There are many theories regarding the proper way to train a dog, with certain ideas having more credibility than others. Here, a number of dog training myths will be discussed, as well as the corresponding facts.
Myth #1: A dog that is slow-to-learn has an underlying behavioral problem.
Fact: Dog owners who are struggling to teach their pet a command often blame factors such as dominance, stubbornness, or low intelligence on their dog’s deficiencies. Instead, owners should realize that dogs are individuals, just like humans. Most commonly, dogs that are slow to learn simply need to be communicated with in a different way. Other hindrances to training include lack of consistency, poor reward timing, and too high of expectations. Oftentimes, the problem simply needs to be addressed from the dog’s point of view, or for the command broken up into smaller steps. Finally, it is also important to consider the dog’s individual needs. For instance, a senior pet with arthritis might have difficulty sitting on command.
Myth #2: Dogs look guilty when they have done something wrong.
Fact: Even though dog shaming photos make it look like dogs experience guilt similar to humans, the fact is that dog owners have a tendency to attribute human thoughts, feelings, and emotions to their pet. In reality, dogs are adept at modifying their behaviors in response to a human’s body language and tone of voice. For instance, your dog has learned that when he or she behaves a certain way in response to your emotions, you are less likely to punish your pet, and more likely to say, “you’re lucky you’re cute.”
Myth #3: Puppies can’t be trained until 6 months of age.
Fact: The answer to this myth depends on the type of training you intend to use. It is true that aversive techniques such as an electronic collar, choke chain, or prong collar generally should not be used on a dog until it is old enough to understand correction, as well as strong enough to withstand it. However, positive reinforcement training can begin from as early an age as possible. In fact, dog owners who do not begin training and socialization their pet early will experience setbacks.
Myth #4: Positive reinforcement training does not work for all dogs.
Fact: Some dog owners believe that positive reinforcement training is only useful for dogs with submissive, eager-to-please personalities. However, positive training can be used for all types of pets. In fact, positive reinforcement training is the most common method for “dangerous” animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, and whales. Animal behavioral research has even indicated that the use of aversive methods on aggressive, anxious, or fearful dogs can result in the worsening of these behaviors, whereas positive reinforcement training improves a dog’s confidence, as well as strengthens the dog / owner bond.
Myth #5: Dogs display bad behaviors to show dominance.
Fact: Dog owners are often mistakenly led to believe that behaviors such as leash pulling, jumping on the bed, or any form of bad behavior is due to the animal attempting to assert dominance over its owner. In reality, dogs display bad behaviors because they have been rewarded, either consciously or subconsciously. For instance, a dog that jumps on humans has learned that this behavior is okay, either via petting or attention (good or bad). Dogs that sleep on bed pillows simply do so because it is more comfortable than the floor. Instead of assuming that your dog is plotting ways to assert power dynamics, consider what reward your dog has received from the bad behavior, and seek to eliminate it.
Myth #6: Food rewards create bad habits.
Fact: Some dog trainers believe that food can create more problems than they solve. For instance, the use of high value rewards, such as cheese or hot dogs, is sometimes discouraged because of the mistaken belief that the dog will beg at the dinner table. Others liken food rewards to bribery for good behavior, while some owners worry that their dogs will only behave when they have a treat in hand.
With proper use of treats, none of these scenarios are true. An animal will only beg if it is accustomed to receiving something for nothing. On the other hand, your dog is more likely to sit patiently and quietly if accustomed to being rewarded for good behavior. Additionally, treats are not a form of “bribery” when training a dog. Instead, they provide the necessary motivation for a pet to continue a training session, the same as humans are motivated by their salaries to go to work. Finally, in order for dogs to perform a command without the promise of a treat, food rewards must be properly phased from training.
Myth #7: My dog should be eager to please me, and not care about reward.
Fact: Each dog has its own individual personality. While some dogs do have an overwhelming desire to please their owners, all dogs ultimately make decisions based on what is in their best interest. This myth is dangerous because it can lead dog owners to believe that reward or reinforcement is not necessary. However, training a dog without proper reinforcement can result in an animal that is difficult to train.
Myth #8: Old dogs can’t learn new tricks.
Fact: Dogs of all ages can be trained. In many ways, training older dogs is easier than training puppies, as they tend to have a longer attention span and are more adept at communicating with humans. However, reversing an older dog’s bad behaviors does require additional patience, but can ultimately be achieved.
