Questions and Answers - 4

By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs

Question: I have a 5-month-old male Brittany that I am having trouble with heeling. I can whoa him and he will stay but when I try to teach him to heel, he goes in front of me and pulls the whole time on the lead. When I try to hold him in the heel position, he is pulling so hard he chokes himself.

Answer: First of all, heeling is taught in the yard, not the field. You don't want to give him the wrong message and cause him to think you want him to heel and not hunt.

If you have an e-collar, first teach the dog to come and stay with you when called. This is done off leash in the yard. (See our Pointing Dog Journal article "Using the New E-Collar-Part 1", Nov/Dec 1998 for more in-depth information.)

Next, teach him to follow your lead by doing an about turn when he forges ahead of you. Give him an e-collar "nick" as you make the about turn. If you are consistent, it won't take many lessons until he will learn to stay next to you when given the command to heel.

If you don't have an e-collar, use a 20' check cord. Tell the dog to heel and begin walking. Don't restrain him. Let him forge ahead until the moment he reaches the end of the check cord. At that moment do an abrupt about turn and yank on the check cord. Continue walking until the dog gets to you, then stop and praise him. Repeat this procedure a few times, and then gradually reduce the distance you allow the dog to get ahead of you. Finally, do an about turn the moment he begins to forges ahead of you.

We use an e-collar and a place board to teach the dog not to move on the command "Whoa." The board gives a boundary so that the dog is aware of his feet.

Question: I have an eight-month-old that I have started working heavily with the "Whoa" command. I have been using the barrel and rope over the tree trick but the dog just looks terrified when she is standing up there after I tell her to whoa. Now when I get her on the cord in the yard and tell her to whoa, she will sit down. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a better way of training whoa?

Answer: We prefer using a "place board" rather than a barrel and overhead rope. The dog will learn the lesson of not stepping off the board without becoming afraid of the command "Whoa". A leash or an e-collar correction for stepping off the place board causes much less confusion and fear than being hoisted up in the air for jumping off a barrel. (See our PDJ article "Using the New E-Collar to Enforce 'Whoa'-Part 2" Jan/Feb 1999.)

Question: I have a 15-month-old Brittany. I have been training her for upland game birds. She is coming along nicely but I am having a hard time keeping her from going after rabbits. Any suggestions on breaking her on this?

Answer: This is easy to cure if you have an e-collar. Have your transmitter in your hand and be ready to push the button the moment the dog begins chasing. You may need to use a higher level than you would for yard work, as you want it to be strong enough to stop her when she is in full prey drive chasing the rabbit. The dog will learn not to chase rabbits very quickly if you correct her every time she chases. If you don't have an e-collar, I suggest you get one. Otherwise, trying to break a dog of chasing rabbits will be very difficult and confusing.

Question: I have a 2-year-old Brittany. He has only been in birds about 10 times but has had a lot of yard work and planted birds. I have created a problem. When I am hunting he will go to the edge of the trees to look for songbirds and give chase. He does hunt hard and has found many birds. I love to watch him work when he is not looking for the junk birds. Is this something that will go away with age or get worse?

Answer: When you want to stop a pup from chasing "junk" birds, give him a command to turn and give a nick with the e-collar. If you are consistent about reinforcing your command to turn whenever he begins to chase "junk" birds, it won't be long until he associates chasing them with displeasure and will stop chasing them.

Second, you want to immediately bring him into a bird you have planted so that he can point a game bird. This will allow him to make a comparison between the "junk birds" and the correct game birds.

To prevent hard mouth, teach the dog "Hold." This command will give you control over the dog's mouth and in the process the dog will understand what is expected of him.

Question: I am in the process of training my first pointing dog. She is an 8-month-old GSP and I couldn't be happier with her progress with obedience and general early fieldwork. I have had her out on pigeons, quail and pheasants numerous times. However, I am afraid that she may tend to be hard mouthed. She caught a weighted pigeon Saturday and chomped it pretty hard before I could get it- drew blood. I have noticed her chomping on tennis balls when she is retrieving for me in the yard. Should I stop playing fetch with the ball? What do I do? I know that I need to prevent things before they get worse. Should I put away the ball and use frozen birds or dummies wrapped in smoothed barbwire instead? She just chews scrub brushes. Any suggestions? I am a little worried and lost.

Answer: You can continue to play retrieve with her but use a hard rubber ball instead of the soft tennis ball. The real solution to stop your dog from being rough with birds is to train her to "Hold" and "Fetch". If you do not want to teach, "Fetch" at least teach, "Hold" so that you have control of her mouth. See our Pointing Dog Journal articles, "A New Technique to Prevent 'Mouth Problems' Sept/Oct 1999 and "Training for a Reliable 'Fetch'" March/April 2000. If you do not have access to the old issues of PDJ you can find the articles on our web site library at You could also study our video on this subject "The Trained Retrieve" which is available through the video section of PDJ.

Pointing Index  •  Library Index  •  Dobbs Home

Dobbs Training Center
9627 Spring Valley Road
Marysville, CA 95901
(530) 741-0375 - FAX (530) 741-0242