuff. Your puppy is just having fun and getting excited and being an unruly puppy. Its not about dominance - its about what he finds interesting and fun (and sometimes getting carried away). He needs a firm but gentle hand to teach him right from wrong.
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by The Real MacKay »

The biggest problem I have is that I never had a dog that was so difficult to train. My baseline was two very biddable retrievers. My last one, a male black lab, was so good that he retrieved other hunters ducks at 10 months and brought them to hand undamaged. Mac is just going to take a lot more effort. Boy, I wish that I had just stuck with a good field line of Labs instead of this guy. He keeps biting the backs of my ankles, chewing on my hands and feet, jumping on table and counter whenever he is in the home. What a struggle to get him to behave.

This is a paste from the American Brittany Club website.

"He is noted for an exceptionally keen nose and a very biddable disposition. Many of the country's top dogs have been house pets as well as field winners and fine hunting dogs. The Brittany is a high energy dog who is bred to hunt. He does need lots of exercise or opportunities to hunt to keep him happy.
He has a typical friendly disposition and is very willing to please his master. He may be expected to absorb training more easily than some of the other pointing breeds, needing only a sharp scolding or slight punishment. The natural ability of the Brittany sells him as a breed to many neophytes in the field of hunting as he seems to know better what to do than his master."

When I read this, I think that I have the worst example of a Brittany who is so far away from the "biddable; friendly; very willing to please ..." descriptions that are given. I am reading the best books, by Martha Greenlee, Ralph and Robert Hammond; Dave Elliot; Richard Wolters, etc. My dog just doesn't respond well to any training. If anyone has more advice, keep it coming. Books, clubs, trainers, techniques, tools, are all welcome.

Happy Holidays!

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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by Barb Wright »

The Real MacKay wrote:... It is disappointing to see him demonstrate such indifference to training.
I would not confuse "indifference to training" with supreme interest in using his nose for hunting or doing other fun/interesting activities. Training can be boring, hunting is what this dog is bred for !! Once he matures, and you have continued to train despite apparent "indifference", you will find he will put that training and his hunting ability for FOCUS to good work for you. You are still dealing with an immature dog whose brain and instincts are still just not meshing to the point of meeting your expectations. That will come with maturity and your continued committment to keeping with the training. Don't despair, these dogs are natural hunters, but CONTROLLING the hunt (and the rest of the living together interactions) only comes with time and PATIENT training.
The Real MacKay wrote:.....The real test will be in about one week when he is fully healed and can run again.
One week is not long enough recovery time for that kind of surgery. The seriousness of neutering/spaying is played down, it is major abdominal surgery!! He may seem healed on the outside, but the inside still needs much more time to heal properly. I would not indulge in any vigorous exercise for at least 3 weeks....ask your vet, I think he will concur.
The Real MacKay wrote:...but is still too soon after surgery to know for sure if he will be more biddable. I hope that he can start to improve.
You are placing too much hope and expectation on the neutering to change the personality of Mac !! All neutering really accomplishes is keeping a male more calm around females in heat, less likely to wander when those aromas are on the wind, and with some males they are less likely to be quite as territorial (marking). Most importantly, they cannot reproduce. A mature, experienced male can still breed (connect)....I've seen this myself.....but they cannot reproduce.

As some of the others have noted, you may be confusing "aggression and dominace" with a very excellent trait in a hunting dog, CONFIDENCE. As Mac matures he will "get it" with the training....his blood lines sound excellent so you have the raw material there for an equally excellent hunting companion, you just need to slow your expectations down and just keep working with him. He is far too young to think that he will be totally "reliable" and respond consistantly about anything much. Put your patience hat on and just keep working with him.....time, repetition, PATIENCE, these are key words for training.

One other tip.....don't make the training intervals too long. Once he starts to show disinterest or boredom is the time to do something new, and preferably something FUN. Once they get "ho-hum" about something their inquisitive, bright, and active minds are ready to move on to something more interesting.

The "play bow", the barking and dashing around, these are all invitations to you to dog play. When this happens you may as well either join him in chase/catch me if you can, other fun activity, or turn and walk away. You've lost him for the moment and no need to get frustrated, just get back to what you were doing when you once more have his attention.
The Real MacKay wrote:.. I hope my Brittany can start to earn our trust
This WILL happen, but not without a lot of effort on your part. It not fast or easy but it is definitely WORTH THE EFFORT :)
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Barb Wright
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by Barb Wright »

The Real MacKay wrote:The biggest problem I have is that I never had a dog that was so difficult to train.
I can totally relate to this. I grew up with German Shepherds and then bred, raised and trained Siberian Huskies for over 20 years. I thought I knew dogs, and I had been successful in the training area. Then I got a Brittany puppy. Whew, took me about a month to realize that I was sooooo far behind the curve with this dog and had a whole lot of catching up to do !! Back to the books !! When she was finally a little over a year old it all came together for her and for me, and we went on to 14 more years that were the best dog years of my life :)

I get the strong feeling that your disappointment and frustration with Mac is probably getting through to him....Britts are really sensitive to "vibes" and if you and your family are irritated with him all the time he is picking up on this and because he doesn't yet understand why or what he should do about it, then he acts out. Unfortunately, some dogs will do this also as attention seeking, even if the attention they get is negative. I realize it is not fun or enjoyable having an unruly dog, and in fact can sometimes make a person resentful. It takes a major shift in perception to control this and set your expectations aside and just make a concerted effort to stubbornly but PATIENTLY keep working at it. I don't know your personality, but for me it was "I CAN do this". It took a huge shift in training principles and methods, but it worked.

