My fully-trained spaniel has started whining whenever he has to sit and wait.

I was told he had not made the grade for field trial competitions when I picked him up. I am thrilled with how he has fitted in to his new life with us, and with how sharply he responds to my commands, hunts with conviction and retrieves with passion. The problems start when he has to sit and wait for any length of time. He will begin whining and this seems to be getting worse rather than better. How would you approach this problem and is it resolvable?

Mark Whitehouse says: Making noise and whining are major eliminating faults in field trialling events, and this could be one of the reasons he has been sold as a shooting companion. You would expect him to have undergone a reasonable amount of patience training, but it is never too late to go back to basics and re-train your spaniel in this specific area. You can do this one-to-one but in my opinion it works better in a group. In a group you would start with the sitting and walking away, always leaving your spaniel until last, and when the entire group have called their dogs to heel, you must always walk back and collect your dog from the spot you sat him on. This exercise is the beginning of a long slog of patience training, starting with sessions of two minutes and building up to 10 minutes.

The second exercise would be where the other members of the group walk forward and throw a retrieve for their own dog and once again your spaniel will have to sit this one out as well. If at anytime he starts whining squeeze his nose firmly and tell him “no” using a stern voice. Do not be lax with these exercises. You must react as soon as your spaniel starts whining so he can relate the discomfort of being told off to the whining noise he is making and he must learn it is not acceptable.

In my experience some dogs can overcome it and some young dogs can grow out of it, but most of the time it is about the handler learning how to manage the problem and to be consistent with the telling offs.