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How I’ve coped with home training and limited socialisation during COVID.

It’s my absolute pleasure to share our experience.  Axe is now 6 months old and progressing really well I believe.  It’s not good to always compare where young HPR pups are age wise with their training, however, as a new owner of a German Shorthaired Pointer pup and with not a great deal of HPR training experience myself, it’s been wonderful to share findings with other Aytee GSP group members, the ongoing support and guidance from Lucie has been amazing; always replying to emails and putting careful thought to pen when answering queries on her Facebook group.  As Lucie’s own young Oxo is just slightly older than Axe, I have been so encouraged and motivated by Oxo’s progression and it’s really helped me gauge what Axe should be capable of as he grows up and matures and equally, I’ve learnt where I need to be if this relationship is to work. 

This pandemic has posed many challenges, one of which has been socialising a young pup, the other has been the lack of group classes for young gun dogs.  Knowing what I know now, having worked through Lucie’s training I would not change how I approached the fundamental training, it’s a great grounding to build on and I feel at least Axe and I could quite confidently join a gundog training group.  At first, I was slightly anxious because all group classes were cancelled and nobody was offering any training. The e-training notes and videos together with Lucie’s support made me realise very quickly that it’s much more about how I come to grips with piecing it all together than about how the pup does.  The breed is very capable and it’s just about putting the small steps together in one’s own time. I like how cautionary pit falls are noted, it highlights to me what I need to be aware of should I mess it up.  It also means I can take my time and rehearse in my mind what I want to achieve in the next training session.  As for socialisation I believe we’ve made the most of a bad situation. I guess the term “Covid Pup” will be used to describe those dog’s in future with certain behavioural issues but I really don’t feel from a socialisation perspective we’ve suffered. Axe has been blessed with that irresistible GSP charm, which most owners are very familiar with and has come to know almost everyone and their dog in a two-mile radius.  So out on our walks we are forever stopping so he can play with his friends, some even putting him in his place from time to time.  Another bad vice I believe we’re successfully avoiding is the issue of separation anxiety, which is quite common with the breed. With us being around 24/7 due to Covid, I made sure he’s used to his own company, whether that’s spending a few hours outside chewing his bone, lying in the sunshine or being put in his crate for a few hours whilst we go out shopping.  I believe this is paying dividends as he’s quite comfortable if we’re not around for any length of time.

Group classes have their place and as government restrictions are lifted, I’m slowly seeing all those trainers emerge from hibernation and Axe and I look forward to making new friends and learning from other successful partnerships.  For now, I am just grateful to have an extremely close bond with Axe and having instilled the fundamentals; good manners and basic training, confidence both in himself as well as different environments and stimuli, socialisation with both other dogs and people and lastly but most important a calmness around livestock.