Hope some of this helps.
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by The Real MacKay »

Thanks for the good advice Barb. I keep training to very short sessions. 3 commands and we are done. I use positive energy and reinforcement for success (treats, strokes along spine and verbal good boy). I try to tire him our before training. I can say that I am the only one who can calmly get his attention when he is misbehaving. He will sit like a well trained soldier when I command him, but, he struggles with calming down. I guess that Brits are just a very different type of puppy than retrievers are. I recognize that I am hoping for success sooner than it is going to happen because my other dogs were so much better at this age. Angus, the Golden Retriever would sit, stay and come with verbal, hand and whistle commands at 10 months. I never even bought an e-collar for him. He ran off leash and hunted upland and waterfowl with reliable skill and obedience at 10 months old. Kieran, my Black Lab was even better! Never needed an e-collar, or any forceful training methods. I remember taking him to Field test events and seeing other retrievers disobey and hear their owners discuss "forcebreaking" to cure it. I never needed to even worry. Kieran wanted to please me and always learned quickly and never forgot. Amazing dog. Again, both Angus and Kieran were good dogs who didn't fight with other males, nor try to mount females, and both were intact until they passed.

I never had a dog like Mac and I am reading lots of posts on here and thinking that I made a big mistake picking a Brittany. I can stay calm. I will train him. I hope he can take to my lead before he is 5 years old. If he can't be trusted to hunt with me, then he will just be a house dog that gets lots of physical exercise. As I said, I walk him for an hour or more each day. I also jump on my bicycle and ride 3.5 miles without stopping while he runs full speed. He loves this and come home and drinks water and lays out on the deck for 30 minutes to rest afterwards. If he can just show me that he wants to be a good companion, then I will feel better. However, the little guy just goes bezerk all the time. It is very rare that he can be inside the home and behave. I take him on an hour walk, return and he starts jumping, bull nosing, leg humping, zoomie nipping and gets put in his kennel. I don't play catch me if you can, since he tried this a few times early on. Instead when he goes into zoomie mode, I sit down and wait for him to come to me. I command him to sit and reward that with an ice cube. However, his behavior is certainly trying the patience of my family. Again, we had great dogs who were such a contrast to this guy's troublesome behavior. I feel like a lawyer defending a criminal every day! So, I have high expectations and urgency because I wanted a Brittany. I feel very foolish because I thought I was getting a high energy dog that would be biddable and act like a Therapy dog indoors! Wow, if Mac were ever to visit an Assisted Living facility, they would probably file a restraining order!

I do appreciate the advice. If anyone knows a specific activity that worked very well for a dog like Mac, please share more. I read this site every day, in addition to my training books. I want him to improve. I will make efforts. I feel like I am not succeeding now. There has to be a tool, procedure, or something I am not trying now that will give me some well needed confidence. I am grateful to all for your help.

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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by rtropeano »

Not all dogs are alike - while I think it's wonderful that your other dogs were reliable off leash at 10 months - not sure that that is really the norm.
You're doing lots of great work with Mac and I just think it's going to take a little more time than you might have expected. Don't give up ! I'm sure Mac will become a great hunting companion soon enough - he just needs to grow up.

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adele
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by adele »

There are so many ways to take this discussion. First I should say that I have known one Brittany. So anything I say about Britts should really be read as "my Britt". But yours sounds an awful lot like mine- (I gather they are not all the same.)

I don't hunt but Lola has brought her kills to my hand since she was 9 or 10 months of age without any training whatsoever, it's part of her DNA. She was about that age when she killed her first ground hog and she brought it straight to me. She's been bringing me dead things ever since – even though I don't want her to.

It's also bred into her bones to run ahead and find the prey. She takes this job very seriously – it's part of her. So, even though I get frustrated sometimes when she's chasing pheasant instead of doing my bidding – I have to understand – this is what she was made for. If you have a hunter on your hands and you develop that bond between you two, you will be blown away by what the two of you can do. I have hunting friends. The lab owner constantly praises Lola's hunting skills and field behaviour – yet she is completely untrained. The Springer owner is planning to get a Britt the next time. Just from watching Lola. I can't imagine what she could do if her partner was a hunter too. If your dog is one quarter my Lola, I don't think you'll be disappointed with his hunting skills and the telepathic bond you can develop.

