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How to Train Springer Spaniels to Retrieve

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Author: Phil Marks


Training springer spaniels to retrieve is a real pleasure. This is because 'fetching' is one of their very strong natural traits. You are not teaching them anything new, just shaping behaviour. The retrieve we are teaching here is not the full gundog retrieve.

The training is best done by one person in the family, preferably the dog's ultimate master. When the training is complete then the springer will be able to work with other family members with the same set of commands, but during training it is best if only one person is ivolved.

By the age of four months, you should be able to gain and hold your dog's attention and basic commands such as 'Sit' and 'Come' should be working most of the time. Also, your dog should by now be able to recognise when he has done something wrong and you use the words 'Bad Boy' or similar.

Springers are possessive (want to fetch) and submissive (eager to please and obedient) and this makes them easy to train. You will have noticed your pup carrying his toys, and from an early age you can encourage him to release his toy into your hand and then praise him. Then return his toy. This behaviour should be encouraged and praised. There are tricks for training this 'easy' release.

You do need him to understand that there are things he can carry and things he is not allowed to carry. This will minimise later problems in training the retrieve.

You may have an old sock or glove, and maybe a tennis ball that you set aside for training the fetch - ideally three or four articles to provide variety. These should be kept separate for training and your pup should not be allowed to play with them - keeping them separate gives them special meaning as your training dummies. Encourage him to carry whilst walking at your side, and then to Sit with the sock on his mouth and to come on command, with the sock.

Before you move out into the field, teach the pup to release gently. This is done by telling him to sit and then whilst facing him with eye contact, stroke him on the forehead and under the chin; bring both hands forward along his cheeks whilst saying 'good boy', 'give'. Praise him and return the sock. Don't forget to vary the dummies.

Your pup should now be able to pick up the sock or glove, carry it, come on command, deliver it to your hand and give.

We move now to the throw. This is best done in open space without too many distractions. If your yard or garden is big enough then that is good as it is all known territory to him. Your springer should be told to sit by your side (remember firm voice and eye contact). Hold his collar whilst you throw a glove or stuffed sock a short distance. His natural instinct is to hare off after the game and retrieve it, but restrain him briefly by the collar then say 'Fetch', with an excited tone, as you release him. When he returns then tell him to sit and go through the give procedure.

With some springers it may be necessary to use the command 'Wait' whilst restraining them.

He should now be getting your enthusiasm for the fetch. After sufficient repetitions over a few days and various dummies, you should be able to move away from the collar restraint. Try to avoid too much repetition in each training session.

The whole cycle of retrieval should now be working and you should both be enjoying it.

Train him further by teaching him the names of the articles and getting him to retrieve a specific article by name - be it sock, ball or glove. As with all training, don't repeat the exercises more than four or five times a day, as your springer will get bored and lose interest.

About the author: I have had the great pleasure of owning both rescue dogs and regular springer spaniel pups. This has been a brief introduction to training tips. Discover all about training springer spaniels at http://www.springerspanieladvice.com/training-an-english-springer-spaniel/ and a whole lot more about finding one and how to care for it at => http://www.springerspanieladvice.com.


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