TRAINING YOUR BRITTANY
We recommend that all adopters take their Brittany to a positive reinforcement obedience class. Well-run, positive classes are a good place to bond with your new dog in an atmosphere that’s geared toward making YOU the boss. Brittanys are like small, very intelligent children and they keep their families on their toes. They’re curious, they enjoy life and if they can do that on their own terms, they will.
A Brittany may not be a good choice for your very first dog. Many Brittanys will try to be the top of their pack. They won’t do it by fighting and snarling their way to the top; they’ll most often do it by charming you into doing things their way or by using passive resistance. As with all dogs, if you want a Brittany who is truly a joy to live with, you’ll need to make sure he has enough mental and physical exercise and you need to be the one in charge.
ABR has volunteers who hunt, volunteers who have years of experience with Brittanys, and volunteers who are trained in obedience and behavioral studies. If you are having difficulties with your Brittany, please look at the information provided here. If you don’t find your questions answered here, contact your state coordinator or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are often asked for information on:
In the early 1980s, Ian Dunbar developed reward-based training. Considered by many to be the ‘Father of Positive Reinforcement Training’, Dunbar showed the training industry how incredibly effective reward-based training could be. Instead of correcting the wrong behavior, now training involved rewarding the right behaviors. Think how frustrating it can be to be told everything you are doing is wrong (everybody has had a boss like this in their life), yet you are never told ‘good job’. How would you ever know what behaviors to repeat? Instead, if you were told you that you did a great job on project X, you could repeat that same process over and over. Both you and your boss would be much happier.
Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT) focuses on telling the dog when they are doing something right and shaping (not forcing) correct behaviors. For example, to teach Sit an owner doesn’t force the dog’s hind to the ground, but rather uses a treat to lure him into a sit. The luring method works better than force because the dog is learning how to shape his own behavior. Pretty soon, a sit means a reward and thus a frequent, positive behavior is formed. Because the behavior has always been associated with good things, the behavior will often appear on its own with little, if any, prompting from the owner. The only thing the owner has to know for positive reinforcement training to work is what behavior they want. When they see that desired behavior, they reward it!
Fear aggression can result from punishment based training is fear aggression. This can very easily occur with dogs that generally have very soft personalities, like Brittanys. A fearful dog is one that is very likely to lash out at the source of the fear, and for a dog this often means biting since that is a dog’s only real option for self-protection.
PRT creates an environment where your dog wants to learn. Because there is no punishment involved, your dog can relax. Relaxed dogs learn better and perform better. PRT focuses on building a mutually respectful relationship between you and your dog. Your dog wants to do the right thing to earn his rewards. In punishment systems, dogs would often shut down from training. I can only imagine after the first ten corrections what a dog must have been thinking "I can’t do anything right so I just won’t do anything at all!"
Brittanys are extremely intelligent. They will not want to participate in ‘games’ (read training sessions) that are not fun and rewarding. Brittanys can also be stubborn which is why a good positive reinforcement training class is highly recommended, as is a positive Leadership Program. Please see ABR’s Leadership Program entitled ‘Who’s the Boss?’ for more information on why a Leadership Program is important and how to get started. ABR wants to promote a happy, healthy relationship between you and your pet. We strongly believe that through positive reinforcement training methods, you can achieve a wonderful relationship built on mutual respect and trust.
If you have questions, please email us at email@example.com. To find a positive trainer in your area, please visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers at apdt.com.
As a general rule, Brittanys are not aggressive dogs. However, if your dog is exhibiting what you perceive as aggressive behavior, please speak with a professional, positive reinforcement trainer right away. Aggression comes in many shapes and sizes, and can stem from a variety of causes. A professional trainer can help you properly diagnose your dog’s behaviors and start you on the appropriate action plan to help reshape the behaviors. If you do not know of any positive reinforcement trainers in your area, please visit apdt.com for trainers that promote positive techniques in your area. Your vet may also be able to make a referral.
People talk, dogs bark. It is not reasonable to expect your dog to never utter a single bark; however, when barking becomes excessive it can create problems for the owners, the neighbors, and ultimately the dog. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. The first step in correcting problem barking is to figure out why your dog is barking. If your dog is barking when you are not around, you may have to do some detective work like enlisting the help of the neighbors or even go as far as setting up a video camera to record when your dog is barking.
The Most Likely Reasons Your Dog Barks
- Territorial Barking –occurs when ‘intruders’ are present (the mailman, neighbors walking their dogs, etc.). The purpose of this bark is to warn the ‘intruder’ that they have not gone unnoticed, and warn the other pack members of the ‘threat’.
