The first training session for hunting starts as a puppy. This includes the basic commands for retrieve, recall, stay, sit, and up. These commands are necessary for a good hunting dog. The English Cocker Spaniel is a natural bird dog. Without the proper commands, the safety of the hunter and the dog could be compromised. The training should be done on a daily basis until the puppy is fully aware of what they are to do for every command.
Training For The Pattern
The puppy needs to learn how to stay within the perimeters of the gun. If the puppy is flushing out of your range, you are not going to get any birds. Many professionals use pigeons to train the puppy for proper gun range patterns. The dog needs to learn the pattern of flushing and retrieving within the hunter's range of shooting. After the puppy masters a bird such as pigeons, you will want to try some real flushing before the season opens. This is done to awaken the puppy's sense of smell for other birds rather than just for the smell of the pigeon.
The essential training here is that the dog needs to do a chase and come back if the birds fly out of gun range. The instinct of the English Cocker Spaniel is to keep going until you catch the bird or lose sight of it. For this, you will use a recall whistle, although some trainers have had to use a shock collar to get the puppy used to stopping and coming back.
Introducing The Gun
Shooting the gun around a puppy that is unsuspecting could result in gun shyness. You need to take gun training step by step to teach the puppy to hear the shot and retrieve. This takes practice and is not learned in one summer for most puppies. You will need to practice and take the dog out with you to become accustomed to the noise of birds and do a shorter chase and then call them back.
One drill used by training professionals is the flushing, the short chase, and then calling the puppy back after you throw a dead bird down for the puppy to find, retrieve, and bring back to you. The idea of throwing out the dead bird during this type of training is that the puppy is seeing the reward of chasing and coming back. This is important for proper bird hunting.
Do Not Expect Too Much Too Quick
Young puppies that have had training are still not ready for an all day hunting trip. It takes a few years to work up to an all day hunt. Over time the puppy will become accustomed to going longer, doing more chasing, and retrieving. Bird hunting is something that is slow going in the beginning and by adding a little more time for each outing you can help build endurance for the puppy. If you have done the training correctly, the puppy will flush, chase, retrieve, and bring you back the bird.