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Pro-Trainer or Do-It-Yourself?

I have acquired a 8-week male English Springer Spaniel. At what age should I start training the puppy? At a local Pheasant Club, there is a trainer that will take dogs for a nominal fee and train them. Am I better off taking the dog to him at a certain age or do you suggest that I train the dog myself so it will respond better to my commands?
Jerry Avalos

Dear Jerry:

At eight weeks your pup is ready to learn a few things such as his call name and No. You can start introducing him to light cover with SHORT walks, ten Minutes is plenty at first. Choose an area that has song birds but no large birds. The flush of a pheasant will scare a small pup and could cause problems later. At this age most pups will stay very close to you, so with the pup off lead just walk slowly and let the pup find his own way. Try not to give the pup any commands and just let him have fun. If pup flushes anything, bird or bug, give him lots of praise and encouragement.

By about four months old your pup should be bouncing through cover happily flushing anything he can find. At this point you should introduce him to larger birds, planted quail first, then pigeons and finally pheasants.

There is a great video you should get called Training The Upland Flushing Dog With George Hickox. It's available from most of the trainer supply catalogs.

If you have the patience, commitment, time, area to train in and access to birds, training your own springer is lots of fun and you will have a gun dog you will be very proud of. On the other hand if you lack any of these things get the help of a good pro. Most pro's will work with you and the dog towards the end of his training to assure a smooth transition of command.

I hope this helps. Let us know how things turn out.

Good Luck
Joe Riches

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