A Gundog’s First Few Months

Getting a new puppy home is always an exciting time for any new dog owner. 

Bringing that small “bundle of energy” into your home, will most likely change your lifestyle and will also add new requirements for anyone involved in that pup’s life.

Pointing breeds will often begin this trait at a young age!

There are some important steps to take during the first few months of your puppy’s life. By taking these steps sequentially, you will ensure that your dog will have the qualities that you expect both in the field and at home.

Attend Obedience Classes
The first thing is socialization — taking your puppy to as many new places as possible will help him realize that the world is a lot bigger than just the backyard. This can be done by taking it on car rides and exposing him or her to a variety of social settings. Puppy obedience programs are a great way to begin this process. Not only do these classes teach you the beginning phase of dog training, they help the dog meet other people and dogs, too!

Holding your puppy tight while it struggles will establish that you are the dominant figure.

All the family members should practice handling the new puppy. One trick that helps young dogs learn about control goes like this. Pick up the dog and cradle him in your arms like a baby. With the dog looking up at you, hold him tight until he relaxes, if he struggle tighten your hold. When he gives in and lays nicely for you, then gently put him down and praise him. You are teaching him that struggling against you will not get him what he wants and that you are the boss.

This is also a good time to look over the dog and check him over to make sure he is healthy. Check his feet by gently looking between his pads and toes. Clip his nails with a human nail trimmer for the first couple months, then use a dog nail trimmer when he around 12- to 14 weeks old. Look in his ears and make sure they are not red or dirty. You can usually tell if the pup has ear problems by smelling them. They will smell a lot like yeast, and may have a build up of ear wax. Also, take a look at his eyes and the inside of his mouth. If your dog needs grooming, this is a great time to begin it so he gets used to it at an early age.

Check your dog over while playing with it to ensure it is a healthy pup.

Start House Training
Basic house training begins the day you get your puppy home. Take your puppy outside immediately after he eats, sleeps, or gets out of a kennel. Try and go to the same spot in the yard and begin a command to go to the bathroom. Keep repeating this command in a normal tone of voice, and make sure to praise him when he relieves himself. Eventually, you can get your puppy to go on command!

If you keep your dog on a regular watering and feeding schedule, the house breaking-in process should be relatively quick. To help him last through the night, don’t feed or give him water after 7 p.m. Allowing him to go outside right before bed, and putting him in a crate at bedtime, will help him make it through the night without an accident.

Retrieving training as soon as possible has a number of benefits that will not only help the dog at this young age, but will also help him later on with more formal training. Start out by having your pup retrieve something that he likes; dummies, dead fowl trainers, or even an old sock or glove can be used for retrieving. Make sure to keep this fun, and do not get too formal right away so that your dog loses interest. A puppy’s attention span is not very long so try to keep your retrieves to a minimum. You are better off stopping the retrieving game when your puppy wants more, than to go beyond his interest. If you think your pup is good for six retrieves, stop on number five, for example.

Start retrieving at a young age to ensure your gundog’s success later in life.

Work On Commands
When the pup reaches 3- to 5 months of age (depending on the breed), you can begin with some light obedience commands using a small choke chain and leash. Start by making the dog sit and walking him at heel. Walk a figure 8 and change your speeds. Make sure you are the one setting the pace and give the dog some light “snaps” with the leash to establish this. Always use praise during this process when the dog is doing well because too much discipline may get your dog nervous. 

End the session on some fun retrieves and your dog will actually enjoy these drills!

My theory for new dog owners is this: “Let a puppy be a puppy.” Try as much as possible to introduce the puppy to different environments and try to give a lot of praise. Remember that as a responsible owner, you are always teaching and showing!

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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. For more information on training your dog with Cannon River Kennels, call 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.

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