Whether you’re a new Gordon Setter owner or have lived with them for years, training our breed can have it’s own quirks and sometimes it’s helpful to have the expertise of a trainer who has worked with our breed. Lucky you, because Gordon owners are generally friendly folks who are willing to offer advice and training suggestions at the drop of a hat! I’ve found a couple of folks who are willing to offer training suggestions and wanted to share their information with you here today.
Diane Dargay has a world of experience working with the Gordon Setter and has trained her dogs not only to be excellent pets, but also competes in many performance type events from Obedience and Agility trials to Flyball and so on. To reach Diane for advice simply send an email to us here at firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara offers training classes and her service area in NC is:
Orange County, including Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough; Northeast Chatham County and Pittsboro; and Southwest Durham
Barbara writes a column and will answer your questions, best of all she also has experience working with Gordon Setters.
We are always searching for trainers who are willing to help our readers, if you are an experienced trainer who is willing to share your expertise please drop us a line at email@example.com to let us know that we can include you in our list of those who are available to answer questions and offer advice.
We’re in need of Performance material to publish for our readers on this Gordon Setter blog. We truly need your support and expertise to build reference material for those who are seeking information and mentors to help them learn more about performance competitions and training. We need your expertise and encouragement to draw more owners to enjoy time with their Gordon Setters in performance competitions.
We are always seeking writers to share their material, experiences, or expertise here.
We are always seeking training enthusiasts to share links to websites or other blogs of value to those who share your passion or are seeking knowledge.
We are always seeking your recommendations of books and videos.
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your contributions or questions.
Hope you’ll join in to make some noise about your adventures in performance events!
Fortunate 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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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???
The folks who know me well, won’t hesitate to confirm, that when I want to get a project rolling or a conversation started I am sometimes willing to go “out on a limb” to get that ball rolling! With that said, I’m going out on a limb now, and I am fully confessing my ignorance about Agility training and all things related. But, what I do want, is to see us keep the ball rolling when it comes to sharing information with our audience that might encourage others to start training, or help someone who is working to train their Gordon Setter for performance competition.
So, I’m posting this video link knowing full well that I am going out on a limb having no Agility experience. Along with this link then, comes my request that you, readers who are actively training, consider commenting about the effectiveness or techniques that are shown here, is this good advice, is there better advice to be found elsewhere, did this type of training help you get your Gordon Setter ready for competition?
I am also asking that you consider contributing to this cause by submitting articles, or links to articles that you believe will help others who are working with their Gordon. Many would love to see articles shared on this blog that come from you, whether you’ve written them yourself or are providing links to those written by others. People do want to learn about Agility and Obedience competition and I hope that those of you who are actively participating with your Gordon Setter will join here in providing guidance and assistance that is truly valued by all. Don’t do it for me – I can’t possibly keep up with a Gordon in the Agility ring – do it for those who want to learn from you.
Thank you to this week’s guest blogger Jennifer Skiba, Westminster, CO who shares training tips that will make living with your Gordon Setter easier.
You know, reading this I realized that if anyone had taught me impulse control I wouldn’t have that half eaten box of Turtle candy sitting on my kitchen counter. However, on the plus side, Sara hasn’t been counter surfing as usual, otherwise they’d be totally gone. At least one of us has learned impulse control.
If I could teach only one thing to dog owners it would be to understand the importance of teaching their dog impulse control. Impulse control is an incredibly valuable life skill for your dog to have and yet is one of the skills I find most dogs lack. When people think of a “good dog” what they are really noticing is a dog with good impulse control. It is a dog who doesn’t jump on people, who doesn’t steal food, who doesn’t pull on the leash, etc. These are all behaviors that require the dog to have impulse control, to wait. How does the dog learn to wait? To feel an impulse and decide not to act on it? Through lots and lots of practice.
Impulse games teach your dog to feel an impulse to want to do something but to not do it, or to look for permission before doing it. Many trainers teach this as a “leave it” command but I prefer to teach it as a default behavior. Meaning the dog automatically defaults to waiting instead of snatching food. This isn’t about micro managing your dog. This is about teaching them to think before they act. This isn’t just for food either, if done correctly it teaches the dog to look for permission and will be a foundation for other behaviors that don’t involve food. Impulse control is a foundational behavior of all of the advanced behaviors that people recognize as hallmarks of a “good dog”.
So, how do I teach impulse control? I start with the dog’s food and some treats and I teach them that the way to get the treat is to not want the treat anymore. That is the basic behavior. Once they understand that I challenge them over and over again with the same exercise in different contexts. This is called proofing a behavior, what that means is I am helping my dog to generalize the behavior. This allows the dog to access the behavior even if it’s not exactly the same as the last time. Here are two videos that I made that show phase 1 and phase 2 of impulse control.
