Paws Puppy Blog Part 4
Welcome back to our Paws puppy blog! Saffy is now 8 months and is turning into a gigantic, beautiful little lady. So much has happened over the past few weeks, and I have dedicated almost every second of my free time of training both Saffy and Bramble, not to mention throwing in lots of fun training sessions for Gin! It’s been tough, but so incredibly rewarding to see all of our hard work start to come together and pay off.
We’ve hit so many first-time milestones since our last blog, although I’m extremely conscious of pushing Saffy too hard too fast. I want to make sure we’re getting quality over quantity with our training, and I’ve had to reign myself in from getting too excited when I’ve tested her boundaries. A few of the things we’ve tried these past few weeks have been to test the waters to see where we’re at with Saffy’s training and what we need to work on going forward. She’s been an absolute superstar and I’m over the moon with how her training is progressing, but we still have a lot to do before she’s ready to get out working!
I’m also incredibly proud of how Bramble is progressing with her training. As I’m writing this now, we’ve just returned from our third one to one at Faralvale and I’m seeing some amazing improvements. There are still a few bad habits that we’re slowly but surely picking away at, but since starting our sessions, I feel 100% confident that she’ll be an incredible little worker one day! For anyone who is struggling with their training, I fully recommend finding a gundog trainer to help. I only wish I’d contacted Farlavale months ago instead of battling to train Bramble all by myself.
What a superstar
We’re still focusing on the basics, heelwork, sit stays, loose lead – I don’t think there will ever be a time when we fully stop working on these bits - but it’s just the same stuff that we’ve covered in the past few blogs, so I won’t bore you with the details again! Instead, I’ll talk about the massive successes we’ve had recently and what I hope to keep working on going forward.
It seems that the techniques I discussed in our last blog on piecing together small sections of a successful retrieve are starting to work. Over the past few days, we’ve been achieving sit, hold deliveries which I am ecstatic about! Saffy has always delivered to hand, but I’ve never really asked for her to sit and wait or present the dummy to me. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started practising a more formal ‘hold’ and ‘give’ using our Paws Brooklyn rabbit ball. A rabbit ball is way more interesting that a canvas dummy and light enough for her to hold comfortably. We practised in the kitchen at first, both sat on the floor together with lots of fuss and cuddles when she held onto it and gave me it when she was asked. We’ve then progressed into the garden where I asked her to retrieve the dummy and bring it back to me. We do have a mini spaniel victory parade at the moment where she doesn’t bring it straight back, but we’re working on this as part of our engagement work. When she does come back, I’ve been scratching her bum with praise, asking for ‘hold’ and then asking for a sit making sure my hands are up high to encourage her to sit and hold her head high. Now that I know she can do this, I’ll be making sure to ask for this formal type of delivery more often to hopefully encourage this as habitual behaviour!
I also want to quickly discuss the new things I’ve tried with Saffy recently which were really to put our training to the test and see what areas we need to improve on. Firstly, I braved trying out our Paws Brooklyn Dummy launcher last week – Saffy was on the lead and about 200 yards away from me. We only shot it once, but the goal was to see how she reacted to the shot sound – she was steady to shot and not phased at all, however, she did want to go after the dummy as soon as it landed so steadiness is high on our priority list for the next few weeks! The launcher is a serious piece of training kit and I posted a more comprehensive overview of our first launcher experience on my grid (@thespanielgirlgang) if you want to know a bit more out how it went and how I prepared for using it. I won’t be using this very often with her just yet as she is still very young and I don’t want her to become gun shy, but it was a great learning experience.
Secondly, we tried our Paws Brooklyn Pheasant pelt wrap for the first time in the garden this weekend – not only did she pick it up like an absolute pro, but she also offered a sit stay delivery as well. As you can imagine, I was over the moon! I don’t want to use the pelt too much whilst we’re still working on our sit, hold, present retrieves because I don’t want to over-stimulate her, but I will slowly start to increase how often we use it over the next couple of months.
A superstar… most of the time
Whilst Saffy is a superstar most of the time, there are still things I know I really need to work on with her. I booked a virtual one to one with Tenderleigh training, (which along with the launcher, we so gratefully won as part of the Paws Brooklyn giveaway) where we discussed her engagement, steadiness and stop whistle progress, all off which I’ve noticed slipping recently. Lydia was amazing, and we got so much out of just 1 hour. I fully recommend booking a virtual session with her if you’re not local! I now have a plan in place to work on each of these over the next few weeks, and hopefully I’ll have good news stories on each of these for our next blog!
