Your gun dog puppy – what’s cute now… may not be later

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Many articles have been written about the importance of puppy socialization and things you should do to prepare your retriever for his future. Today, I would like to discuss the flip side of that. What kind of things should I avoid doing with my retriever puppy?

Puppies are cute little balls of energy. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for people to be excited and overlook behaviors that seem cute at the time or just ignore certain etiquette hoping that it is just a stage the puppy is going through. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can come back to bite you as the puppy grows up (pun intended).

Here are a few of the behaviors I am referring to:

• hand biting

• jumping (on you or furniture)

• barking

• playing tug-a-war or keep-a-way

The first two are easy enough to understand. Allowing a dog to bite you, even on your hand, is just asking for problems. And while it always amazes me how many people allow their dog to jump on them, both behaviors are easy to correct while the pup is small.

Barking or noise of any kind (i.e. whining, growling) are annoying at best and not something you want to see in a hunting dog. Sitting in a duck boat with a dog who is continually barking is never a fun outing.

Playing tug-a-war is a common game people play with their dogs. The dog enjoys it and it seems harmless enough. But with retrievers that are going to be used for hunting, this can cause severe issues when you need the dog to “give” you the item they retrieved, say a duck or pheasant. When you reach for the bird, they can revert to the tug-a-war game and pull or shake the bird, digging their teeth in and destroying the bird. It can be frustrating, but how can you blame the dog if you encouraged the game in the past?

A dog does not have the level of reasoning ability that people have. They need clear and consistent boundaries allowing them to feel confident about their actions. They cannot understand why today it is okay to jump up on you but tomorrow it is not.

It is important to train with the future in mind. Is the behavior you are allowing or encouraging today going to make future training more difficult or confusing for your puppy?

Until next time, happy retrieving.

Steve Smith