Starting Out Steadiness to Dummies

How to Train Your Bracco: Starting Out Steadiness to Dummies

Early exercises to start to build steadiness to dummies in a Bracco Italiano HPR.

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Building on Sit Stay Video

How to Train Your Bracco: Building on Sit Stay

Early exercises to start to build up sit stay in a young Bracco Italiano HPR.

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Heelwork – Howard Kirby

How to Train Your Bracco: Heel Work

Over the last few Sundays I’ve made it my business to take a note pad and pencil and quietly make my way around our Mullenscote Gundog classes. We have been running and teaching this particular type of six week Gundog course for a little over twenty years now. Fundamentally we’re running the same courses as the ones we started in the late nineties. Puppy, Foundation, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Plantinum means there are six levels each with their own progressive aims and objectives, which, much like the course names haven’t changed.

The fully trained dog that we produced in the nineties offered pretty much the same behaviours as it’s current descendants and is therefore pretty much the same dog??? I’ve deliberately made that last sentence into a question. What are your thoughts??? Most of you are probably not old enough to have been training dogs that long ago, but even if you weren’t, you might like to think about the ideals, methods and techniques that were used to produce Gundogs. Take my word for it, things have changed, significantly.

Although I’ve digressed a bit I’m hoping that as I get back to my opening paragraph that all will make sense….Armed with notepad and pencil I was observing and doing what we call ‘off-steading!’ By taking the time to watch the classes, my aim is to run a non biased eye over the way that we deliver our courses. Classroom choice, teaching styles, techniques, quality of the teaching and a general overview of how we are doing. Almost always, I enjoy this exercise, it’s a great opportunity for me to observe the fantastic team of teachers that make up the team here at Mullenscote. Teaching, really is an art, watching other teachers can be so informative.


To cut a long story short I came away thinking, …..’ we need to review the way we teach Heelwork.’ Heelwork has of course been successfully taught to dogs and handler’s for generations. As behaviours go, teaching a dog to consistently walk to heel and not pull on a lead is something that owners really struggle with and would be listed as a significant behaviour problem on many dog owners lists.

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Stop Whistle

How to Train Your Bracco: Stop Whistle

Todays training is on the sit/stop. And in our opinion this is more important than the recall.

If your dog is running away from you it is almost impossible to get a decent recall especially if he is chasing something. To get a recall the dog needs to be focused on you. To succeed you need to break the dogs concentration and you do this by having a good STOP command, once you have stopped the dog and got its focus on you, you are back on control and able to choose what happens next, you can either recall the dog or go to it.

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Recall training video

How to Train Your Bracco: Recall

To accompany The Recall training which can be found here

Here is a short video to show how you can start building a young dog’s recall.

Good luck and happy training.

The Retrieve an Introduction

How to Train Your Bracco: The Retrieve an Introduction

The retrieve an introduction’

You will hear of all types of retrieves – memory, seen, blind/unseen, split, double and various other descriptions you will also hear of lots of different commands – Mark, Fetch Hi-lost. And as with all training there is no right or wrong way, its what works for you.  (so long as you are consistent, remember one command, not three if the first does not work)

For now we wont worry too much about structure.

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Cementing the Basics

How to Train Your Bracco: Cementing the Basics

Cementing the Basics

So are you ready to move on?

Good question…..Before we move on to more, sometimes seemingly more exciting training activities; hunting, retrieving, pointing etc, we do want to stop and encourage you to cement the basics.  Or, if you feel you have done this already, remind you that going back to basics is something that is extremely important with your ongoing training.

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How to Train Your Bracco: Recall

The Recall – alongside the stop is one of the most important commands you can teach, and a good recall will also help you If you want to progress your training to retrieving as it will help deliver a good retrieve to hand.

This is another exercise we teach from day one sitting on the floor in the kitchen and you can start the recall whistle very early on, when the puppy, or dog is playing we do a few toots on the whistle and tap our chest, the whistle gets the dogs attention and by tapping your chest the puppy will be looking up at you (eye contact), the dog should then come running at you and will jump on you and into your arms, where you reward with a cuddle.

(We would recommend using a whistle especially as distance builds up but of course you could swap the whistle out for a command ‘Come’ or Here’. An Acme 210.5 or 211.5 whistle is about £6-7, it doesn’t matter what number you purchase so long as you stick with the same one if you lose it in the future.)

The important thing to learn with all training is choose a command, or, several commands for each action and stick with it, repeating it over and over if necessary.  So, for a recall, maybe you choose 3 pips of the whistle, or 5, or, ‘come,’ or ‘here’, it doesn’t matter, you could choose ‘banana’ if you wanted too.  If you are training a dog that lives with more people, then make sure everyone else knows all the words, or commands for training too and uses them as well.  All too often you hear someone asking their dog to perform a task, each time it fails the command changes, with numerous commands being used, training is all about consistency and fairness. 

As the dog grows you can go from sitting on the floor to kneeling, but the process is still the same, tapping your chest and allowing the puppy/dog to jump into your arms. When they are confidently coming to you, you can start introducing some structure, this is where we introduce the tennis ball.

We use the tennis ball as a target and a reward, it is highly visible especially at a distance, but it’s your ball, not the dogs.

To start the recall, have the dog on a long lead (I always use a 5ft lead) with your dog sat a lead length in front of you (you are in control of the dog),

Face the dog with the ball in the palm of your hand facing towards the dog and held out.  Call the dog to you (using your chosen command, or the pip of your whistle) at the same time bring the ball towards your body and tight into your groin area.            

When the dog touches the ball reward him with it, I usually toss it in the air and say yes good dog. (remember to keep hold of the lead in the early stages).