- Fear Barking –occurs when your dog is uncomfortable in a given situation (barks at fireworks, thunder, etc.). It’s your dog’s way of warning the impending ‘danger’.
- Request Barking – occurs when your dog wants something now! Common examples are barking for a treat, access to outside, walks, etc.
- Boredom Barking – occurs when a dog creates his own fun by barking. This usually occurs when a dog is under-stimulated as a result of his daily needs of physical and mental stimulation not being met.
How Can I Control My Dog’s Barking?
- Territorial Barking
- Teach your dog an alternative behavior. For example, teach your dog that when he hears the doorbell ring, if he does a down stay he gets a tasty treat. Practice learning a down stay well, then once your dog has it, ring the bell, and issue the command. When your dog goes down, reward with a treat. After several repetitions, your dog will have learned that the ringing of the bell means ‘Down Stay’ and he gets a tasty reward. (Be sure to pick where you want the down stay. Make sure it’s not directly in front of the door!)
- Teach your dog a ‘Quiet’ command. Once barking, lure your dog’s attention to you with a treat and when he becomes quiet, say ‘Good Quiet’ slowly and calmly, rewarding with a treat for quiet.
- If you haven’t already, have your pet spayed or neutered. This alone can sometimes curb territorial barking.
- As a behavior management technique, you can block your dog from having access to the front rooms of the house (which is where this type of barking most often occurs).
- Fear Barking
- You have to determine what it is that is frightening to your dog.
- Once you know what it is that is scary, start a program to desensitize your dog to the noise. If it’s thunder, you can buy a tape with thunder noises and play it at a very low volume while asking your dog to do things he is good at, like sit, for lots of tasty treats and praise and petting.
- If your dog is scared of strangers, carry a very tasty treat with you at all times and ask strangers to toss the treats to your dog. Eventually your dog will think that all people are treat dispensers.
- Request Barking
- This is probably the easiest barking to cure. It’s simple – your dog is barking to tell you he wants something. So, he doesn’t get it until he is quiet. You should ignore the barking completely. When the barking ceases, then your dog can have what it is that he wanted. Soon your dog will learn that being quiet is a faster way to get what he wants!
- It’s important to note that if your dog has been successful in getting what he wants by barking, he will bark louder and longer the first few times you ignore him. Don’t give in! It’s a test! Stand your ground and eventually the behavior will extinct itself because it’s no longer rewarding.
- Boredom Barking
- Boredom barking occurs when your dog doesn’t have anything better to do than bark! This may occur if your dog isn’t getting enough physical and mental stimulation.
- Increasing your dog’s stimulation will help to eliminate boredom barking:
- Walk your dog at least once every day. It’s mentally and physically stimulating.
- Take your dog through a positive-reinforcement obedience class, or any positive training class like agility or tricks. Practice a few of your commands every day to make your dog’s mind work.
- Provide interesting toys like stuffed Kongs, Goodie Bones, Buster Cubes, etc. Consider rotating the toys so there is always something ‘new’ in your dog’s environment.
- Consider enrolling your dog in doggie day-care where he can romp and play with other dogs.
- Consider hiring a dog sitter to help exercise your dog while you are at work.
- Provide high energy games like fetch to tire your dog, especially before extended absences.
Do Bark Collars Work?
The answer here is ‘sometimes’ but they should be used as part of your training program, not instead of one. Even if a bark collar is successful, you have not addressed the underlying cause of the barking. Often, if the barking ceases, the behavior will just manifest in another way. For instance, if your dog is Boredom Barking, you may be successful in ceasing the barking, but you may wind up with a digging dog. In no case should a bark collar be used in cases where your dog is barking due to fear or anxiety.
First consider using the Citronella Collar which emits a citronella solution when your dog barks. The theory behind why this collar works is that when the citronella is emitted, your dog will sniff it. Dogs cannot sniff and bark at the same time. A disadvantage to this collar is that it is sound activated which means that sounds other than your dog barking could potentially set it off, creating one confused pooch! The collar works best as a training tool, when the owner is present to reward the quiet times.
The electric shock collars can work when used properly as part of a training program. But they can also have horrific side effects. For instance, your dog barks when the mailman comes each day. At the bark, the collar shocks the dog. After a few repetitions, the dog has figured out that he gets shocked every time the mailman comes and, therefore, the mailman must be causing the shock. Now you have a dog that believes the mailman is causing him pain, and this can evolve into full-blown aggression at the mailman. Now consider how many times a day this scenario happens when people and dogs pass the house. You have created a dog that is at best fearful of people and dogs and at worst aggressive towards them. So, again, this type of collar can be an effective training tool, but it IS NOT a substitute for doing the work of finding out why your dog is barking and then giving him the training he needs.