Myth #9: Dogs retaliate by pottying in the house
Fact: If you have ever returned home to find that your dog has urinated on your bed, it can be tempting to assume that your pet was mad at you and retaliated for leaving him or her home alone. While dogs are intelligent animals, they do not plot complex acts, such as revenge. Instead, you should consider that your dog has an underlying medical condition; is displaying signs of separation anxiety; was left home alone too long without a potty break; or is not completely housetrained.
Myth #10: Dog owners should never play tug of war with their pets.
Fact: Tug of war, like any game that is played with a pet, is beneficial so long as the proper rules are followed. Never allow your dog to be mouthy and bite at your hands or arms. Your dog should also know the “drop it” command, and should always respect when you decide that playtime is over. Only when these rules are not followed is tug of war (or any other game) detrimental to a dog’s behavioral training.
Myth #11: Dogs should be trained using pack theory
Fact: Since dogs are descended from wolves, some dog owners and dog trainers believe that canines should be trained using wolf pack theories. However, dogs have evolved to the point that there are significant differences between dog and wolf behavior. Instead, positive reinforcement training that ignores dominance theory is recommended.
It always recommend that if you are having problems that you feel are getting out of control that you consult the assistance of a professional dog trainer for assistance. Allot of times it is just a simple change in habit that is needed.
Tips for Feeding your Dog – All Ages and Activity Levels
Proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of caring for a dog. The best way to ensure good health is to feed your dog a high-quality food that provides complete and balanced nutrition. However, a dog’s overall nutrient needs are dependent upon life stage, activity level, and environment. Here, everything a pet owner needs to know about proper feeding in any situation will be discussed.
What are a Dog’s Basic Nutrient Requirements?
All dogs have the same basic needs, which include water, macronutrients, and micronutrients. These bare-minimum requirements are important to ensure your dog can thrive. These requirements include:
An adult dog is comprised of 60-70% water, which makes proper hydration of utmost importance. A dog’s primary water source should be fresh water from a clean bowl, as dry food has minimal moisture content. Dehydration is extremely dangerous for canines, and even slight dehydration can result in health complications and death.
Protein is essential for proper functioning of every cell, tissue, and organ in a dog’s body. Every system (i.e immune, endocrine, central nervous, etc.) is dependent upon adequate protein intake. Dogs require complete protein (i.e. containing all 20 amino acids) sources since canines are unable to synthesize all the amino acids naturally. Complete protein sources for dogs include meat, fish, and eggs while vegetables, grains, and soy have incomplete protein profiles.
Fat provides dogs with the best bioavailable form of energy for their metabolism. Besides giving your dog the ability to play all day, lipids are important for hormone production, proper growth, healthy skin, and vitamin absorption. Look for a high-quality, easily-digestible source of fat in your dog’s food.
While carbohydrates are less important than protein or fat, this macronutrient still must be provided for optimal health. Without adequate carbohydrate intake dogs lack healthy digestive, neurological, and reproductive systems. Carbohydrates are also important for providing the energy required for short bursts of energy.
Additionally, fiber is comprised from carbohydrates which is necessary for good gut health. Dogs with a diet low in fermentable fiber are prone to chronic diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. Striking the right fiber balance is important, as high fiber diets are not recommended for highly active dogs or puppies.
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Since vitamins and minerals are not made in the body, it is important that dogs receive their nutrients from food.
Vitamins and minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth, skin, tissues, and metabolism. Any commercial dog food labeled “balanced and complete” will provide a dog with the necessary micronutrient profile. Unless your dog has been diagnosed with a nutrient deficiency or you have spoken to your veterinarian, do not supplement your dog’s diet. Excess vitamins and minerals can cause health problems such as kidney failure.
Feeding Your Dog at Every Life Stage
A puppy should start being weaned from its mother’s milk at 4 weeks of age. If the mother dog is unable to provide milk during the first month of a puppy’s life, contact a veterinarian. Ideally, weaning will occur over a period of 3 – 4 weeks so that the dog is eating regular puppy food at 8 weeks old and the mother’s milk supply decreases gradually.
Puppies should be weaned slowly. To start, separate the puppies from their mother for a short period of time each day. During separation, feed the puppies a small amount of dry food. Over time, the length of time puppies are, separated as well as the amount of food, can be increased.
