Cocker Spaniel Puppy Training:
In September 2018, my wife and I rescued an 8-week-old female mixed breed (Cocker Spaniel mother, Ridgeback father) puppy from an animal rescue group. Born among a litter of five puppies on the Fourth of July, she was named Liberty but we call her “Libby.” Upon Libby’s arrival to our home, she was not house broken nor comfortable on a leash, as her foster family lived on a farm and allowed her free access.
An awesome video with Glen and his puppy Libby.
Libby has a lot of energy. We were looking for a trainer and training program that would allow us to control Libby’s tireless drive to play, fetch, and play some more, into a dog that we could take anywhere, at any time, and have complete control and confidence, on-leash or off-leash, and would behave and listen to us. As new residents of Southwest Florida, we did not have experience with dog trainers down here, but as prior dog owners, we knew the kind of quality and care we were seeking in a trainer. Several calls and interviews led us to ultimately choose Southwest K9 Academy and Dennis Dalia for Libby’s training.
Dennis met with Libby and explained to us his program and methodology. We began with six weeks of private instruction followed by several weeks of group lessons. Dennis took a great deal of time explaining the characteristics of Libby’s breed, such as which training elements come naturally versus areas to focus on due to her high-energy disposition. The most important item to understand when working with a dog trainer is that – in most cases – it is a “train the trainer” relationship. You as the dog owner are being trained by Dennis on how to train your dog. You are probably unaware of the many things that confuse your dog, which can manifest themselves in how you use the leash, tone of voice, and body language.
Dennis makes a clear point during every lesson to remind you of these items and works with you to correct them. Dogs require unambiguous and consistent commands to learn – and learn quickly they will, when you follow his advice. The private instruction consisted of training your dog to heel (walk), sit, stay, down, and come. Within a few weeks of working with Libby, following Dennis’ advice, she was getting the hang of things and progressing.
Initially, we were disappointed that the private lesson training was ending and we would be moving to group lessons. Instinctively, people want private instruction. “Hey, I’m paying for this; I want all the attention on me and my dog!” Wrong!! What we learned very quickly is that it is easy to get your dog to listen to you when there are no distractions, but put your dog among five, six or ten other dogs in the vicinity, and it is another story entirely.
I cannot emphasize enough how valuable group lesson instruction has been for us and Libby. Dennis continues to work with you individually, but now you are utilizing all the knowledge gained in private instruction and reinforcing it in an environment full of the most challenging distractions for any dog and dog owner. After our initial training program with Dennis ended, we have continued to attend weekly group training classes, and Libby’s progress has been amazing.
After a few months, Dennis introduced Libby to e-collar training. This allows us to walk Libby off-leash. Contrary to what many people think and other trainers’ use of e-collars, Dennis has taught us to use the very mildest of stimulation with the e-collar only as a means of getting your dog’s attention; it is not used as a disciplinary tool. Libby is now 16 months old and we take her everywhere off-leash.
When we take her to Laishley Park in Punta Gorda, she is walking by my side (not in front of me) the entire time. Also, at the park, I use a device called Chuckit! to throw Libby a rubber ball up to 75 yards. I put Libby in a “sit, stay” position, and only when I release her will she runs like the wind to retrieve the ball and bring it immediately back to me. Other people and dogs are in the area, but Libby’s focus and attention are on my commands.
I cannot say enough about how detailed, thorough, and committed Dennis is in his profession and the success of his training program. It truly is first-rate! Think about it this way: most dog owners will have their pets for 12–15 years or more. Training your dog to listen and obey on command will provide you, your family, visitors, and neighbors with many years of worry-free contact. We should only be so lucky with our children!