Treats I find when I walk into a room and they are on the floor already
Treats on the coffee table, picnic table or dining room table
People food (start easy with crackers or bread)
People food that is harder (cheese or lunch meat)
People food that is on a table surface
The above challenges outside (backyard, front yard, porch)
“Treats” in the real world (goose poop)
Non-food related impulse control behaviors:
Not greeting other dogs
Being calm around other dogs
Not jumping on people
Not stealing food from children
Not counter surfing
Walking politely on leash
Waiting for you to throw a toy
Not stealing kids toys/shoes
Not stealing your shoes
I start to teach this with food because generally all dogs want food. Once they understand the behavior with food I can change it to other items like a toy. The key to having good impulse control is LOTS of practice in LOTS of different contexts. If you take the time to teach your dog to wait without having to say “wait” all the time (or “leave it”) you will find that your dog is a joy to live with. You aren’t having to watch their every movement and they understand that waiting is the first choice they should offer.
After thirty plus years and six generations I am announcing that I have created a line of Gordon Setters that are the very best at one of the breed’s favorite sports – Counter Surfing. My dogs are so good at this sport they require no supporting surf boards or other paraphernalia, they win each and every time with pure perseverance and style. Generation after generation my dogs have improved their tactical approach, scent prowess, snatch and gobble style, and always finish each run perfectly with a purely innocent expression that captivates the judge’s heart every time. I’ve employed many counter measures (no pun intended) to try to foil their prowess, training methods that were promised to break the habits of top winning Counter Surfers and I will tell you that despite my perseverance and skill my Gordon Setters have always triumphed in the end, making their best counter run when I least expect it and when I was the most confident that I’d gained the upper hand.
So, I know there are a bunch of you out there who also believe you have great Counter Surfers, and some of you who wish you could convince your Gordon to give this sport up – like permanently. Well, I share your pursuit of a happy ending and as such often find myself trying just one more measure (yes I’ve done the mouse traps, tin cans, blah blah blah…do you remember I said 30 plus years?).
I ran across this training website on You Tube last week and thought I’d share it with you as I kind of liked this guy and his advice is not only humane but also good. His name is Zak George and a link to his website and the YouTube training video follows.
I also want to send a special Thank You out to Susan Roy Nelson for capturing the beautiful photos of Gordon Setters in competition as Counter Surfers. I’ve never been able to take photos of my own dogs in action, my skill as a photographer doesn’t come close to Susan’s! I also am wondering if Jerry’s cooking is better than mine and thus his tasty dishes are more incentive for a stellar performance on the dog’s part?
I’m not sure I still have the energy as a woman of a certain age to teach an old dog new tricks, but I will be waiting to hear from those of you who’ve tried this method with your Gordon. Or, better yet, many of our readers would love to hear from those of you who have your own working method of countering the counter surfer! That’s what the comment section is for people, for you to join in the conversation helping other Gordon Setter owners by sharing.
We are so very pleased to welcome Jennifer Skiba owner of Namastay Training LLC, Westminster, CO as a contributor to Gordon Setter Expert. Jennifer came to us as a recommended trainer by Laurie Ward, and Jennifer has generously agreed to respond to our questions with expert advice for all puppy and dog owners, advice we share with you, our Gordon Setter loving friends and family. Jennifer Skiba – “Teaching People to Listen, One Dog at a Time”
Interview: Jennifer Skiba, Namastay Training, LLC – March 2015
Gordon Setter Expert asked:
Do you participate in performance events and if so which ones?
None. I spend my time teaching other people to work with their dogs.
Would you share a brief history of when you started to train and why you choose the events that you are choosing now?
I specialize in puppy training, child & dog dynamics and general pet dog training. Training has always come naturally to me and for years many friends encouraged me to train professionally. I always put them off. And then many years ago I watched friends of my husband take their sweet standard poodle puppy to a harsh aversion trainer. I realized then that I could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch this happen over and over to more puppies. I believe that good puppy raising is paramount to having a good family dog. And truly, isn’t that what our dog are when they aren’t “working”- a family dog? Many behavior problems that cause dogs to end up in shelters or rescues can be prevented if you do due diligence when they are young. I want my students to be able to take their new puppy and go on to whatever sport or activity they would like.
How would you describe the Gordon Setter as a learner?
I have only had the pleasure of working with one Gordon Setter thus far and he has been a sweet dog. I try not to get too wrapped up in the breed tendencies and prefer to focus on each puppy or dog as an individual and tailor training to their personalities.
What advice would you give to someone new, just starting out about where to look for resources in order to learn training techniques?