Puppies should be fed a high-quality food specially formulated for growing dogs with 25 – 30% protein. The dry food should be mixed with warm water or milk replacer to make chewing easier for sensitive mouths.
Energy requirements for puppies are greater than that of adult dogs due to their accelerated growth rate. However, puppies should not be encouraged to grow too quickly. Overfeeding a puppy will cause a growth rate that is faster than its body can sustain.
Once your puppy stops growing (typically at 7 – 9 months for small breed dogs and 18 – 24 months for large breed dogs), a maintenance formula that provides complete and balanced nutrition should be provided.
The amount you feed your dog will be determined by activity level and size. For instance, a sedentary dog will have significantly fewer calorie requirements than a working dog.
To determine your dog’s nutritional needs, talk to your veterinarian and monitor your dog’s body condition. If your dog begins to gain weight, reduce portion sizes. Likewise, if your dog loses weight you should increase the size of his or her meals.
Use the guidelines listed on the dog food label as a starting point. If your dog rarely exercises, decrease the portion size by approximately 10%. If your dog is regularly active, portion sizes may need to be increased by 20 – 40%.
Dogs reach senior status at 7 – 12 years of age, depending on breed. The bodies of senior dogs begin to slow down, especially at the metabolic level. To avoid gaining weight, a dog’s diet should be changed. Obesity is a major risk factor for disease and maintaining a healthy weight will greatly improve an older dog’s quality of life.
New research has shown that, contrary to popular belief, senior dog food formulas should continue to be high in easily-digestible protein. However, calorie content should decrease to compensate for their slower metabolism and lower energy output.
Feeding your Dog Based on Activity Level
A working dog has significantly higher nutritional needs than the average pet, largely due to the extra stress and activity level. Depending on your dog’s purpose, i.e. guide dog vs. herding dog, additional energy consumption can be as high as 40 – 60% versus the standard companion pet.
After a surgery or illness your may have additional nutritional needs to support his or her immune system. Talk to your veterinarian to determine whether your dog requires increased fat, protein, vitamins, or minerals to enhance recovery. Be mindful that portion sizes should decrease to reflect decreased activity.
A dog that lives outdoors or spends a significant amount of time outside will have larger energy requirements as well. Heating and cooling have a high metabolic cost, particularly during temperature extremes. Dogs that live in sub-freezing temperatures require 30 – 40% additional caloric intake.
How to Help a Dog Lose Weight
Even though maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for your pet, most dogs are overweight. The good news is that many obesity-related health problems can be minimized or prevented by returning your dog to a healthy weight. Tips for weight loss and maintenance include:
A main reason for the obesity epidemic in household pets is poor portion control. Many pet owners equate food with love and therefore increase a dog’s portion sizes as a result. Use the tips provided above to determine the right portion size for your dog based on age and activity level. Adding low-calorie vegetables to your dog’s food bowl, such as canned pumpkin or green beans, will help your dog feel full as he or she transitions to smaller meals.
Overweight dogs rarely receive enough exercise. Not only does exercise aid in weight loss, but it provides numerous additional health benefits, such as a healthier heart and increased circulation. Start with short walks on soft surfaces and increase your dog’s activity level gradually.
Limit Treats and Table Scraps
Treats should be used sparingly and should not total more than 5% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. High-value treats should be given in the smallest portion size possible. Additionally, table scraps should not be fed to dogs. If necessary, place your dog in another room during meal times.
Free Feeding vs. Timed Feeding vs. Portion Controlled Feeding
Regardless of how you feed your dog, meals should be given at routine times. Most dogs benefit from being fed twice daily, however there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, dogs prone to bloat can be fed 3 – 4 smaller meals per day to prevent large volumes of food in the stomach. Working dogs, on the other hand, often do best with one meal per day that is optimally timed for performance.
The most common manner to feed your dog is through portion-controlled feeding. Here, a set amount is fed at each meal and the dog can finish at his or her leisure. This method is ideal for dogs on a diet or single-dog households.
Free Choice Feeding
With free choice feeding, a food bowl is topped with food at all times and the dog decides when to eat. Dogs with high energy needs, such as lactating mothers, can benefit from this approach. However, overweight dogs or breeds that are prone to obesity (such as Labrador Retrievers) should not be free-fed as this practice can contribute to overeating.
Timed feeding is the practice of only giving your dog a limited window to consume his or her meal, such as 30 minutes. After that time is up, the food is taken away. This practice is ideal for dogs that are picky, or in multi-dog households with food-aggression issues.
