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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a one year old Brittany. He is intelligent and gentle. But he seems to think responding to my requests is optional.. If I have chicken in my hand no problem, but otherwise nope he won't come. He seems nervous of me, probably because I am giving off "I am annoyed with you" signals.
He stresses me out.. To the point we are considering rehoming him which makes me very very sad. How do you go from rewarding with food to a dog just listening and doing? If there is no chicken my dog isn't going to do as you ask..
 

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This thread should provide the information you need: Thoughts on training with food

I know how stressful training can be; my dogs have had me near tears trying to figure out how to communicate with them. :) It sounds as though your pup is very sensitive and has a strong connection with you. He probably very much wants to do what you ask, but needs more help from you. The link above has excellent advice on changing food from a bribe (what you're experiencing now) to a reward (what you want).
 

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Since your dog is a Brittany they have a very high energy level, which means they love love love play! I have an Australian shepherd, who are sheep dogs. He LOVES play, and although he also likes food I've found that he's much more enthusiastic about coming to me and obeying my commands if he thinks that there will be a game involved! So instead of pulling out some ham or sausage, try pulling out a rope or an old leash and play tug of war. Try to get really engaged in it, jump around and encourage him to play. I've started doing this with Cosmo and he comes to me happily, ready to do anything I ask if I have the rope in my hand.

By using play instead of food, you're also forming a stronger bond with your dog because the reward is coming fully from you. You have control of when he gets to play, which will make him see you as in control as well. :)
 

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How does he stress you out? How much exercise per day is he getting? I'm not sure if you were aware of this before you got the dog, but Brittany spaniels are probably in the top 5 dog breeds for energy. Very, very sweet, intelligent dogs but they have pretty much no off-switch. The only dogs that come close in energy that I can think of are the border collie, the belgian malnois, and the dalmatian.

If you aren't already, taking the dog out for a high-energy off-leash play (think fetch, playing with other dogs, swimming, agility OR biking/jogging) morning and night for an hour each time can really, really take the edge off any high-energy puppy. These are not the sort of dog that will function well with a 30 minute walk or two per day, nor will they ever be.
 

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I agree with Kelly, I've dealt with Brittany's and they are definitely high energy dogs. I go biking with my Aussie at night and take him to the dog park in the day with some fetch when I can't take him hiking or swimming and he does great so this may be something you could try if you're active and need something to do daily! If you're not active, I may suggest - not sending him to the pound, but taking a lot of time to carefully choose a suitable home for him. This should always be a last choice however, but I understand having a dog that simply isn't happy with you. It's happened to me, so you're not alone. I had to give her to my grandpa, but make sure to try to make it work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I wouldn't send him to the pound, I never could. If he were rehomed I would find a suitable family privately so he wouldn't need to be caged.
But we are making process rebonding.
How does he stress me out you ask?.. By just not doing as I ask. Not coming to me when I ask.. Looking at me and then heading the other way. It's not all the time, just sometimes when he feels like it.. But I am aware he is a hunting dog, a "hound" one website said, who has a tendency to not be always obedient but to want to do his own thing...
This stresses me out. It's maybe not his fault, it's just the breed, the way he is made.. Maybe I need to just accept this. But in all honesty I hope to have achieved more on the training front in the last six months.. I wanted him to walk calmly ish next to me if I put my daughter in the stroller. I want to trust him to recall when needed...

He gets off leash running in fields once or twice a day, maybe an hour total a day, and this includes time sniffing out game birds etc in a forrest, as suits his breed. but maybe needs more full on running.. He looks content with his excercise but maybe he shows his pent up energy by being cheeky?!
Im going to try the cycling, though that's tricky as I don't trust him off leash that much and the places I take him to go off leash aren't that cycle able. And he pulls so much I doubt having him on the leash while cycling will be practical..

I do love him. And he is so very sweet. And I love to see him run. We've just got to find a way to work together so he gets what he needs and so does my family (3 young children).

First step, buy more chicken
Step two, find a trainer to help with his leash walking
Step three, try cycling with him (might give that a try tonight, wish me luck, will get padded up in case!!)

Thanks all
 

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He is adorable!

He's still so very young and it sounds as though you're both learning as you go - that's a long process. I'm doing it with both my dogs. It can be hard and stressful, but once you get it it's amazing.

Part of the secret to effective training is to make them want to do what you want. Another part is to keep them on their toes so they think this might be the time that pays off (kind of like the lottery or slot machines).

I think, too, that it helps to have realistic expectations. A one-year-old sporting dog walking calmly next to a stroller - um, maybe if the pup has had ample physical and mental exercise first. Near perfect recall at a year - I wouldn't expect that for another year at least and with much more focused training.

If I were you, I'd look into taking a class or, as you said, working with a trainer. S/He can help you perfect your training technique and give you more personalized advice on working with your pup. I suspect that if you do that, you'll have a much better outlook and your training efforts will be more effective. :)
 

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Just found this regarding cycling - I have a collar like this so will try :) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XMHgUFWd0B8
Admittedly, I know nothing about biking with dogs, but I'd be cautious about using a collar or gentle leader, especially with a dog who pulls and isn't always responsive to cues.