My advice to someone new? Realize that your puppy is a dog with a rich culture that communicates quite differently than we do. Just because their culture is different doesn’t mean it is inferior to ours-just different. That means that you have to learn just as much “dog” as they have to learn “English”. I would attend a puppy class (without your puppy) to see how the class is run and if you mesh with the trainer. They are training you to train your puppy and if you don’t feel like they are approachable with questions find someone else. There are many ways to train a dog and you have to find one that feels right to you. I believe we should train our dogs how we would like to be taught something new. With a teacher who is patient and kind to us.
Is there a method or combination of methods that you use and find most effective with Gordon Setters?
I believe ALL dogs respond best when we are clear and consistent and teach them to WANT to work with us. I prefer teaching new skills in a positive manner and using what is really reinforcing for the dog-treats, toys, attention. I believe there is a time and a place to say “no” to our dogs but it isn’t when they are learning something new.
What type of training class or trainer, if any, would you advise them to attend or seek?
I would recommend finding a training class that is both fun and informative. If class is boring you won’t want to go. I also recommend a class that focuses on using positive reinforcement when learning a new behavior. I advise finding a trainer that is welcoming and easy to approach with questions.
Do you recommend any books or DVD resources?
Books: There are so many great books but if I had to recommend only a few…
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.
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.
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 bydoing the infamous click here!
I am so very pleased to welcome this week’s Guest Blogger – Linda Stebbins of Los Ranchos NM to share her training experience in Agility. I know you’ll all treat her right, give her a big round of applause or shake her hand and say “thanks so much” next time you see her!
Agility success with a Gordon Setter requires flexibility, concessions, a desire to learn, train with restraint and understanding and a SENSE OF HUMOR! One of my Gordon Setters was running a clean course in a large horse arena and at the end of her run, a pigeon dive bombed her and returned to the rafters. She took a sharp U-turn, raced up the dog walk and went on point to the pigeon. So much for BEAUTY, BRAINS and BIRD NONSENSE.
Although I do not consider myself an expert, my 25+ years in a breed I dearly love, allows me to make valid comments, constructive criticism and appropriate recommendations.When I write about a topic, I am pulling from my own experiences and do not deny there are other methods and styles of training whether it be in conformation, performance or field. I do not proclaim to be a professional trainer and am in a perpetual learning mode. I do this for FUN!
Because I handle my own Gordon Setters in all venues, the journey to their titles is extremely long, self satisfying and rewarding for me. I live in New Mexico where 80% of competitions in the conformation and performance rings are a 7-8 hour drive away. This can be long and grueling but I am totally committed to showing and competing with my Gordons. There is a sense of pride when one can train and show their own dogs.
I like to get my Gordon Setters’ Championship and Grand Championship titles as soon as I can so I can start playing in the agility ring. I don’t begin competing in trials until my Gordons are two years old and I know that their growth plates are closed. I use rally trials as a tool for socialization, obedience and positive reinforcement. My true love is agility and I can honestly say I am an agility-holic. Before agility I participated in obedience and hunt tests. Agility became a strong desire for me because it gave me and my Gordon Setter a sense of mental and physical challenge. I truly appreciate Gordons who have titles on both ends of their name, and there is every reason for a Gordon to be extremely successful in this sport if so desired.
I am a strong proponent of breed standards so when one wants to take up agility with their Gordon Setter, we must keep in mind how substantial this sporting dog is. The normal jump height is 24″. The physical demands of agility are significant. Larger boned dogs may require negotiating some of the obstacles more carefully. Good structure (balanced conformation), temperament and soundness are very important.
While most breed show dogs are campaigned for a relatively short period of time, many agility dogs compete into their senior years with the jump height going to 20″. As for temperament, I like a Gordon who has a desire to work and a willingness to train. I was asked in an interview, “In your opinion, what makes the Gordon Setter such a special breed?” I replied, “Versatility!” They aim to please. They can hunt expertly, are extremely agile, obedient out of love, flow like a stream in the show ring, are a form of positive therapy for the owner’s “dog days”, full of snuggles and contentment whether in your lap or in their beds. As a learner, the Gordon Setter in general is intelligent, quick to learn and of bold character. I like the Gordon’s willing and forgiving attitude which makes a great partner. Curiosity and independence are traits which I think allow the Gordon to be a successful student.
Ready Set(ter) Goooooo!
My training philosophy consists of the Five F’s “Fun, Fair, Firm, Flexible and Fun”. I support positive reinforcement using rewards based methods. I want to develop teamwork. As the handler, you have to think step by step through the shaping process needed to train for an end behavior. I enjoy looking for the good things my dog does successfully. Rewards I use are treats, tug toys, tennis balls and/or verbal praise. Clickers are a true way to mark desired behaviors for problem solving and I do incorporate that in my training. Eventually the clear click sound transfers to me saying “YES” or “GOOD”. Whatever the method, I want to find a special connection that makes us a team.
