by Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard
Step 1 - Teaching the pup to "Hup"
Teaching a spaniel to sit can begin when you first bring your pup home from the breeder. By the time the pup is three months old, it should know to hup (sit) on your verbal and whistle commands.
We begin training hup with a tasty food treat, held in a way that manipulates the pup into sitting. Hold the tidbit in your hand and move it back over the top of the pup's head. Command "Hup" and, the moment the pup sits, open your hand and give it the treat. Repeat until the pup understands the game, and is sitting immediately to get the treat.
Now give your whistle command for hup as you start to move the treat over the top of the pup's head. Don't say "Hup". The pup will chain together the whistle command with the familiar picture of your hand reaching out.
After a few repetitions, blow the whistle and delay reaching out with your hand. Repeat until you see the pup sit automatically when it hears the whistle without needing the hand motion.
Finally, phase out giving the pup a treat every time it sits on command. Sometimes give a treat; sometimes don't.
Step 2 - Stay on a training platform until released
Once your dog has learned the "invisible check cord" and "Come or Here" with mild electrical stimulation from the e-collar (Parts 1 and 2 of this series), it should learn the lesson of staying on a platform to keep the collar turned off. This lesson is the foundation for later work on remaining steady.
We described how to teach a dog to stay on a platform in our retriever training tips column in the February/March, 1996 issue of Retriever Journal. The procedure is exactly the same for a spaniel
Step 3 - Automatic sit at heel
Now the spaniel should learn that when it is heeling on leash and you come to a stop, it should hup automatically.
Begin saying "Hup" every time you come to a stop while heeling. The dog will catch on very quickly, and will begin to hup on its own when you stop. Of course you will praise it for being so clever.
Now you can expect the dog to hup automatically when you stop. If it doesn't, reinforce "Hup" with your leash.
Step 4 - Hup from motion
Now teach the spaniel that if you give a verbal or whistle command to hup while heeling, it should stop and sit even though you don't stop. It should let you walk away without trying to follow you. This will create the habit of sitting abruptly, which will carry over into the dog's field work.
When you first start to hup the dog from motion, it will have a natural tendency to take steps as it slows down to sit. To teach the dog the physical skill of "locking up" in response to "Hup," use the training platform from Step 2.
Heel the dog over the platform once or twice. Then repeat, but just as the dog steps up on the platform, command "Hup." Help the dog stop on the platform the first few times.
Now repeat, and if the dog doesn't hup fast enough and steps off the platform, reinforce your "Place" command with your e-collar. The dog will quickly learn how to put on the brakes as it hups, and will also be prepared to understand a correction with the e-collar if it doesn't hup in the field.
Now the dog is prepared to hup from motion while heeling without the aid of the platform. At first, pause slightly as you say "Hup" and then continue walking. Gradually phase out the pause.
If the dog doesn't sit immediately on your first command, reinforce your second command with your e-collar.
First Appeared in:
Dobbs Training Center