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Re: Training Methods

The Ryman Setters Forum Forums Training Training Methods Re: Training Methods


Great topic.  I enjoy hearing how other people go about training their dogs, whether they be ryman or other breeds.  

For my rymans (and Mike’s Fr Brits) we are definitely “less is more” people.  The only specific training that we do are the basics: come, sit, stay and kennel.  Other than that it is all experiential.  It starts with walks with puppies in the fields and woods.  They learn to keep track of us yet be independent.  I have always been fortunate to have wild birds for my pups to learn on once they were a few months old and on our “walks” they would encounter grouse/woodcock – now it’s usually quail.  Back when I saw how quickly my first ryman became skilled at grouse from just those somewhat limited contacts, I knew I was hooked on rymans.  The Gordons I owned previously were not as precocious nor as naturally staunch. 

Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to walk into wild birds though.  For many years I ran a training group at my old farm in Vermont where my focus was on showing owners how to train and handle their dogs.  It was a lot of fun and over the years probably 50 people and 15 different breeds participated.  I kept the fields groomed and trails cut through the woods;  we used quail plus I kept a loft of pigeons.  I helped to start many a youngster for other folks and polished up many hunting dogs and competition-bound dogs.  Puppies were allowed to be puppies, bumping and chasing as they may and introducing a blank gun while they were chasing. Most pups started pointing pretty quickly with this no-pressure approach.  (I have to say that the show-bred English Setters were the weakest for natural point of any dogs that came there and required checkcord work just to get them to stop at scent, let alone actually point.)  Once a pup was pointing and holding point I felt the owner needed to make a decision.  If it was to be a hunting dog I recommended stopping the released bird experiences and work on getting pup into wild birds.  This is what I would/will do with my own pups if for whatever reason I cannot get them wild contacts.   If the owners were going to be doing preserves, hunt tests or trials with released birds they would usually continue training, adding controls such as checkcords and launchers to compensate for the pen raised birds.  For my own dogs, the wild birds were the instructors and taught them lessons I could never duplicate….scenting, trailing, using wind and cover, what is too close, etc.    

There is a big difference between wanting a dog that is staunch on point vs a broke dog ie, steady through wing and shot.  My personal experience is that my rymans become naturally staunch within a season or two, meaning that they hold point until we, the gunners, cause the flush.  Anyone who prefers or requires a broke dog will of course have to do training to obtain that since standing still while game (dinner) leaves the area is not a natural instinct.  

We do now introduce whoa because we typically hunt 3-4 dogs at a time and in some habitat a dog coming in cannot see that there is another dog on point.  We then teach whoa in context, saying their name, giving a hand signal and this word “whoa” which is weird to them so they usually slow down and start looking around, wondering what the heck is going on.  Once they see the dog on point they ‘get it’ and stop to back.  We are finding that they pick up what whoa means very quickly this way and we can even use it around the house if we want. 

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