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I have had over five years with Pickle, learning how to give my alert and energetic working dog a sufficiently fulfilled life so that he’s not bored, naughty or too noisy without actually working him. One thing is certain, the more stern people become with a dog like Pickle and Sam, the worse the dog will get. But how else other than through ‘discipline’ will they stop Sam leaping onto the table, stealing food from their hands while they eat, jumping up at small children, flying over the furniture, repeatedly barking for things he wants, tearing things up, raiding the fire grate, and so on?
My reply is that few pet dogs are really fulfilling what they have been bred for and people are finding other ways. I eventually put a harness on him to which I attached a longish lead and then hooked him onto the banister rail beside me with something to chew. Without this I could have spent the entire two-and-a-half hours working on his table-jumping, pen-stealing, counter-surfing tricks!
Using barriers, gates, anchor points and even attaching the lead to one’s waist as we walk about removes opportunities to do many of the undesired things. Here is the story of a very similar Cocker Spaniel I went to eighteen months ago called Willow. Whilst harsh training methods may well work in the moment, there is usually future fallout of some sort. There is no argument that many working dogs are a lot more fulfilled than those family pets who may be either left alone all day or over-spoilt. I was given a demo of the skills of three 4-6 month old dogs and they were certainly very obedient and were 100% focussed on the man even at that age. In saying their dogs are used as a commodity, I absolutely don’t include people who have family dogs that happen to take them to gun dog training classes because of their breed, like the owners of Rufus and of Bramble who I went to a few months ago. Dogs that are trained to think for themselves using clicker or other positive reinforcement methods aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
Gone now is the punishing and uncomfortable slip lead – like a choke chain, what can possibly be the purpose of this as opposed to a normal collar and lead, or a harness, apart from causing discomfort if a dog pulls? We took turns to walk Rufus around outside on a harness with long lead clipped to the chest and he walked beside us like a different dog, round in circles, back and forth – a dream.
In this comfortable state of mind, he is much more likely to be chilled when encountering unknown dogs or if a moped buzzes past. Rufus is at the dawn of a new life, and his family will now work in unison to give him back his old confidence.
I have certain issues with the training methods used with Bramble and which are also now applied to Whisky. Behavioural theory has proved beyond any doubt that positive and reward-based training is more effective – and it works just as well for gun dogs, traditionally trained in the old-fashioned way using a degree of force and even aversives. The main reason I am uneasy with his approach is that control is from the ‘outside in’ – i.e. So, while the dogs get their exercise and stimulation day to day with the man, the lady can go back to basics with the lead walking. The lady is going to show the dogs, through her own behaviour at home, that she is in fact the decision maker and not Ellie.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. It is sad to see a dog of only five months old that is scared of people. Archie, a young black labrador, is also scared of other dogs. Archie came from a gun dog breeder having been with his litter mates until he was nine weeks old.
Archie needs his confidence building up – and also his confidence in his owners to protect him.
Archie is only a puppy still, and if walks become no longer a stressful thing of pulling and choking, of being held back, corrected and scolded when he sees a person or another dog, he will soon be in a much more relaxed state of mind, ready to encounter new things, people and dogs more confidently.

His lady owner is tense and worried on walks, holds him tight and no longer lets him off lead. The more Ozzy is allowed to freelance, the better he gets at it, so for his own safety he needs to learn that freedom is something granted and not something that is his by right.
For professional reasons, no free telephone advice offered to non-clients, people whose dogs I've not met. We pride ourselves on having a team of experienced staff who have been trained to give our customers' dogs and cats the very best of attention. Peter is supported by his wife, Eleanor, who has owned and trained a variety of breeds herself.
Despite all my own training and practical experience, Pickle has been a challenge for me – and I adore him.
Admittedly, with sufficient force and punishment a more timid dog could be cowed into submission as demonstrated by Cesar Millan.
They would be heartbroken to lose him, but because they love him they want the best for him. The method of applying these rules is to teach the dog using positively reinforcing methods just what we do want, as we would a young child.
It takes a lot of effort, but it’s better to teach him that being calm and quiet is what earns him attention and not unruly and demanding behaviour.
He is a clever, affectionate and wonderful dog whose good points far outweigh any bad points.
These dogs are trained specifically to do a job, they are often kept alone out in kennels and some have never seen the inside of a house. Many working dogs are trained positively and are treated as valued members of a family or at least have a close relationship with their handler. Most of the dogs seemed submissive in general and a bit fearful of me when I stood by their caged areas. To be fair, they seemed to enjoy what they were doing but I guess their life didn’t hold a lot else by way of interaction with humans.
These conscientious dog owners do so because they believe it is the best for their dog on account of what he’s bred for. They become inventive and try different ways of getting their rewards and making us happy because they know they won’t be scolded or punished if they happen to get it wrong. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rufus, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. As soon as she sees a dog she begins to scream, and if she can get to it she will attack, grabbing its neck and holding on. She was the bossiest puppy in the litter and is now, at six years old, very much in charge of the world! Fear makes him bark, which the owners understandably find embarrassing, and they are worried that if someone tries to touch him he may bite them. His recall needs to be worked on for as long as it takes for him to be trusted to come back, even in the presence of other dogs – and pheasants! He is an international field trials and show judge, and breeds and trains his own red setters and black labradors, all of which live on the premises too. Her background is in nursing and she came to Meeting House from a position in a large boarding kennel and cattery in Kent, where she specialised in canine and feline nursing. There were no bouncy, friendly welcomes that one might have expected from Labradors and Spaniels.
The key to teaching a dog is not about making them do what we want, but making them WANT to do what we want.

Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good.
I work on the opposite – from the ‘inside out’ where the dog learns to cooperate through choice. Both she and her daughter like to cuddle and make a fuss of the dogs, but walking them on lead is becoming an increasing problem constantly watching out for other dogs and coping with the pulling.
Poppy is a lot more timid, and feels threatened if approached too directly by people and is wary of dogs. She will need to work on the dogs one at a time starting in the garden, and only walk them together when loose lead walking is established separately.
The owners were able to relax with worrying about me and he will have picked up on this too. He needs exposure to the things that scare him in a controlled and manageable way rather than the random, potentially volatile meetings that occur on daily walks, never pushing him beyond what he can easily cope with.
However, once outside he pulls madly on lead and he has selective hearing when he is off lead.
He allows himself to be pulled down the road, lets Ozzy off lead at the earliest opportunity and may well spend fifteen minutes trying to catch him when he wants to go home. He can expend his daily bouts of manic energy onto a carton filled with junk rather than shredding important paperwork and eating socks.
With Sam, it works a lot better just to wait for the behaviour you want with no more than one gentle reminder rather than to bombard him with commands. What I have discovered in the last two years, is what an amazingly intelligent and quick learner she is! In fact their trainer says don’t use food rewards at all.  Would you happily work for nothing? This can take a lot longer and needs great patience, but rests easier with me as the dogs learn self control.
They will need to use their brains – work it out for themselves what works and what doesn’t!
He went to puppy classes and had to be hidden behind a desk where he couldn’t see the other dogs and bark at them.
A farmer recently threatened to shoot him when he was creating havoc where pheasants were being reared.
As well as hunting, he is over-boisterous and playful with other dogs he meets irrespective of whether they welcome it. Too many gun-dog trainers still use the kind of harsh training methods that other modern trainers would never inflict upon dogs today. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).
Making sure we don’t leave dining chairs pulled out otherwise she gets up on the dining table too! If she were my dog and I built on that bond and relationship, I am sure I could make progress when out where Whisky and other dogs are concerned, because she would be focusing on me and trusting me.

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