By Marti Nickoli
Thinking of obedience training your Springer? If you have a sense of humor and are willing to use mostly positive training techniques, you and your four footed friend should have a wonderful time.
From my perspective I believe dogs that have some level of obedience are happier than those that have never been trained. It does not matter if you want to train just basic household behavior or plan to do competitive obedience at a very high level, Springers have the ability to do it very well. In addition, they have great tracking, agility, working and hunting trainability. Obedience training will help provide the basics to enhance their work in these other activities. And, the abilities to perform well in these other events provide a very good bridge to the world of obedience.
Before enrolling in a class or hiring a professional trainer be sure to very thoroughly check out their methodologies. There are as many ways to train a dog as there are ways to dance. Make sure you are comfortable with their particular methods and if not, keep looking. You might also want to read more than one good obedience-training book and attend some obedience seminars.
Springers learn from both positive and negative reinforcements. My primary criterion for methodologies is one that produces a happy dog with a "waggy tail". I strongly suggest that you consider methods and instructors that utilize more positive than negative methods; you and your dog will both learn more quickly if you're having fun and your stress levels stay minimized. This is especially true for puppy training classes. If you feel uncomfortable with the level of force involved, talk to your puppy's breeder or other experienced dog people before adopting those methods and before allowing the instructor to "demonstrate" while using your puppy. It's also important for your puppy or dog's safety that the instructor maintain adequate control in the class, especially where a large, out of control fellow pupil might be involved.
If you have to make corrections (negative reinforcement), one solid unexpected correction will take you a lot farther than multitudes of gentle "nagging corrections." If your dog does not understand that you are correcting him/her and why, you really aren't teaching the dog anything except to ignore you. And remember, training dogs is a lot like training children . . . be consistent.
If you are considering obedience training to stop specific bad behavior (e.g. jumping on people) try concentrating on setting your dog up to do what you do want them to do instead of disciplining them after the fact for exhibiting bad behavior. For example, instead of saying "no" or hitting the dog to stop jumping up on visitors, try having him/her sit or lay down, or go to a particular place in the house when someone comes to the door.
If you're looking for a breed that is capable of being very competitive in obedience you may want to consider a Springer (Remember, all that glitters is not a golden ;-)!). Several individuals have proven that Springers are capable of earning HIT, High Combined, and completing an OTCH or a UDX. And most importantly, along the way these people have developed wonderful and lasting relationships with their four-footed friends.
Beyond Basic Dog Training, Diane Bauman
Choose to Heel, Dawn Jecs
Terri Arnold's Dog Training Program, Terri Arnold
Training Dogs With Dunbar (video), Ian Dunbar
Dog Training for Children (video), Ian Dunbar
Peak Performance - Coaching the Canine Athlete, Christine Zink DVM PhD
Upper Right: Ch. Keswicke Claim Your Fame "Raven", owned by Janet Olsen; Photo by ©Glamour Pets, Inc.