Tag Archives: clicker training

Let’s Share Gordon Setter Training Tips!

Yoda_SWSBFortunate are we indeed, (little Yoda there shaking up your reading experience) to welcome  Guest Blogger, Diane Dargay to share her personal experience training a Gordon Setter. All breeds are different and learn at various speeds and levels, and like many other breeds the Gordon has their own special needs. Thanks to Diane for sharing her personal observations and tips!


by Diane Dargay

Photo by Dargay
Photo by Dargay – Jackson and Diane

Growing up, we never had dogs so when we got our first Gordon, Baron from a pet shop at six months old, he was VERY mischievous. I remember Bill cutting the lawn as Baron would follow nipping his butt. We always had to put him in the house. Leash walking was impossible and chewing was bad. At this point, I decided to take a class at our local town hall. He was somewhat better and I know my training was not that great. I hooked up with a friend that was taking classes with a gentleman that was in the K9 corp. We did much better and Baron eventually got his CD.

Training back then was the choke and jerk method. Food training was frowned upon. I could not understand that because the dogs in the circus always were trained with food.I could see Baron was miserable and swore my next dog would be different.

Photo by Dargay – Jackson and Diane

Fast forward 30 years……Food and some clicker training works and the dogs are much happier. I have found that Gordon Setters do not take well to many repetitions in training. They are not Golden Retrievers. When an exercise is trained, if they do not get the concept by the 3rd try, I do an exercise they know and go back later and try again. Going past 3 reps they sniff, ignore and eventually do not pay attention. Sometimes it happens after 2 reps. If the dog does it correctly after the first time, I stop and do a new exercise. My motto…one and done. Many people will do it again because they are so excited the dog did it only to come up with failure.

Time limits are crucial as you do not want to overload the dog. Five to ten minutes is enough time and only practice 2 to 3 exercises not a whole repertoire. Most Gordon Setters are impatient, so keeping attention is key.

Photo by Dargay – Jackson and Diane

Obedience training is started at 8 weeks. The learning period up to 6 months old is key training time as they absorb the most information in this time period than any other in their lifetime. Teach them everything…….sit, down, come,heel and stay. They can handle it just in 3 minutes intervals. They have the attention span of a gnat, so keep it fun. If you have other dogs, they will learn from them. Monkey see, monkey do.

Since I do many venues, I try to get the obedience stuff out of the way first while they are growing. Once I start flyball, agility and hunting, obedience goes to the bottom of their list. Heeling is boring! Getting into the Rally ring by 8 months is good as ring experience and being able to talk/motion to your dog on leash helps in future trial situations. Even if you do not qualify, experience is great. Some people are afraid of failure. Most of us have failed at something in our lives. It only makes us better.

Photo by Dargay – Jackson and Diane

My last tip discusses food or treats. Most of the Gordons I know enjoy their snacks. That does not mean that toys cannot be used if the dog has a favorite. Whatever your dog seems to be driven to, will work to keep his attention. Integrating both is a good tool. When choosing treats, you want something special not kibble. Something with an aroma usually works well. I use microwaved chicken hot dog slices. They are better for your dog and not as greasy as regular hot dogs. Sometimes when learning a new exercise, I up the treat value if they are not learning. What I mean is this. If you were given a choice between a hamburger and filet mignon, which would you choose? I would guess filet mignon, correct? Same with the dog. If chicken franks were not working, I would go to pieces of chicken or beef. The lesson is we want to keep the dog focused on us. That will maximize the learning.

This is just my training program. There are many other good ones out there and I always take suggestions from anyone to better my dog. You want your dog to play and work with you. There has to be something in it for them. If you are not the center of attention, training will be harder. Make it fun!

Photo by Diane – Jackson and Diane

The photos in this article are Jackson at a trial in December, 2012 at the age of 8 months. He was a good boy and even placed 3rd with a score of 98. I know you are thinking that this all came about because of my experience. You can do it.

Analyze the photos. If you notice in most of them, the leash is in my right hand and my left hand is clenched at my waist. Jackson is thinking…….could a treat fall out of my left hand???

Clicker Training – what is it – how to do it – resource links

Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy of Linda Stebbins

In the past couple of days we’ve heard from two Agility competitors, Susan Nelson and Linda Stebbins who both mentioned using clicker training as a core beginning for the more advanced work we see in Agility. If you’re new to dog training the phrase clicker training probably sounds like a foreign language to you, so we thought it might be good to share some resource sites with you where you can learn more about this positive training method and if you want you could start putting it to use immediately to train new puppies or old dogs new tricks!

The first site we’re listing is by the originator of the clicker method Gary Wilkes who lives here in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. An introduction taken from the website tell us that “Gary Wilkes is an internationally acclaimed behaviorist, trainer, author, columnist, teacher and lecturer. He offers a wide variety of animal related services, including behavior modification, training and behavioral instruction for animal care professionals, pet owners and professional trainers. He currently provides behavior services in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area by veterinary referral and is the architect of the highly successful Coyote rehabilitation project at the Phoenix Zoo. Wilkes is most noted as the founder of “Click and Treat(R) Training”, the first practical and humane application of operant conditioning for dogs – and the hottest trend in modern dog training. He has taught his methods to US Army Delta Force Special Operations handlers, the staff at the Seeing Eye and Paws With A Cause – the most effective service dog school in the country. Wilkes has earned respect for his abilities in both the “real world” of dog training and the scientific world of behavior analysis. He has a unique ability to simplify complex principles into easily applied methods.”

By clicking on this title, Gary Wilkes – Click & Treat  you will be taken directly to his website which you will find loaded with information, training tools and other helpful links.