My puppy starts in puppy socialization class which includes manners, and then moving into basic obedience where he/she learns to have a reliable sit, down, stay, and recall. We transition to “flat work” which is agility foundation, teaching me how to handle and making my body language clear and timely. The puppy learns how to take direction from me. After all, it is on the flat surface where I do most of my job navigating my Gordon. A combination of training class, private lessons and creative home training make a great equation for success on the agility course. A class exposes my Gordon to different sounds, breeds and people. Private lessons help clarify and tweak those skills that I so desperately need to have for my Gordon to advance. Homework is a must and this reinforces and gives my Gordon a purpose. At home I like to introduce my puppy to a rocker board, and later trading it out for a wobble board for building confidence and being comfortable with movement and sound. The Fit Paws Disc is another way to develop canine fitness, balance and confidence. Learning fundamental skills properly is vital because training mistakes will be very hard to fix later on. I have learned from my mistakes and work to overcome them. One big recommendation is do not compare the speed of your progress to other members of your class. This has been very difficult for me to ignore, primarily because I am generally the only sporting dog in a class of many herding dogs. I find the herding breeds are a natural for this sport and excel quickly.
When searching for an agility instructor and facility, attend a local trial where you can watch the various handlers and trainers. Find appropriate times to talk to the people and ask them questions about the training methods, styles, techniques, etc. I find most agility competitors are very receptive and want to help newcomers. When you visit training centers and talk with the instructor(s), see if he/she has a willingness to work with all breeds and a variety of energy levels. Not all dogs are high driven. I have had Gordon Setters who have been moderate in drive and consistent on the course. I also have had the total opposite where I have had over the top, high driven Gordons. Once again, don’t compare your Gordon to the speed demons. The instructor should be able to work with all levels of drive. Of course this goes without mentioning, but knowledge and staying up with current changes in the sport is crucial. I personally need to work with someone who has a sense of humor. After all, Walt Disney didn’t create Goofy after the Gordon Setter for nothing. This is supposed to be a FUN sport for you and your Gordon. Make sure there are a variety of classes offered, addressing specific skills and it is not just your basic levels of agility; availability and communication is vital. My READY SET(ter) GOOO! instructor(s) will ask for a video of my homework attached in an email. I will receive feedback commenting on the rights and wrongs. This is extremely helpful! The training center must offer a good foundation so when your Gordon is ready to compete, it is confident and safe on the equipment.
Agility is constantly changing and evolving. Many handlers have gone to the internet to take instruction. I have not experienced this type of training but it is getting to be more and more popular. In fact books became outdated quickly and the internet has taken its place. Seminars and camps are well sought after and the training center you attend will have announcements posted.
Book by Nancy Gyes – Alphabet Drills (click title of book to be linked to Amazon for detail).
Kim Terrill (Training/Activities Director) Owner and handler of canines winning AKC Agility Nationals, USDAA Agility National as well as many regional agility and obedience trials. Linked here are videos.
Three Gordon Setter Club of America members who have far exceeded anything I have accomplished and are reliable resources are: Julie Ashley, Ohio, Gail Deller, PA, and Susan Wey, TX. I am sure there are many others who are knowledgeable and successful but these three have helped and supported me immensely in the sport.
Team Work and Making the Dream Work requires your commitment, patience and sense of humor as an agility handler. Those embarrassing moments will occur and you must be willing to be amused by your Gordon Setter’s exuberant antics. It just means you didn’t proof the skill or train it long enough. 99% of the mistakes made fall on the handler, not the dog!
The Gordon Setter can transfer the ordinary day into extraordinary moments and memories.
Auntie Mame said “Life is a banquet!” I say “Living with Gordon Setters makes it a feast!”
We know you’re out there having the time of your life working and competing with your Gordon Setter in all manner of Performance events, Obedience, Rally, Agility, or maybe Flyball (have I forgotten any?) But after you’ve worn yourself out training we’re wondering if you would take a minute or more to share your expert knowledge – as in how did you get your dog to do that?
We need trainers who are willing to share their training methods, such as what resources you use to train, do you have favorite books or websites that you recommend, can you or would you write articles about training or training issues to help others who would like to get involved or who may be stuck and need a helpful hint or two?
We especially and most importantly want to share that information on this site if you believe that the method works well with Gordon Setters, because that’s who this publication is for, the serious Gordon Setter enthusiast.
“Together we will build an interactive, searchable resource for the Gordon Setter Fancier”– Sally Gift
Please help us build this resource site for fellow Gordon Setter lovers by contributing your articles, links, recommended reading, videos, websites, any of the things you believe are important to training with your Gordon Setter. Send your material to us at email@example.com.
We are dedicated to building a knowledge base and a sharing site for those who are involved in all of the various aspects of competition with Gordon Setters, competitions that showcase the Gordon Setter’s Beauty, Brains and Bird-Sense.