In training my dogs I am loathe to use force. This is one of the reasons I hunt with Brittanies. When I researched the various breeds of gun dog I could choose from I found the Brittany best suited for the upland gunning I do here in Eastern Ontario and for my personality: I am a gentle man and a gentleman. I talked to Brittany breeders and read up on the breed and learned that Brittanies are renowned for their eagerness to please their masters and are easy to train. I also learned also they need a soft hand in training; that and there is never an excuse to beat or mistreat a dog. Hera is my fourth Brittany and by far the toughest of the four. As with the three Brittanies who came before her (Christie, Maggie and Juno) I always make certain Hera enjoys her time afield and that every outing ends on a positive note. This does not mean I never have to correct her, but in doing so I use force only as a last resort. True to the breed, Hera is eager to please her master and is happiest when she is in my good graces. When it comes to meting out discipline, usually scolding her in my sergeant-major voice is sufficient. She responds with contrition and I am careful to forgive her and assure her she is still my girl.
Two days ago as I took her on her daily run she found a groundhog took up residence under a brush pile in a stand of pines on the route we take. She was determined to find a way under the brush to get at the groundhog and did not listen when I called her to move on. Fine, I understand her determination to pursue prey, but I am still her master. I put her on leash and told her “no” sternly when she tried to pull away. I kept her on leash until we were well on our way, then let her loose. She moved on and we continued the run without incident. The brush pile seemed an unlikely location for a groundhog to set up household and I hoped it would move on, that it would not be an issue the next afternoon when I took Hera for her daily run. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The next afternoon as we made our way through the pines, Hera made her way to the brush pile where the groundhog stood its ground, chirping away. I put Hera on leash as before and led her away, letting her loose when I thought we were far enough away. This time, however, Hera started back toward the pines and the brush pile. I roared “Hera, NO!” in my sergeant-major voice. She paused, looked at me, thought about it, then took off running back to the brush pile. This was deliberate and flagrant disobedience on her part. I could not let this pass. I calmly made my way back to her at the brush pile and called her. She ignored me, compounding her disobedience. She was preoccupied with the groundhog under the brush pile. This was one of the rare occasions I resorted to force with a disobedient Brittany.
Well, it was really more a show of force than actual force. I looked around, found and picked up a very dry stick. With the stick in hand, I caught up to my excited dog, raised the stick menacingly and brought it down across her back. The stick was so dry it broke on her back, but she cowered, looking at me as though I beat her savagely. I put her on leash and led her away once more. This time when I let her off leash she continued on her way as I told her, but kept close. She paused and looked back at me anxiously as we continued the run. Before too long I called her, petted her and told her in a soothing tone of voice she is a good girl and my girl. With the unpleasantries behind us we continued the run without incident. Yes, we ended the run on a positive note. I made sure to give her lots of positive attention when we got home and I am pleased to report she remains her happy go lucky self. We will avoid the pines on subsequent runs as the temptation to hunt the groundhog is too great in Hera and I do my best not to set my dogs up to fail at obedience.
Posted by Geoffrey