If you would simply like to go directly to Gary’s store to purchase training supplies pick the link that follows! Clicker Training Store – Gary Wilkes Click & Treat

A second website we found that was loaded with great information is  Karen Pryor Dog Training.With years’ worth of wisdom from Karen Pryor and a vast array of experts, our library is the largest resource of clicker training information you’ll find anywhere online.

If you simply want to see a video to get a taste of this training method you could click on ‘clicker’ in the title that follows to watch Clicker Training Basics and if that’s not enough clicking for you yet, you could also click to view How to teach your dog not to jump up!

Well that’s about all the clicks I can handle for one night, hope this helps and don’t forget to leave your comments, suggestions, additions etc. in the comment section below. We love to see you sharing with each other!

Sally Gift  Mesa, AZ

UPDATE: Please read the comment section of this article by clicking on Comments under the title, Carole Raschella wrote to provide insight about clicker training that we found enlightening . Many thanks to Carole who added the Karen Pryor Clicker Training Expos to our list as a wonderful source for the serious trainer. You may follow this link to more information by doing the infamous click here!

Agilitiy with Susan Nelson

Susan and her other sister Susan and her other sister’s sister Susan. Photo by Susan Nelson

Would you all join me please and give Susan Nelson, Casper WY a huge round of applause for sharing her experience with Gordon Setters in Agility! We asked Susan to share with us and she has been kind enough to respond to our request. We believe you’ll truly enjoy Susan’s story.

Susan Nelson
“I have to admit, I’ve not done any agility in a few years and even longer for Obedience. Most of my time now is spent in conformation with Blue and Layla. I’m in the process of selling all my equipment, my desire for agility has faded. My girl, Lillan, was my star and the love of my life. When she died, part of me died also. I stopped running agility with her daughter, Keeley and shortly after, Pippi was retired, she was getting too old. I did start with Fiona (granddaughter), and she did OK, but she wasn’t Lillan. Now, I don’t want to run again. I hope, once Layla finishes (only needs two points), and when her brain gets here, I’d like to try Obedience. It’s been a LONG time since I trained that.. but figure, I’m retired so have some time. Even if we never get into the ring until she’s 10!

Gordon Setter Expert asked Susan if she would share answers to the following questions:

154850_10150341906130175_3704394_nWhat Performance Events have you or do you participate in?

I used to do Obedience and Agility.  I hope to do Obedience with our youngest Gordon, Layla. I did take Pippi into the Rally ring and got her title in three days. Had no idea what I was doing, though. She was working towards her CDX, so most of it seemed like fun to us.

Could you share a brief history of when you started to train and why you choose the events that you are choosing now?

When I started training back in 1999, it was basic obedience with our first Gordon, Pippi who earned CD AX AXJ RA titles. As we progressed through these classes, I decided to try to do Obedience with her. There is something about watching Obedience competition, I love it.  About the same time, a group of friends in town heard of this thing called ‘agility’. None of us knew what it was, but we got together, and ‘played’ at it. Eventually, we decided to enter competitions. When I entered my first agility trial, I entered 600 miles away from home so no one I knew could watch us. It wasn’t ‘pretty’!

How would you describe the Gordon Setter as a learner?

28184_10150189405445175_1291819_nHead strong! With the three girls I did work agility with, once they learned it, I found out I couldn’t keep practicing it. They decided they knew it, and would wander off. They are hunters, and if I wasn’t on top of them all the time, they would go into hunt mode. And, they did it in the ring many a time. I did find out, Gordon Setters do very will with clicker training! They are independent and smart… makes for a tough dog to train.

What advice would you give to someone new, just starting out about where to look for resources in order to learn training techniques?

Find someone who gives lessons. We live in an area where there are no training facilities. The closest is 4 hours away.

Is there a method or combination of methods that you use and find most effective with Gordon Setters?

Clicker Training! Work for 5 min at a time. Mine loved treats and were not toy motivated. If possible, I would try to get a toy motivated Gordon.

What type of training class or trainer, if any, would you advise them to attend or seek?

Someone who understands the Sporting Dog. These dogs are smart, but they have a mind of their own. People with Border Collies, Aussies, they have NO idea how to work with a hunting dog. If possible, find workshops to attend, local clubs (if there are any) put them on a few times a year. Ask questions at trials, go and watch. Find a person who is willing to talk to you. You can learn a lot that way.

154850_10150341906135175_417514_nWould you recommend any particular books or video training materials?

I never used many books–the ones I did, I don’t remember. I gave them away to friends. I found out more by following people around the agility ring during walk through. As we walked the course to learn it, if I was unsure of something, I’d just follow someone who knew how to do it. I learned more by watching than anything.

Any recommendations for internet resources like blogs or websites?

Can’t help here.

When working with a Gordon Setter what do you believe are the most important things to remember about the breed?

They are smart and very independent. They are also quick learners. They can also be stubborn. One thing I learned back with Lillan (and the other two)–once we practiced a sequence, and I went to do it again, Lillan would just take off and run it. They learn it so fast… so I had to shake things up. If we went right to a jump, then the next time, I’d go left. Even then, it was hard to keep them focused on what I wanted to do. Pippi would start great, and then go into hunt mode, if she got a 28184_10150189405445175_1291819_nscent of anything, off she’d go. Many a time, I excused us to go and get her!

Susan Nelson, Casper WY February 2015

Click the title of this video Susan and Pippi at the Glory Run for Retired Agility Dogs to me it is a must see.

Susan has uploaded several YouTube videos of her Gordon Setters running in Agility, another fun run to watch is called Fiona Can Fly and fly she certainly does.