Ultimately, what you feed your dog is important. It is up to pet owners to provide the highest quality food possible to prevent disease. Additionally, pet owners should take care not to overfeed their dogs, which can cause serious health problems. By following this guide, dog owners can be better informed about the specific needs of their pets.
In an age of instant gratification where nearly everything a person may need is available at his or her fingertips, the art of patience has been forgotten – especially when it comes to dog training. Often, dog owners forget that dog training takes time, especially when the dog in question is expected to develop skills that far exceed the difficulty level of those performed by a typical house pet. It is becoming increasingly common for dog owners to expect a dog to be fully trained and field-ready within 2-4 weeks, which sets up both the dog and owner for failure and disappointment. Here, a typical gun dog training timeline will be discussed
Basic Skills Gun Dogs Require
Dog training requires time, patience, and dedication. Nearly every skill requires a series of layering, meaning one task is mastered before the dog can learn the next component of the drill. For instance, a dog cannot be expected to “stay” until he or she has mastered “sit.”
From start to finish, the skills that a gun dog must learn include:
Electronic collar training
Blind manners / Steadiness
Be wary of anyone who tells you that he or she can produce a reliable gun dog in fewer than 3 months, unless a dog has already mastered some of the skills on this list. The key word here being “Mastered”…
Gun Dog Training Timeline
Why does it take 3 months to reliably train a gun dog? There are two reasons for this generally agreed-upon timeframe. First, few owners are willing to send their dogs to professional trainers for longer than 3 months. Second, 3 months is the shortest amount of time that is generally required for a dog to reliably execute commands for the owner, in addition to the trainer.
While no two dogs will ever be trained on the exact same timeline, there are two extremes that most dog trainers observe.
The first is the young dog with excellent genes. Within the first month of training the dog is introduced to different types of birds, encouraged into different types of cover, and allowed to hunt. Basic obedience is also covered during the first month of training. In the 2nd month, a dog of this caliber undergoes e-collar training and basic yardwork. In the final month of training the dog is tested for readiness in the field as well as appropriate ground coverage. At the end of the three months, the dog is well its way to working reliably in the field, with continual training from the owner. These results can be expected for a dog with good genes that is started at an appropriate age and already has consistent retrieving skills.
An example where a 3-month time frame may not be long enough is when trainers are brought dogs that do not already retrieve, or that do so poorly (i.e., ones that “kill” game). A dog that has not learned a forced retrieve will require an additional 1 – 2 months of training.
Alternatives to Sending Your Dog to a Trainer
Not everyone can send his or her dog to a professional trainer. If you are unable to commit to the time or cost that is necessary to produce a professionally-trained dog, there are other options available.
For instance, many regions of the country have training groups where a professional trainer or experienced handler guides dog owners through the training of their gun dogs.
Additionally, there are numerous print and online resources available that outline the entire training process. However, dog owners should be aware that the training timeline may be significantly longer when starting from scratch with a DIY method.
Ultimately, dog owners must respect that producing a well-trained dog requires time, energy, and patience. It is unfair to both your dog and a trainer to expect this process to be quick. By understanding the skills that are required of a proficient gun dog and when to start building appropriate foundation commands, training can occur in a timelier manner.
Contact Joe Scarpy at Bull Valley Retrievers for Board & Train or One-on-One training options for your next hunting companion.
There are a number of common setbacks that hunters encounter when training their retrievers at home. The most common training pitfalls are discussed here, as well as Hunting Dog Training Tips and how to overcome them.
Lengthy Training Sessions
As hard-working humans, we are conditioned to the idea that that the more time we put into something, the more we get out. However, when working with young dogs, this equation does not hold true. Instead, training sessions that are too long can lead to mental fatigue and negative associations with hunting. For dogs younger than six months of age, training sessions should not last more than 5 minutes. Additionally, training sessions do not have to occur every day in order to be effective. For dogs 6 – 12 months of age, training sessions should be positive, upbeat, and less than 20 minutes long.
Hunting Too Soon
Hunters often become impatient and want to expose their dogs to the hunt as soon as possible. However, dogs under 10 months of age have nothing to gain from this experience, and the risk of serious training setbacks, such as becoming gun-, water-, or bird-shy is high. Instead, be patient and continue to build basic skills while mimicking controlled hunting scenarios at home until your dog is ready for a real hunt.