My main focal points with Saffy for the next month or so are:
Engagement – Engagement as a whole – This is almost an umbrella to the below issues we’re having. My homework is to make ‘me’ more exciting than everything else, and yes this does involve me looking like an absolute clown jumping up and down in our public parks, but it’s all about mum being fun!
Stop whistle – Saffy knows what this is, I KNOW she does (although we are still working on the full ‘sit’ your bum on the ground portion). She just picks and chooses when she wants to listen to the stop whistle! Whilst we work on her engagement, I will only be doing a handful of stops each week and making sure there is no room for failure – my goal in now quality over quantity!
Steadiness – If Saff has listened to my ‘Stay’ cue, she’s as steady as a rock and will typically not move a muscle unless released (I do want to note that we need to do more duration work on this because I suspect she would get bored of waiting after a while!). However, on occasion, she’s been ignoring my ‘Stays’ and running in for dummies before I’ve asked her to go for it. My aim to prevent these early release’s by controlling the situation – eg. popping her on a lead until she understands that stay means stay in every instance.
Exciting times ahead
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m making a conscious effort not to push Saffy too hard and fast. I will continue to occasionally test her boundaries with new bits of training as I don’t want our sessions to become stagnant or boring. However, I want to prioritise solidifying the bits we’ve already learnt, over introducing more new training elements. I am extremely excited to see how Saffy progresses over the next month. She’s an extremely intelligent little girl and I hope that we can share more positive progress with you next time!
One thing I am particularly looking forward to is our mini holiday down to Oxfordshire for the @gundogcreators spaniel training day! I managed to secure the last spot for Saffy on the training day and I can’t wait to meet some our insta friends there (including some of our fellow Paws team members!). It will be interesting to see how Saffy performs in a group environment, as when she’s around her sisters, her ears seem to magically turn off…Similar to the dummy launcher and the pelt, my goal is to see how well she performs and observe what we really need to focus on going forwards. I’ll update you all on how we get on in the next blog!
Just a Baby
Even though she’s now 16 months old, Bramble will always be the baby of the girl gang. She’s very young at heart and knows she can get away with pushing her luck occasionally. We’re on our third one to one now and already I can see a huge improvement with her training progress; it’s early stages but I can already tell that booking her in with an experienced gundog trainer is the best thing I could have possibly done for her (and me for that matter).
Her sit stays have dramatically improved, and creeping is now at a minimum. I’d argue its more of a fidget now with the occasional creep, but this is something we will continue to work on day in day out! My homework from today’s lesson is to try and be more relaxed posture wise when I’ve asked for the stay. She responded much better to this than if I kept my hand up in a forceful wait signal.
Up until this afternoon, I was feeling a bit deflated with her stop whistle progress, however, after a change to my whistle pip and a few new exercises, we were achieving un-assisted stops which has fully restored my confidence! Like Saffy, this is high up on my priority list to work on with Bramble.
Since our last session, we’ve also been working on retrieving. Let’s just say this is a work in progress and probably the most difficult problem that we need to un-pick. To summarise the issues, Bramble seems to think that retrieving is a game- she either runs around in circles if she does pick something up, drops in 3 feet in front of me, or shakes it about like a game of tug. We have a few new methods to try with this and we have made some progress, but I’ll focus on this more in the next blog if we see any further improvements! One positive from today with retrieving was that Bramble had her first go at fresh game and she DIND’T try to eat it, a massive win for us haha.
Finally, we’re working on some new hunting techniques with Bramble. She’s an absolute natural at the bits we’ve tried so far, and I feel there’s not really much to teach her at this stage, it’s more about teaching myself not to trip over my own two feet and guide her correctly! It’s been so refreshing to watch her try something new and succeed at it rather than unpick bad habits I’d taught her previously.
Until next time!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed our 4th Paws Puppy blog, and a massive thank you for your support, it means the world to us. If you’ve followed us from the start thank you for sticking with us and following our journey. If your new here and this is the first blog you’ve read, welcome to our training journey, and we hope to see you next time!
As always, I also want to say a massive thank you to Paws Brooklyn for this opportunity to share our training journey with you all.
Until next time,
Nat, Gin, Bramble and Sapphire x