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The good, the bad, and the feral – taking stock



It’s the end of the season and after a busy few months, it’s time to give our dogs a well-earned rest and chance to regain their body condition over the coming weeks. It’s also the perfect time to take stock, assess what went well, what needs work and just how feral your dog has become.

 

Doing it now, while the season is still fresh in your mind, will make it much easier to know what you need to work on over the spring and summer months and what training plans you need to put into place.

 

Identifying problem areas

 

Make a note of everything that was an issue out in the field or that wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. Was the stop whistle ignored, did your dog pull too far ahead in the beating line, did heelwork become a bit sloppy? Doing this exercise now, before you forget any of the smaller points, will mean you remember to address them all fully over the coming months. This will also help nip small problems in the bud before they escalate and become harder to fix. This doesn’t have to be an essay – just bullet points will do, whatever helps to keep things fresh in your mind. It’s especially important if you have multiple dogs as each dog can have different issues that need work.

 

Making a plan

 

While you and your dog are getting back into your off-season routine and the dog is having some down-time, start to plan what you are going to need to work on and how. In particular, if your dog has become somewhat self-employed, avoid going for walks where it has complete freedom to do what it wants. Build in short sessions and exercises that address issues such as hunting too far away from you by ensuring that any item the dog finds is near to you in order to reinforce in the dog’s mind that good things happen when they are close to you.

 

Think about what environments you need to revisit to reinforce behaviours and steadiness, especially as you progress through the summer. You’ll also want to think about when you need to start to improve fitness – that may be as important for you as it is for your dog. Make a plan of when you need to start going out for longer walks and whether you need to make the terrain that you cover more challenging.

 

Back to basics

 

Think about basic obedience, manners and house rules. Have you let standards slip through the season? Is your heelwork, recall and stop whistle still snappy? Does your dog barge through doors or out of your vehicle or do they wait patiently until you give them a command/cue? It’s not always easy to keep on top of these things when you’re out in the field so revisiting the basics and making sure you are consistent with what you expect is key. It gets you back on track as a partnership, helps to ensure the dog is listening to you and means that any bad habits don’t become engrained. Ensure you cover an element of basic obedience every day, you can mix these up to ensure training sessions don’t become boring. Include some pavement walks or exercises in less distracting areas to really get that heelwork neat again.

 

Remember the old quote, ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’ (or a variation thereof). Put the planning in now and you will have plenty of time to get back on track and have a dog that you’re proud to take out in the field by next season.

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