Some 7 months ago, and after 11 years of nagging the fiancé my dream to become a dog owner was realised! The choice of breed inevitably came down to Spaniel v.s. Labrador – I knew I wanted a dog I could work…Spaniel had to win hands down (sometimes I wish I’d opted for the steadiness of a Lab, but there’s just something about the Duracell effect that’s addictive). I initially set out looking for a Working Cocker Spaniel having spent a fair bit of time with one of my closest friends and her x4 cockers…oh and lab, patterdale and cocker cross and absolutely loving their endless energy and business, not to mention their strong personality!
As it happens, another one of my closest and longest friends had been in touch about her Sprocker Spaniel bitch…she’d had puppies…dad was a WCS. I hadn’t planned for a Sprocker, but I really liked Bella, her temperament and ability to work – which was much more important to me than pedigree as first and foremost she was to be a pet! So we went to look at the litter, and rather predictably we agreed we’d have on of the pups – a bitch, who we have since named Molly.
So at 9 weeks old, Molly, my first gundog came to live with us. It’s fair to say she was a fairly easy puppy, we chose to crate train her and she only whined and moaned on night one, her toilet training came along very quickly and all the basic obedience training seemed pretty easy with her!
As a complete Novice when it cam to gundog training, I perhaps went a bit hard a bit early on though, whilst initially I was incredibly proud as my little black bundle of fluff sat when asked, waited until sent for a retrieve and responded every time to the recall and sit whistle , it didn’t take long for her to start questioning how seriously I meant sit and for her to lose interest in retrieving – and here came the ‘frustration’ period!
The frustration period has been long and arduous…walks off the lead became heavily restricted as advised after the recall whistle simply wasn’t as interesting as birds in flight, and walking on the lead was unenjoyable as every smell and movement meant that the idealistic ‘loose leash’ walking became almost impossible. Retrieving became sole destroying as she’d run in, ignore the dummy/ball and pick up a scent and she was off – leaving me to pick up the dummy. “Brilliant” I thought, “I’ve made a right mess of this!”
I was lucky enough that a local gundog trainer gave me some sound advice over the phone, and with the internet full of articles, videos and forums there was no end of information out there….so started the perseverance period!
During the so called perseverance period, I was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity that meant working from home, and I can honestly taking that opportunity was the best decision I’ve ever made…it’s transformed both Molly and me!
Last week she really turned a corner…I’m lucky enough to have some fields just over from the house and she’s finally starting to show some real promise – she’s hunting brilliantly, and her retrieving has come on massively. We finally have an effective recall (well about 97%, birds in flight are still a little tempting!!), and she’s constantly looking and watching for me. We’ve a very long way to go before she’s fit for the beating line…but I’m confident we’ll get there!