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  • Writer's pictureBobby Dwyer

Puppy Training and Development: Part 1

My rule for puppy training is that the puppy is never wrong. Obviously, the puppy is wrong most of the time but if every time he does something wrong you scold and spank him he will become nervous and may become afraid if you. Keep in mind we want a confident, happy dog that finds plenty of birds for you and your hunting buddies.

What the Dog is Learning and How to Avoid Bad Habits

A dog is learning every second of everyday. What that means is that even though you may have time set in the day for training, the dog is training himself outside of those times. This is why it is very important to be consistent and fair even when not in a training session. An example of training is when the dog brings you a shirt or sock, don’t yank it from him and tell him NO, instead take it from him calmly and then praise him or give him a proper chew toy. This will encourage him to bring a retrieve to you. If you scold him he might think you don’t want him to bring you things.


When raising a working dog the first few weeks and months of this dogs life are the most important. It is critical that you spend time with your puppy and show them that the world is a fun and exciting place. A basic guideline for socialization has been provided in the flowchart but there are many things the puppy needs to experience that aren’t on that list. You must spend time with your dog, take him for walks, let him explore fields and other hunting areas, and so on. Take the puppy out on the town showing him off to everybody. Let people, dog people, pet the puppy and love all over him. If you have treats with you then let those people give the dog treats. If the dog knows some obedience let pup show off and have those people give him treats. This will let him know that most people are nice and have nice things. Try to find people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Introduce the puppy to men wearing cowboy hats, baseball caps, big coats, loud jewelry, and on and on, I think you get the picture. If you plan to run field trials then introduce the puppy to horses and other farm animals. If you don’t plan to run field trials then it doesn’t hurt to get him around other species of animals. Take the puppy to play dates with other puppies of different breeds and have him play with older dogs you know wont roll or try to flip the puppy. The more positive experiences the puppy has with animals, people, places then when he’s older and he experiences something new he wont be afraid, instead he’ll have a mental stockpile of new positive experiences that he will think that this is just another fun new thing. In my experience working with aggressive or shy dogs it all comes back to the fact that they were never properly socialized to the world. Take the pup for rides on ATVs, or 4x4s in your lap. Let him ride in the car with you for short trips around the block and introduce the crate in the truck. If you only remember one thing from this book I hope that its the importance of proper socialization. In Appendix AA I have given a socialization checklist so you can track the number of times and dates the puppy has seen something new. There are critical periods on a puppies life that you need to pay attention to so you can understand what your puppy is going through.

Critical Socialization Periods of Development:

  • Neonatal Period (0-12 days)

  • Transition Period (13-20 days)

  • Awareness Period (21-28 days)

  • Canine Socialization Period (3-7 Weeks): This is when the dog learns how to be a dog. Very important that puppies remain with littermate for this entire period.

  • Fear Impact Period (8-11 Weeks): This is when any negative, painful, or scary experience can have a lasting effect. Don’t isolate the pup at this point but just be careful.

  • Human Socialization Period (8-12 Weeks): This is when the pup needs to be socialized with many new people and experience many new things. Great time to start positive training with treats. Don’t use negative training or punishment in this time.

  • Seniority Classification Period (13-16 weeks): Important period when the pup develops self confidence. Set challenging situations where the pup must solve problems but keep them simple and set the puppy up for success.

  • Flight Instinct Period (4-8 months): At this time, the pup will test you and see what he can get away with. It may seem that all your training has gone down the drain but be patient. Make sure to stay positive when teaching new concepts.

  • Seconds Fear Impact Period (6-14 months): Stick with the training plan but try to make things positive. He is still maturing physically and mentally. The duration of this period depends on the dog.

  • Maturity (1-4 years): On average, a dog develops to full maturity between 1-1.5 to 3 years of age but this is different for each dog. Continue to teach the dog and reward positive behavior.

The task of developing a puppy can seem daunting but make sure to have fun and lots of laughs. Remember, the puppy is never wrong!

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