Two readers have problems with whining spaniels. What's the advice?
Q: My cocker spaniel has been trained since she was five months old. I slowly introduced her to the world of shooting and she had her first day when she was two years old. This past season, however, she has developed a whine at the peg and as much as I try to comfort her or raise my voice I cannot get her to stop. Any advice?
A: Noise is one of the most difficult behavioural problems to deal with. You obviously took her introduction to shooting slowly and I assume she has now several years of experience. It could be a symptom of deafness and sitting at the peg on a regular basis she will have been exposed to lots of gunfire. As a precaution, get her checked out by your vet before beginning any remedial training. If deafness is not the cause she needs to be taught the command “quiet” and you have all summer to achieve this.
The command “quiet”
Trying to comfort her has been inadvertently rewarding her behaviour, as you were giving her immediate attention when she “spoke”. Punishment is not the answer, but the command “quiet” should be associated with her sitting still to receive something pleasant. She will not make a sound during training, but still make sure you teach her that the word “quiet” is always associated with sitting for a treat. This needs to
be repeated often, until when she hears the word she immediately stops what she is doing to sit and look at you to earn a reward. This should give you more control in the shooting field.
But take that slowly as well. Let someone else shoot so that you can work on her paying attention to you. She must learn that sitting still and being “quiet” will always earn a tasty reward.
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A whining springer
Q: My two year old springer Betsey is a great worker but she will insist on whining whenever she is made to sit or when she is in the kennel. She has been like this since a puppy.
Is there anything I can do to stop her making the noise, or should I just keep her for rough shooting and get another dog for the driven days I go on?
A: Whining is a problem that often gets worse rather than better the older the dog gets.
If she hunts and retrieves well while shooting on your own then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep her for that purpose and, as you say, train another dog to take on formal game days.
However, be careful…whining is catching and your new dog could end up warbling along as well if the two are kennelled together or worked together.