Somebody the other day asked me, should they get a second dog.
And my answer was yes, yes and YES! It is so much easier to train gundogs when you have more than one.
Of course it isn’t always that straightforward and will depend on your personal circumstances.
But there are some distinct advantages to owning multiple dogs.
Honouring and steadiness
I spend a lot of time writing these days and not as much time as I would like working on shoots. Like many people that work their dogs during the winter months, I may go as much as a week between shoots at times.[wp_ad_camp_1]This is not good for my dogs because they work very hard on a shoot day, and need to maintain their fitness in between if they are not to strain muscles and injure themselves.
One of the key ways I keep my dogs fit is with dummy retrieves and doing this with one dog would be really bad for steadiness.
When you have two or more dogs, every retrieving lesson also becomes a lesson in honouring (waiting patiently whilst another dog retrieves) and in steadiness.
Your dog soon gets used to the fact that most of the retrieves are not actually for him.
Setting up exercises
Working amongst other dogs is part and parcel of being a working gundog. Every gundog has to learn to take turns, to ignore other dogs, and to watch and wait whilst other dogs work. This cannot be practiced in the absence of other dogs.
When you get a second or subsequent dog you will find you are able to set up all sorts of training exercises without involving other people. This is very convenient, and fun too.
If your dog lives out in a kennel a second dog will make his life much more pleasant. Someone to snuggle up to during the night and on cold days, and the benefit of company is very important to these highly social animals.
The right time
Obviously there is a right and a wrong time to get a second dog. Do wait until your older dog is fully trained. If you don’t do this you will miss out on all the advantages listed above and find it very difficult to cope. Don’t forget that early training with your new dog will need to be carried out separately from your older dog to begin with.
During the first few months these separate training/exercise sessions will require an extra chunk of your time every day. Getting a second dog when a new baby is due or when you are moving into a new house is not always a great idea. Nor is waiting until your existing dog is too old to enjoy or tolerate a small puppy around him.
I find that a good gap between dogs is three or four years. That way, the older dog is fully trained, young enough to be relaxed around an annoying youngster, and even willing to play sometimes.
You will not have completely forgotten all that is involved in raising a puppy and will soon slip comfortably into your new routine.
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.
Ken Burge says
My Male will be four this December and just got his HRCH. We have a new puppy 10 wks old now. We have moved very fast through “sit” and “here” with the help of the veteran. The pup is heeling right next to the male as we do our evening walks on lead. After a week we introduced the whistle to sit and in one week we have gone from basic sit to whistle sit (and stay as I walk 40 yards) and whistle “here”. It’s been very nice having him here with her. He has never had a companion and stays outside in a kennel. She moved out there this week as she learned how to get in and out of the barrel/doghouse i guess by watching him. They will spend an hour and a half rolling around on the ground playing and he is pretty gentle with her. This is excellent advice. 3-4 yrs is perfect!
Thanks Ken, congratulations on your HRCH and good luck with your new pup. 🙂 Pippa
Enjoyed reading your website. I agree that having a second gundog is great, I have a 6 years old flatcoated retriever and a 4 months old spinone puppy. However, when walking them together, I have encountered a problem. The spinone has a very good nose, and picks up dead mice, small birds and rabbits on almost every walk. I would like to teach her to bring these animals to me, but this is getting more and more difficult because the flatcoat steals the animals from the puppy (although normally the flatcoat is more interested in her ball). This creates so much tension between the dogs, that neither of them bring it back to me. When I have the dogs seperately, they both have a very natural drive to retrieve and no problems with letting go. Both dogs are quite sensitive as well. Do you have any ideas how to solve this problem?
Teaching a dog to retrieve in the presence of another dog is done in stages. A new puppy needs to be protected from being mugged by another dog and having his retrieve stolen, or he will quickly lose interest in attempting to return it to you.
We teach youngsters to retrieve in company, only once we have established that all the other dogs present are under control.
I think you need to rethink your situation and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. I really do not recommend encouraging a puppy to retrieve carrion. And it sounds as though this might not be the ideal training location for a gundog puppy. I also recommend that you do not get involved in group training exercises until your spinone is quite a bit older. For example, I generally exercise and train my puppies entirely on their own until they over six months old. It all depends on what you want to do with your dogs in the future.
Whatever you decide, you need to ensure that your flatcoat cannot interfere with your spinone when she is retrieving or you are likely to have problems in the future. If the flatcoat will not sit and stay when you ask her to, and while you focus on your pup, then this should probably be your next objective.
Retrieving is a sensitive issue and young dogs are easily put off, which is one of the reasons that solid obedience is an absolute essential before working and training dogs in groups. If you are hoping to get involved in gundog work with your spinone, I do recommend you exercise and train her separately from your older dog, at least until you have taught the older dog to sit and watch from the sidelines.
Hope that helps, Pippa