Emphasizing Retrieves over Steadying
A common misconception is that working on steadying too soon will result in a dog that is unenthusiastic about retrieves. However, this theory is not true, especially when trained properly and with gentle techniques. Any retriever with good bloodlines will inherently mark and retrieve, while not retrieving is the skill that requires work. Practice non-retrieves early in your dog’s training by picking up half of all bumpers.
Repetitive, Meaningless Marks
If your dog is enthusiastic and driven about early retrieves, do not throw too many marks during early sessions. As soon as your retriever is reliably chasing, marking, and retrieving, make the marks more difficult by having them fall in different terrain, such as tall grass, water, or in high crops. It is important to avoid excessive marking, as it can create bad habits rather than instill good behaviors.
Too High of Expectations
Never set your dog up to fail; instead, make sure every time you engage in a training session with your pup, he or she is set up to win. Modify your dog’s training in order to ensure success each time, no matter the drill. Simplify the training concepts and break them up into smaller steps, if needed. Remember that dogs learn best when each skill is broken down into individual components before being linked together.
Lack of Transition Training
Hunters often want to test their dog’s skills as soon as they can. However, in doing so they sometimes set their dogs up for failure. One common mistake that hunters make is rushing through training without enough repetitions, causing confusion and frustration for dogs during the first hunt. A second mistake is not connecting the dots during training by going straight from yard work to a real-life hunting scenario.
In order to get the most out of your dog and ensure that your pet is ready for a hunt, training should occur in the following sequence:
Yard work: practicing skills in a controlled environment
Field training: practicing skills in a more distracting, real-life setting
Transitional training: simulated hunts that cover common scenarios, such as gun fire
Training on the hunt: the first few hunting sessions that are dedicated to training, with specific goals to achieve
Ignoring Lifelong Learning
Dogs should be reinforced in their daily behaviors outside of the field, particularly in their daily lives. For instance, is the manner in which people play with your dog developing bad habits? Are children tossing meaningless, repetitive retrieves that are ruining your dog’s steadiness? Is your dog being encouraged to run, swim, rough house, and chase, to the detriment of his or her behavior on the hunt? It is important to establish rules in your household for how your dog is to be interacted with, particularly during playtime. Educate your visitors on your dog’s boundaries, and control his or her environment, if necessary.
Delaying the Introduction of Skills
In general, the earlier you introduce a skill to your dog, the better. Two common mistakes that hunters make is delaying the introduction of whistles and hand signs.
The whistle can be introduced early in a dog’s training, particularly for recall and sit. Dogs as young as 6 – 8 weeks of age can be taught recall when a whistle is blown, especially when the whistle is associated with something positive. When associated with a reward, dogs can sit on whistle command by 3 months of age. The longer you wait, however, the more difficult these commands will be to train.
Similarly, hand signals can be picked up early when introduced properly. When a hunter waits too long to teach hand signals, the result is an overly independent dog, instead of one that works interdependently with the owner. After your dog responds well to casts and whistle commands, incorporate directional cues.
Finally, consistent timing is necessary when training a dog, for both praise and correction. The most effective dog training will occur when the animal receives reward or punishment at the exact moment the behavior (good or bad) occurs. Waiting too long teaches the dog to associate the most recent behavior with the praise or punishment, and not necessary the action being praised or corrected. Another important component of proper timing is to administer the praise or correction in the exact location where the behavior took place. If necessary, return the dog to location, make the correction, and re-emphasize the command. Remember, reward goes further for a dog than correction, and a properly timed treat can make all the difference in building your dog’s confidence.
We get asked often on where to get birds for your training. So, I have compiled a list of area bird breeders/providers for your reference.
Woodsway Kennel & Game Birds
17117 Mendall Rd, Princeville, IL 61559
617 N. Santa Fe, Princeville, IL 61559
Po Box 156
Hinckley, IL 60520
Rice Family Farm
29800 Bushnell Road
Burlington, WI 53105
6158 W. Bruns Rd.
Monee, IL 60449
Hatch N’ Catch Quail
3684 E. 29th Rd.
Ottawa, IL 61350
JR Game Birds
2002 East 3150 North Road.
St. Anne, IL 60964
Please be sure to check Dog Training and Game Laws before training with any state game animals. You can find a reference Here for Illinois regulations and IDNR links. We often have extra training birds available and would gladly sell any excess birds we may have for your dog training needs.