The tuning of a gundog. Part 1

Sunnie is now 13 weeks old. She still looks like a sweet little puppy but has in reality developed into a crocodile. A sweet crocodile, nevertheless.
She likes to sink her teeth into our hands and feet, tearing our clothes, unless she is doing killing exercises with the lot of toys we have given her to play with. She would need another dog to play with but unfortunately her foster-mother Briz passed away far too soon. Instead we have to sacrifice our less important body parts for her to chew on.

Her crocodile syndrome gave us a good opportunity to teach her what the word NO! means. When she used her small, very sharp teeth too enthusiastically we corrected her by giving a shout of pain, then lifting her up by the neck skin and held her until she stop fighting and relaxed. At the same time we said a firm NO!

Pretty soon she started to understand that the word NO! means that she must stop whatever she is doing. Like biting too hard, for ex. Or pegging for food from our dinner table. Or... Well, in fact she has not done as much harm as we have seen a puppy can do, but she has been rather gentle with our household and all the gadgets and things we have around. In our office for ex. we have two computers on the floor and an incredible mess of cables. I feared that she would destroy those cables in seconds and hesitated to let her in to the office. Nothing of my fears came to be true but she has behaved very well. She will of course challenge the NO! now and then for some time to come. In order to maintain the validity of the word she will have to be lifted still a number of times. However, she understands the correction very well, she looks like she is thinking: "Oh darn! It did not work this time either", and is as happy as ever when we let her down and is ready for the next game. She is still allowed to chew our fingers but she now knows that she must be soft in the mouth. This is precisely the same way she should have learned to be soft with her mouth, and learn to respect signals of warning, had she had another, older dog to play with.

Our feet are now a substitute for her littermates.

Now that she has learned to moderate the force of her bite there is no more bloodshed. Had she lived down under in the OZ I guess her first nickname had been Crocodile Sunnie, or Crocodile Dundee, had she been a boy.

We have no crocs here but a mythical creature that is a mix of a wolverine and a bear. The closest thing you might come when translating that to English would be the Werewolf. So lets call her Werewolf Sunnie for now.

Next time she shows up in my corner she probably has another nickname.

The SIT! Command is very easy to train with puppies. She is learning the verbal and the hand command. The whistle signal will come later. She has to sit at the door and before getting food and we have also started to train her to park for photography although her concentration ability do not yet last for more than 5 - 15 seconds.

Training to get used to the shotgun and gunfire started very early. We almost every day go out with her carrying a 20 gauge gun and when she has run away some distance, so far at least 15 meters, we fire a light target load in the other direction. 2 or 3 bangs on each outing are enough for now. Today we took her to our clay-shooting event. We left her in the car with the windows closed and the radio on. The clay launcher is mounted on the cargo platform of the pick-up. She could hear our suppressed bangs and as I went back to the car after 50 clays to reload the clay launcher she had fallen to sleep. Very well, she will not look back in that sense, unless we do something very stupid like fire right over her head or introduce rifle firing too early.

Otherwise there is no universal plan with the training program. We only want to install some order, and have already achieved as much as needed for the moment. Order is needed to be able to keep the fosterage as positive as possible. It will also facilitate for the puppy to understand us much more easily and to make the relation to the puppy free from any irritation or friction. Above all it prevents the puppy to develop into a headstrong, disobedient monster that after around one year from now would have to be taken down to earth with very harsh methods, possibly as the only alternative to put the monster down. I have seen that happen time after time. Should all folks instead have the sense to raise their puppies properly we would have very few visitors to the obedience classes we hold.

Pointing is a hunting behaviour. The next step from pointing is catching and killing the game. But what if you do not dare to attack the game? Sunnie already shows sagacity when she understands that this game is superior. The creator of the modern English pointer, William Arkwright's third law says: When the total mass (weight) of the birds in the covey the dog is pointing, is equal to or greater than the mass of the dog, then the dog do not dare to flush or even point the birds.

This is basically true with English setters also but since English setters are so much more courageous than pointers, the total mass of the covey must be at least 3 times the mass of the setter in order to discourage it. Obviously the mass of these hens is 3 times greater than the 9 kilograms that is Sunnies current weight. To this we must add the mass and the fear factor of the guardian killer cock that is outside the picture. So Sunnie is excused for her hesitation.

© Text & photo Torsti Mäkinen