The Springer spaniel is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and this medium-sized gundog breed is very versatile, and well suited to life in all sorts of domestic home environments as well as of course excelling at a range of different types of working roles.
As an intelligent, outgoing and versatile dog breed that is also keen to please and very much enjoys learning new skills and having fun, it is possible to train a Springer spaniel to perform a wide range of different commands, including high-level skills and those required to excel in both canine sports and working tasks. However, in order to train a Springer spaniel effectively and successfully, it is first important to understand the breed’s core traits and motivations – what makes them tick, what they enjoy, and how their minds work.
In many cases, training a dog breed that is lively, intelligent and inquisitive – the same traits that make such dogs capable of learning and doing a lot – can actually make the process of training and managing them more challenging in many ways. This is because the dog’s capacity to learn by observation means that your commands and directions need to be crystal clear and uniform, as well as designed to avoid inadvertently teaching the dog bad habits.
This in turn means that if you are not experienced with dog training and familiar with the skills and limitations of the breed, and how to most effectively work with them rather than against them, training a Springer spaniel can be a challenge. However, by recognising and taking into account the breed’s strengths, weaknesses and motivations, you can devise an appropriate training regime to match, and give yourself the best chances of succeeding in your endeavours.
In this article, we will look at the core foundations of training a Springer spaniel effectively and successfully, and share some tips on how to best work with a dog of this type. Read on to learn more.
As we’ve already mentioned, Springer spaniels are lively, intelligent and outgoing dogs that tend to be self-confident without being pushy, and that are also very inquisitive and alert.
The high energy levels and playful nature of dogs of the breed are key components that should be harnessed rather than supressed during training, and these traits are what makes the Springer an excellent retriever, who is at home both in water and on land, and that loves having a job to do.
Directing the dog’s energies rather than trying to suppress them is the key to making your training sessions effective and keeping your dog engaged in the process, rather than boring or frustrating them.
A Springer that is full of beans and not getting enough exercise will soon become unruly and hard to train and manage, so when you draw up a plan for training your dog, remember to incorporate plenty of varied exercise too.
Springer spaniels actively enjoy fun, varied training because it engages their brains and gives them something to do, which means that motivating a Springer spaniel is not usually a huge challenge!
However, motivating a dog to learn new commands and skills means getting them to concentrate on what you want them to do rather than on everything else going on around them, and like all dogs, food is one of the Springer spaniel’s most persuasive motivators!
Use training treats to get your dog’s attention, keep them thinking, and to provide rewards, but use treats sparingly and ensure that you use them to reinforce commands and reward good behaviour, rather than leading your dog to see you as simply someone to hit up for a snack!
Toys and play also make for great motivators and rewards for Springers, so try to incorporate these into training too, and reward your dog with some fun at the end of a session working.
Intelligent and lively dogs like the Springer tend to get bored easily with a lack of stimulation, too much repetition or if they become frustrated and don’t understand something. For instance, even a willing and very smart Springer will soon waver in their attention to the job at hand if they cannot win a treat or praise because they’re not picking up on what you want them to do.
If a Springer fails to pick up the basics of a simple command within a few repetitions, the problem may well be in how you are teaching it or your consistency in using and executing the command, so try a different approach, or move onto something else and try again later.
As we have already said, Springer spaniels like to have a job to do – a direction to follow, and a role to execute, and encouraging your dog to do their best and praising and rewarding them when they do will help to boost your dog’s skills and willingness to learn and keep trying, enhancing your training.
Retrieving games, scenting, and sessions of training that involve lots of physical activity are all strong areas of the Springer spaniel’s repertoire, and training sessions that help to enhance and harness the dog’s natural skills and preferences will all enable your dog to reach their full potential and really show you what they can do.
Springers, like all intelligent dog breeds, can learn from other dogs and people simply through observation – often only needing to see something a couple of times before they will attempt to replicate and execute it. This means that your dog will just as easily pick up bad habits as they will new skills, so be speculative about what you do and how you behave during training sessions, to avoid sabotaging your endeavours.
Additionally, use a range of rewards in your training sessions including small rewards for small successes and encouragement, and high-value rewards for special effort. This will keep your dog guessing and trying to please you to win the best rewards, and keep your dog engaged and able to learn for longer.
Also, keep training sessions short and varied, rather than dull and repetitive to avoid boring your dog.