With the lead still in your hand back away from the dog and again bring him towards you using the tennis ball as a target, if he touches the ball when it’s in your groin area reward him with it, if he doesn’t then back of a bit and repeat the recall, he will quickly get the idea of touching the ball.

As the dog progresses you can sit the dog further away (off lead) and recall him to you, gradually build in the distance, but don’t make the distance any further than you feel you can control the dog.

As the dog get older you can start to replace the ball and praise just with praise. They dog should do things because it wants to please not for what it can get.

The recall is a lengthy process and will need constant proofing, just because you have success in one area, does not mean your will somewhere new.  Do not be frustrated if the recall fails you need to go back to basics and rebuild again and start from scratch each time you change location.  If you are good in the garden, start from the beginning in the street, good in the street, start from the beginning in the park, or field.  Good in the field or park, start from the beginning using a distraction, maybe a friend’s dog, or something you can initially control.

Good luck and happy training.


How to Train Your Bracco: Sit/Stay

Moving on from last month training article, here we discuss methods of teaching the sit (eventually Stop).

We always start puppy training as soon as possible, if it’s a puppy we bred then training starts at 5 or 6 weeks, if it’s one we have bought then training starts as soon as puppy comes home.

We do not have structured training to start with we play games, you will be amazed how much you can teach this way.  We start with sit and wait;

Sitting on the floor with a titbit (the only time we use treats) you hold a treat in your hand on the puppies nose, if you move your hand up puppies foreface towards the top of his head he will follow your hand as it moves over his head, because of the position he has no option but to sit, as soon as he sits say sit and reward him, do his 3 or 4 times then praise and leave it at that. You can repeat this a little while later, the  puppy will quickly catch on and before you know it he will sit automatically. (without realising it, you are also teaching him the hand signal for sit).  

After a few days, you should just be able to say sit and he will. You can start to build on this by leaving him to wait a bit longer (a few seconds) for the treat and gradually increasing the time he waits for the treat. After a couple of weeks you can start to reduce the reward, treat him every other time and so on until he just sits and waits.

To test whether he knows what sit means you can say sit when he is playing but make sure he is looking at you first, when he sits rewards him

You can now introduce the whistle, take a step back, when you tell puppy to sit, blow the sit whistle as he sit (Usually a quick sharp blast) as he sits give him a treat, you go through the same steps as above.

Once you are happy that puppy understands what the whistle means you can test it in the same was as you did with the sit command.

It is important that when you ask the puppy to sit either verbally or with the whistle that you go to him an praise him DO NOT at this stage call him to you, he needs to be praised where he stopped.

Good luck and happy training.

Walking to Heel

How to Train Your Bracco: Walking to Heel

Slip leads, flat collars, half choke leads, choke leads, figure of 8, harness….there are so many options of various leads, collars and other tools when it comes to helping you achieve a good walk to heel …. We are sorry to tell you that the lead and collar you choose in itself is, in some parts irrelevant to achieving a good and consistent heel. A good heel, like so many other parts of any good dog work is going to take some time and I
am afraid there is no quick fix

Ideally teaching a good heel starts with your young puppy, this is certainly a lot easier, however can still be achieved with an older dog, it just might take a little while longer.

Patience, consistency and commitment with all dogs is key to good training. To start I would recommend a flat collar, or half choke collar with a flat, comfortable to hold flat lead.

If you wish to use treats, then this can be a great way to help incentivise a good heel especially with a young puppy, or food motivated dog and can always be phased out and removed at a later date.

To start, have the dog, or puppy on the side you are wanting them to walk, those who may wish to work their dog under a gun, normally choose the opposite side to the side they would hold their gun or, maybe if you are left handed you would have the dog on the right side and vice versa.
Sit the dog with his shoulder level with your knee, facing the way you want them to go. Lead in the opposite hand, so if dog on left, the lead should be in right hand.

To help with later training try and move off using the leg closest to the dog, in the future using the other leg might be a signal for you to leave the dog at Sit/Stay (but this is another episode :-)). Moving off with the closest leg to the dog, give a slight tug on the lead and the ‘heel’ command. If you are using a treat, keep the treat at nose level with your left hand if the dog is on the left, keeping the dog close to the desired position. Walk at an even, slower pace if possible. Over time you can move quicker or slower to test your heel work. After a few steps reward with the treat, increase number of steps gradually and encourage the dog to sit next to you when you stop. You can do this by raising the treat above and over the dogs head, towards his bottom and giving the dog the sit command.

Keep sessions short, so with a puppy, or inexperienced dog, just one or two minutes, building up to 5-10 minutes over time. Keep giving lots of verbal praise, (A good boy) keep repeating ‘heel’ (but only if the dog is in the right position not at any other time) verbally an maybe ruffle the dogs ears if in the desired ‘heel position.

What to do when the dog moves out of position.

If and when the dog moves out of position to start with and with a young puppy be gentle and re start the process. Remember you have a lot of time, trying this technique a few times a day (short periods of time) over a week or so should start to show results.

As the dog becomes older and perhaps is testing you once it knows the command of ‘heel’ then don’t be afraid to change direction with a sharp tug of the lead, or just stop and wait for the dog to stop, returning it back to the desired position.

If the dog becomes older and or more challenging over time, then increase the sharpness of the tug and repeat as necessary until the dog realises the only way they get to their destination is if they heel.

Dependant on the dog, this may take some weeks, or months but if you maintain a consistent approach, be gentle and patient, firm but fair, you will have a great dog that is a joy to walk at heel and on any lead, or, collar combination you so choose.

Good luck and happy training.