ABR’s policy is NOT to place a dog who is a known biter. If your dog has bitten, it’s very important to get assistance immediately! Remember, a bite does not necessarily mean ‘blood’ but can also mean bite warnings such as snapping. It is important to be aware of why dogs bite – and to make sure your children understand. http://www.ddfl.org/education/dog-behavior-tips/aggressive-behavior
Destructive Behavior (Inappropriate Chewing)
Who's the Boss
Do you see yourself in any of the following situations?
- Your dog drops his toy in your lap when it is time to play.
- Your dog goes to the treat jar and stares at it wanting a biscuit.
- Your dog puts his muzzle into your hand when he wants to be petted.
- Your dog does not move off the couch or bed when asked.
- Your dog does not come when called.
- Your dog defends valuable items and will not let you have them.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog has given you a command!
Background on Dog Behavior
Dogs are pack animals. This means that they are used to living in a social climate. In the wild, these packs developed a social structure called a hierarchy that determined who was in charge. Your family is now your dog’s pack and it is up to you (and all the humans in the pack) to determine who is in charge.
How Can I Do This?
You (and your family) can determine your own social hierarchy by starting a Leadership Program with your dog. The key to a good leadership program is making your dog work for his resources. As the human in the relationship you (and your family) naturally control all of your dog’s resources; food, treats, water, toys, affection, games, access to potty area, play time, etc. A leadership program is a natural, non-confrontational way of letting your dog know who is in charge.
You only need four things to get started: your dog, you, a sit command, and a reward! When your dog works for a resource the resource becomes a reward for their hard work. Here are a few examples to get you started.
- When your dog brings you his ball for a game of fetch, make him sit before you throw the ball. Make him sit before each toss.
- When your dog wants outside ask him to sit while you open the door. Assuming your dog is housebroken, he can wait for five seconds to sit nicely while you open the door. This will also help to eliminate your dog trampling you to get outside.
- When you feed your dog, require him to sit before his meal is given to him.
Once your dog learns more commands, you can change things up so that your dog doesn’t know what ‘work’ he will have to do to earn his reward. Sometimes he might have to sit, other times lie down, and sometimes he has to shake. In any event, he will have to work for his resources.
By using this simple, non-threatening technique, you can easily establish yourself as the pack leader in your home. All family members should follow this same methodology to ensure that your dog knows that all the human pack members are ahead of him in the hierarchy. The vast majority of dogs are happy to know that you are in charge and have things under control. By showing your dog you are the leader, you give him the consistency he craves.
Teaching your dog to come to you when called
Teaching your dog to come to you when called is one of the most important basic commands. Once this command is mastered, you can protect him from a potentially dangerous situation by calling him to you. You can teach this command to a young puppy as soon as he learns his name.
Time Required: 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day
Read or print Teaching the "Come When Called" command
The "Leave It" command
This command means "don't touch it" and be used to keep your dog from eating something that would hurt him; to stop him from picking up or smelling something you want him away from; and is very useful when teaching him to cohabitate with cats or new babies.
Read more about this command and print it if you'd like at Teaching "Leave It"
This command means "put all four feet on the ground". It is useful for "get off the furniture", "get off that person", "get off the counter", and a variety of other places. People often confuse this command with "Down" which traditionally means "lie down". Teaching "Off"
Having a Baby
Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in someone’s life! There is so much to do and so much to prepare before the day your baby is born.
Dogs and kids can be the best of friends, but this is a relationship that is fostered by loving dog owners and doting parents, not something that happens naturally. In reality: babies and toddlers would rather have you all to themselves than share you with the four legged members of your family. The dog on the other hand probably feels the same way- a bit jealous and displaced. See Having a Baby
Introducing Dogs and Cats
Brittanys get along with everybody. It's true that some simply shouldn't be living with cats. But most of them can learn They don't always come ready to cohabitate. Sometimes we need to help them learn how. You can print Introducing Dogs and Cats
This is a very complex behavior and can be misdiagnosed. Often, destructive behavior is mischaracterized as Separation Anxiety. Bored behavior is often called Separation Anxiety. If after reading the linked document you think your dog has Separation Anxiety, it is recommended that you work with a professional, positive reinforcement trainer or talk to your vet. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/separation-anxiety
Information on a large variety of other subjects can be found at the websites of two of the nation’s top positive reinforcement training centers:
The Denver Dumb Friends League
San Francisco SPCA Behavior Library
There are also a large number of Brittany owners on ABR's discussion board and they'd be happy to talk with you about your concerns and share their combined knowledge with you. ABR Discussion Board