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Gundogs: Build a Dog with Backbone

Gundogs: Build a Dog with Backbone

If you want a bold, inquisitive, confident dog ready to tackle new situations and environments, mix it up. Avoid routine. The more of the world puppies encounter safely, the better they’ll adapt to accept and handle it. Carry the little fur ball into your car for short rides. Put her in the pickup bed to play. Give her a ride on your bicycle, ATV, tractor, skis, boat … . Have her sleep in a different room each night, you with her at first if necessary.

Ship her out to your buddy’s place for a day or two. Get her used to sleeping in a travel kennel in various buildings, cars, boats, even outside. Put her on leash and let her sniff and investigate chickens, house cats, cattle, horses and especially other dogs. Strap different collars on her, particularly any e-collars you plan to use down the road. Let her drag the leash, then a 30-foot check cord. Have her play around a pile of decoys, splash in puddles and small streams. Get her into warm, calm lakes and swim with her. Show her how to calmly approach fences and either duck under or wait for you to help her over.

When it comes to loud noises, like gunshots, you can teach your new pup to appreciate the sound with a bag of balloons and a little reinforcement.

In rural America I start my pups by calling them to dinner with a .22 Long Rifle fired on the back side of the house while he’s wagging at the door out front. Then I whistle and call Pup’s name. His reward is the food he’s been craving. In town just pop a balloon from a reasonable distance so as to alert Pup without startling him. It’s simple Pavlovian conditioning. Soon those loud pops will mean “bird down” and Pup will be racing in to find it. Mix it up. Show Pup the world and guide her safely in it and you’ll have a lifetime partner willing and able to go with you anywhere.

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