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It’s a common question - will taking your gundog for pleasure walks ruin his training? Howard Kirby offers some expert advice on the subject
Q: I’m slightly confused with the whole should I walk my dog, can I walk my dog, never walk your dog, exercise thing? There’s lots of conflicting advice and I’m not sure what’s best. What are your thoughts?
HOWARD KIRBY replies: I’m fairly clear in my mind about the answer to this. At least, I think I am? Dogs need exercise, both physically and mentally, although age and breed type will significantly influence when, where and how much. With the gundog breeds, you are taking on a breed, particularly those that are bred primarily for their hunting attributes. Because humans have bred these traits in dogs, we are now responsible for a spaniel, HPR or pointer and setter that has been manufactured to hunt like something that is possessed. Failure to understand and accommodate this into very early and long-term training of said dog is borderline irresponsible.
Exercising your dog does not have to mean it can run freelance around the countryside or public places, while introducing itself or chasing everything it comes across. Avoiding insulting anyone’s intelligence, this would clearly be dumb and will likely result in difficulty for you and disaster and or heartbreak for the dog that is now injured, lost, killed or confined to being choked by a well-meaning owner on a lead for the rest of its life.
But enough of the nasty negative stuff! Let’s focus on the fun side. Yes, exercise your King Charles Cavalier or English springer spaniel, which, by the way, are bred to be the opposite ends of the hunting spectrum. Stating the obvious, the Cavie has been bred to be a delightful companion dog. Your Field Trial-bred springer is one of the most mentally powerful hunting dogs you can buy.
Exercise should be about teaching your dog to focus and look to you for food, affection and fun. Anything less and you risk creating serious problems. I hope that’s helpful.
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