If you want to tire him out, try doing some nose work games (there's a thread in the sticky section) or more general training. Kikopup is a great resource and she has a nice play list for folks new to training that focuses on technique. Donna Hill has a clicker basics playlist; I haven't watched, but her stuff is always good.
 

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I have a one year old Brittany. He is intelligent and gentle. But he seems to think responding to my requests is optional.. If I have chicken in my hand no problem, but otherwise nope he won't come. He seems nervous of me, probably because I am giving off "I am annoyed with you" signals.
My dog is a feral animal, with very strong hound tendencies. That means he has definite ideas about what he'd prefer at any given moment. In order to have that reliable obedience took years and was as much or more a function of 'trusting' me as it was about earning goodies. Earning goodies helps develop that bond, rather than take away from it and will show dividends later on.

Consider this: if you had a friend who asked 'favors' of you, but rarely gave anything in return - maybe not even a 'thank you', how eager would you be to keep doing favors? But if that friend regularly gave you something you valued in return, you'd be much more willing to keep helping them. Its not a lot different with dogs; they don't want to keep giving/giving/giving without anything in return. Some dogs are more forgiving in that regard and will work for very little reward, while others are much more 'what's in it for me' end of the scale. Kinda like people, eh?

This doesn't mean that you *always* have to give treats, but what you need to do is teach the dog that payment will come. The best way is to use intermittent reinforcers; that means that the dog doesn't know when the reward will come, so responds each time "just in case". It's the same principle that keeps people using slot machines or gambling - each time, they hope for a pay-off. :) There is good information in the training stickies, as well as around the web and on Youtube; make sure the trainers are using positive reinforcement, not bribery or 'corrections'. You might look into clicker training. Or, you could invest in a couple of sessions with a trainer who uses positive reinforcement.

He stresses me out.. To the point we are considering rehoming him which makes me very very sad. How do you go from rewarding with food to a dog just listening and doing? If there is no chicken my dog isn't going to do as you ask..
He's really young yet, about the equivalent of a two-year old. How reliable is a two-year-old in doing what they're asked? :) Unless you have candy, of course. With persistence and patience, he will get better - especially after he gets through adolescence. He may always have that independent streak, but in my opinion that's a more interesting dog to develop a bond with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks Dia that was a really positive answer which made lots of sense.

I think, as a few of you have mentioned, my expectations have been unreasonable - he is a baby and it will all take much longer.
I am still learning, just as much as him I guess. So now I feel positive, he is doing pretty good for a tantrum throwing toddler :)

We tried the cycling and it was fun! He enjoyed the big long run but doesn't like the head collar (the one that goes over his nose) but hopefully he will get over that since he also got lots of lovely chicken treats. Even if he wasn't exhausted after, and even if my thighs are aching a LOT, it's all good :)
 

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Go easy on the biking. It'll be great for him, but at a year, he still has some growing yet to do and biking is hard on joints. Try not to overdue it.

As an aside, I would really, really recommend against using a head halter for biking. If you have to swerve or stop suddenly, you could seriously injure his neck from the abrupt pull. I'd look into a sturdy harness and bike with him in that instead.

And as others have said, realistic expectations. ;) He also could be getting bored of the chicken. Mix your treats up a little -- throw in hot dogs and some cheese cubes, etc. He might just not find chicken as rewarding as it once was.
 

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Getting a reliable recall on a hunting breed dog can be very very difficult. They are bred to follow their noses in search of game and brittanies, specifically, they are bred to range quite a way from the hunter. So what he's doing is normal! Also, one year old dogs are right in the middle of adolescence, a time where they test boundaries and rules and don't always listen.

If recall is really the only thing that is stressing you out, it sounds like you should just put him on a long line for a while and work on it. My adult dog is 3 and we still work on his recall, and he is rarely let off leash because he's not trustworthy. That's how it goes sometimes. There are tons of dogs who are in that position.

Others have given good advice about how to fade rewards. My dogs know that I can run and get a food reward at any time, so they are more likely to do what I want even if I don't have food on me. They are convinced that it's always available somehow even if we need to run to the fridge.

And if they are off leash, I do always have food in my pockets to reward a great recall. That is just too important of a skill to not reward heavily pretty much every single time. Some dogs will recall just because it's innate to them (usually these dogs are some sort of herding breed) and they don't really care about the reward. But I would say that most dogs need that reward and they need recall to be an exciting positive thing always, or they are going to go and find something more interesting to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for your reply.
Biking in his halter would scare me I think - he pulls a lot still.. But I don't go too fast and slow / stop if we past others. In fact I have only biked on quiet country tractor-only roads so far. And believe me it's not fast. But I will bear your concerns in mind, thanks.
Hot dogs, I like that idea - another non greasy easy treat.
 

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For the biking I would give the Springer Bike Leash a try! It absorbs nearly any pulling so that you can bike straight even if he is putting pressure on the leash. It also attaches to a harness (rather than a collar or a halter) so if you swerve quickly then there's no risk of him injuring himself. It also allows you to use both hands while on the bike in case you hit a bumpy area or something else requires a quick reaction on your part to stabilize the bike.

It's quite easy to find a used one on craigslist or ebay for a reasonable price and the attachment process to your bike is super easy ;)

ETA: Springer is the brand that I know/have seen but I think there are numerous companies that make similar that you can try googling around for!
 
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