I brought home Stella, my eight week old Brittany pup on Saturday, June 29, 2019. The journey down to Cayuga, Ontario and back proved gruelling, but in the end, it was worth it. I drove down to my sister’s house in the countryside near Port Colborne and stayed the night. Driving through Toronto is always an ordeal. My appointment at Ruffwood Brittany Spaniels was at 10:00 AM, and despite issues with my GPS, I arrived at 10:00 AM on the nose. I met with the proprietors of the kennel, Mike and Donna Wilshire, and after Donna showed me my pup, we completed the paperwork to finalize the sale. With the formalities out of the way, I discussed with Donna and Mike, my plans to train Stella as a gun dog. Mike and Donna offered parting advice on how to properly care for Stella while she is a growing pup. Yes, caring for and training a puppy to be a gun dog is a tall order.
Even though Stella is my fifth Brittany, I worry about the mistakes I will make along the way. I take heart in the fact I successfully trained the four Brittanies who came before Stella. That and Joan Bailey, author of “How to help gun dogs train themselves,” advises the reader that “you are going to make mistakes and it does not mean you are going to ruin your dog.” I found her book on gun dog training an excellent text on taking your gun dog, regardless of the breed, through its first year of training.
In short, the method of gun dog training Bailey promotes involves gentle conditioning of the dog. As I understand and apply the training method, I train my dogs by keeping the sessions brief and fun for the dog. The dog learns basic obedience and that she is hunting for me on our daily runs. I use a soft hand in training as this is in keeping with the disposition of the Brittany as a breed. I understand some dogs require a firm grip in training–even so far as the use of a shock collar in training. I do not and will not use a shock collar. I am just not “mean enough”–that is to say, I am not comfortable, personally, with the use of a shock collar in gun dog training. I know other gun dog owners who use the shock collar on their dogs. I do not begrudge them for their decision to do so. I get that some breeds of gun dog are much more robust in temperament than the Brittany.
As for Stella, I noticed right away that she is much different in personality than Hera. Stella reminds me much more of my beloved Juno, who is featured in the header photo. Stella, like Juno, is far more reserved in temperament than Hera was at the same age. Stella walks beside me when we are out for a run. Hera was much bolder and tougher. Hera bounded up to other dogs and nipped when she was a puppy. Stella, like Juno, is demure. She may come to like getting into rough and tumble play with other dogs when she is a little older. I noticed in the two days with her in my care that her confidence is building daily.
Stella is good about doing her business outside–though there have been a few accidents in the house. No matter, this is to be expected with a new puppy. I take her out frequently and praise her when she goes outside. I introduced “come” in our daily interaction. It is strictly informal, but I praise her when she comes when I call. Consistency and repetition are key to training a new puppy. That and make sure she is having fun, and that every interaction between you and your puppy ends on a positive note. Stella eats the puppy food the Wilshires provided–though she really likes getting into Hera’s adult kibble, also. I take care not to give her too much to eat.
Hera was excited when she saw Stella for the first time. Still, she is adjusting to the presence of a new puppy in the house. I am giving Hera extra attention in the first week since Stella joined our household. I may be anthropomorphizing, but my impression is that Hera thinks she was demoted. I am trying to assure her that she remains the alpha female in the pack. Hera’s daily routine will remain the same, save she will have Stella joining her on her daily run. I will hunt Hera solo this coming woodcock season as Stella will not be old enough to join us in the field. I think Hera will appreciate the time alone with me in the woodcock covers this fall.
Now that Stella is finally here with Hera and me let the adventure that is training a new gun dog get underway. We will see how Stella makes out as I introduce her to the regimen that is involved in turning a puppy into a finished gun dog. I am confident all will go well–I will proceed one day at a time and take what comes in stride.
Posted by Geoffrey