Now, the early years… It's no secret that I found Lola's early years trying. When I first got her, honestly, I thought she was mentally deficient. She was totally into ripping my pants and drawing blood from my hands. And to this day, I swear, she thought it was funny … she'd tear the flesh off my hands and I could tell… she was laughing. But it's not just that, I couldn't get her to listen, it was like she was just insane, I knew I was not connecting with her… I wasn't getting into her brain at all. Absolutely no communication. I once spoke to a woman on the street… she crossed the road to come to me because she wanted to talk about Britts. When her's was young it used to hide in doorways and when people walked by it would spring onto their backs and bite them. I don't think it would hurt if the breed description on the ABR webpage included a warning about young Britts… But once my girl matured she became everything the website says a Britt can be.

I found that Lola could get overtired and then sorta loose her mind. Zoomies usually happened just before a nap. So you might take it as an indication that she needs a bit of quiet time if she gets too out of control. Also, she sorta lost control if she was overexercised. So if I took her for a half hour offleash she'd be fine but somewhere along the line – I dunno – the endorphins took over – or something happened and she'd just become a running machine.. totally mindless. So I found that instead one big bout of heavy exercise a lot of moderate exercise seemed to keep her more in control of her wits.

Finally, one of the real bits of training wisdom I got from Lisa on this board is – It's difficult to train a dog NOT to do something… so when the dog does something you don't like ask yourself… "what do I want my dog to do in this situation" and train to do that. It really works. I use clicker training techniques. I just use my voice and a clipped "good" instead of the clicker but it really works.

Two good books that helped me understand are The Other End of the Leash http://www.amazon.ca/The-Other-End-Leas ... 034544678X and The Culture Clashhttp://www.amazon.ca/Culture-Clash-Jean ... 256&sr=1-1
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by Lisa »

adele wrote:Finally, one of the real bits of training wisdom I got from Lisa on this board is – It's difficult to train a dog NOT to do something… so when the dog does something you don't like ask yourself… "what do I want my dog to do in this situation" and train to do that. It really works. I use clicker training techniques. I just use my voice and a clipped "good" instead of the clicker but it really works.
Thanks Adele! You stole my line. I've been trying to figure out how to put my thoughts in to words, and all I kept coming up with was "what do you want the dog to do? Teach him that." When a dog is doing something you don't like, it's not enough to just teach them to stop that behavior. You have to also teach them what the correct behavior is instead. If you don't teach them what you want them to do, then they'll just come up with something on their own. For example - if he's being a completely wild dog inside...teach him what behavior you want instead. Do you want him to go lay down? Bring you a toy? Chew on a bone? Then when he's being crazy, interrupt that behavior and direct him to the preferred behavior. Praise and reward that preferred behavior.

Whenever I bring a new dog of any age in to my home, I want them to learn that they can be calm and relax when they are inside. I observe the dog and see what it is they like to do when they do decide to settle down (it really does happen, eventually). Do the like to chew on a bone, sit at a window, lay at my feet? Then I work with that. I start by rewarding when they are being calm and doing that preferred behavior. So, if I see the dog decide to lay down and chew on a bone I'll tell them "yes" and toss them a treat, then go back to what I was doing. As long as they are relaxing, I will periodically reward for that behavior. When the dog sees me and starts offering the behavior I might name it "go get your bone" or "go lie down" and say that as they are doing it. Eventually, it becomes a cue for the dog to go relax. Sometimes, with really young dogs, you have to slightly "force" the relaxing at first. I usually do this when I'm sitting around reading or watching TV. I'll put the young dog on a short leash, slip the leash under my foot, so that they have enough leash to sit, stand, or lay down, but not wander off. Then, I just ignore them. When the dog decides there's nothing to do and just sits or lays down, I reward that.

As I've said before, Brittanys are thinking dogs. They are bred to be independent workers and independent thinkers. They wouldn't be the awesome pointing dogs they are if they couldn't think for themselves. It's a big difference that people that are used to retrievers don't really get at first. Pointing breeds are made to work on their own. In the Brittany mind, people are backup for the dogs, not the other way around. The Britt mindset is more of - "you just wait there behind me...I'll go find us the bird, and when I do, you make sure to shoot it, and I'll get it and bring it back to you." The Retriever mindset is more like - "I'm gonna wait...let me know when you need me to go get that bird that you shot and I'll bring it back." I know that's a total oversimplification, but it makes my point.
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Re: Training Advice for a 10 month Male

Post by adele »

Lisa wrote:Thanks Adele! You stole my line.
:lol: :lol: :lol: Hey, I gave you proper credit! :lol:

The way I think about it is.... if you're walking along a path and you come to a fork - if you go left your Lab will say "ya ya, lets go left, what a great idea." but when you come to a fork and you're with a Brit the Brit will say, "Now, hang on, lets consider the implications before we decide".
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