8 Very Important Lessons I have Learned from Training French Brittanys at Sur le Delavan Kennel.

When French Brittanys fail to execute part of the process correctly, it is always my fault. Intelligent Bretons are reading body language as well as listening to voice and whistle commands, and come to their own conclusions about what is wanted. Be clear about commands so the EBs don’t have to interpret.

1. Do not change the script in the middle of the play. For example, if you have decided on two short bursts from your whistle to tell the dog to hunt closer or to change direction, and one long whistle to come back to you, do not use them interchangeably. Too confusing for everyone involved.

2. French Brittanys have body language, too, and we should try to be in tune with it. For instance, not all dogs point in the classic manner with one front paw raised. Some dogs often just stop and become rigid with intense focus in the direction of the bird. It is more subtle than the lifted foot scenario, but effective if you know your dogs. It's much easier to read that "slam" point that they come to a sliding stop into.

3. Expect the unexpected. Even finished gun dogs have brain misfires that leave you shaking your head and going back to basics. I call it “the bonehead gene.” Basics will reinforce what the dogs have learned and boost their confidence. Before you know it, you are all back on track again.

4. Do not try to teach everything at once. Teach the skills in small pieces and offer praise for each accomplishment. It is tempting when dogs are doing well to just keep going, but like with any learner, it becomes information overload for the dogs. They start making lots of mistakes, forcing you to go back to basics.

5. Always end training on a positive note. You want your dogs to be happy about being in the fields and woods with you. If it is obvious the dogs are tiring, do not try to squeeze out one more retrieve or one more point. The last memory from the session should be a correct performance and a happy owner.

6. Keep training sessions short, focused and regular. As a person with a full-time job, I find it difficult to fit in regular training sessions for the dogs, especially when daylight is limited. That is when I get more creative, such as using a favorite toy to work on retrieving to hand in the house.

7. Make keeping the dogs in shape a priority. These are athletic, working animals that should have a good quality food and regular exercise so they will have the strength and endurance they need in the fields and woods.

8. Above all else, reach deep into your soul and find patience. If the dogs are not catching on to what you are trying to teach, examine your procedure to find possible confusion you could be causing, come up with a new method to teach the skill, or seek advice from more experienced people. Remember, failures in training are always the trainer’s fault. (See No. 2)

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