Brittanys as companion bird dogs. Hunting, training, trialing and more.
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Age Range Expectations for Brittanys ™

What sort of performance should I expect from a Brittany that is less than one year of age?  Less than two years of age?  Three years of age?

These are good questions and based on the training program you use, when you train and the maturation of your young dog, it can vary widely.  One thing is for sure, no matter the program, you can expect young dogs to behave like young dogs.  You can’t expect robotic (nor should you) performance and perfection at any age, most certainly not at 2 years and less.

The number one surprise for owners is that a professionally trained puppy and/or juvenile will still make many mistakes.  The next surprise is the owner learns that he/she is required to know how to handle and fix mistakes.  A lot of folks just assume that if they send their pup off for training that they will get back a pro.  A pro dog that will do everything automatically and without mistakes.  Nothing could be farther from reality!

I don’t care if  you or “your pro” is in the hall of fame, his/her methods will not offer you a perfectly trained dog that performs like a pro at 10 months of age.  Yes, a properly trained 10 month old will hunt but it won’t hunt with the wisdom and finesse that many trips afield provide.  It won’t handle difficult hunting situations like a pro until it has learned what a difficult situation is!  Furthermore, a young dog is tempted by birds like a 3 year old child in a candy store and if it isn’t, you have to wonder about the maturation & desire of your young prospect.

What causes problems with young pups / juveniles in their training is that the level of pressure / training required to get near perfection of an older dog is simply too much pressure for a young dog.  Young dogs build desire with each and every hunt.  That is why by age 3 or 4 years, you can put increasing pressure on your dog…because his desire is much greater!  Let’s look at the AKC / American Field field trial stakes as a good reference for expectations in training.  These rules / stakes were created over the years by many wise professionals who know what to expect from young dogs.

  • Dogs 6 months to 15 months are in Puppy stakes.  All that is required for the puppy is to show the run / desire to seek and find game.  Many times birds aren’t even released on the course for puppies.  The judges are looking at the raw talent of the puppy.
  • Dogs up to 24 months of age are in Derby stakes.  A derby dog should show the same desire as the puppy and should point birds although he does not have to be steady for more than a few seconds!
  • Dogs over two are placed in adult stakes.  In adult stakes the dog must seek, find and hold steady on birds.

Based on this very brief summation of what field trialers expect, do you really think your pup should be perfect at age 10 months?  This overview of what field trialers expect vs. what hunters expect is why I coined the phrase “Age Range Expectations” for Brittanys.  Just speaking “Age Range Expectations” should make one consider whether they have realistic expectations for their dog based on age and maturation, regardless of whether the pup has formal training or not.

An analogy for one to consider is this:  You tell your young child not to touch your cookie.  He understands yet when you turn your back, the child touches it, takes a bite.  Did the child do this out of malice?  I think not.  Did the child not understand what you said?  Oh  he understood you completely.  So why?  Well, first of all, he’s a child and at that age they will simply do things you wish they wouldn’t. Young dogs are like this.

“But hunting dogs start earlier than trial dogs!”  Yes, they do.  Not because they are more mature than a trial dog but because they are our companions and we can’t wait to get in the field to which I heartily endorse!  You just have to do it knowing that your young pup will mature painstakingly slow (in your mind) and that each jaunt afield is another lesson.  Even if your dog has been professionally instructed (such as our Puppy and Phase I programs), you have to remember what age range you are dealing with.  They will test you.

Assuming you regularly take your young dog afield where there are birds, consider this:  To me, dogs under 1 year of age are like a two or three year old child.  They just can’t help themselves.  Even if trained, they mess up even though they know better.  Dogs one to two years of age are like teenagers.  They are rebellious over their lessons and act out to show their independence.  By the time they reach age 3 years, they are becoming a adult and team player.  They are beginning to hunt with wisdom and finesse.  Finesse continues to grow through about age 8 years.  They continue to amaze you with their smarts, outsmarting birds on the run, etc.

Of course there are always exceptions, especially if you happened to obtain Willy the Wonder Pup.  The dog that does it all before one year of age.  The complete natural!  I’ve owned a lot of dogs and only owned a few of these and I have owned many dogs from top bloodlines.  It’s kinda like the smoker who started when he was age 4 and didn’t die until he was 104.  It happens…but not usually.

The hardest part of it all I think is for the first time owner who has never bird hunted and / or started a young bird dog pup from scratch.   These are usually the folks with unrealistic expectations.  They just weren’t informed as to how much work it is to start a young pup that hopefully ends up being a nice finished dog by the time it is 3 years of age.   If this is you, ask friends who have been through the whole process, from puppyhood to old age.

Don’t be scared by Age Range Expectations.  You can do it!  A pro trainer will give the novice a head start on it all and be there for your every question and concern.  The pro will tell you where you & your dog are at and how you should proceed.

The person who goes it alone without any help will have millions of questions that they ask of a million people and get a million different answers.  Pick a training plan and stick to it.  I strongly recommend you pick a training plan in which you have a local pro who can help you out when you hit each stumbling block.

That’s it for now.

Give your dog a treat for me and tell ‘em “Dave says good dog!”

Dave

 

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