Before training, it is necessary to understand the welfare requirements of the dog. I find it useful to divide this into four parts: exercise, nutrition and health, stimulation, and emotional needs. From my experience, the following guidelines will help your dog be happier and livelier for longer.
Brittanys, like all pointing dogs, have been bred to quarter (going from side to side across the wind). They can do this at a fast canter across rough ground for several hours in a day. Obviously, they require a lot of exercise.
They need a minimum of one hour free exercise per day on natural ground. I would recommend three walks per day; each one being different, in order to provide interest and stimulation. On top of this, to build up muscle and stamina and to maintain condition, they need longer, more challenging periods of exercise, this could be twice per week. For interest and exercise, the ground should be varied and include flat, hilly and rough terrain. Ground with interesting scent will encourage hard work. Your dog should canter and gallop for some of the time. This will give balanced exercise without it being too repetitive or impulsive.
Swimming, in warm weather, is good, all-round exercise. It should be followed by a warming up run around.
Remember that your dog can be ill, just like you, so it pays to keep an eye on it and not push it.
Nutrition and Health
I will make the following comments and hope that they may be of use:-
The breeder of my first pup gave me tripe and puppy kibble but I found the smell of the tripe was too much for me. I then fed tinned food simply because I thought that it looked good. I chose three brands; the idea was that there would be some variety in taste and I would not be feeding the same additives all the time. Later, I found that the teeth were becoming coated with plaque, so I decided to change to three brands of dried food. The teeth and gums improved. I then changed to organic dried food. Sadly, I found that several of the ingredients were environmentally damaging or the products of factory farming and therefore decided to change to a raw meat diet. I had discussed this with a kennelman with much experience. To obtain meat on the bone and which was non halal I went to a local butcher. My dogs like the raw meat best, and the chewy meat and the bones have proved to be the best for their teeth and gums; they appear in the best condition on this food. I feed breast of lamb, shoulder of lamb and ox heart, in whole chunks and without removing bones and tough bits, as dogs love to chew, and a small amount of organic milk. If any bones are not eaten within ten minutes, they are removed. From time to time I add a few vegetables, cooked and raw, and anything else nutritional and enjoyable from our diet.
It is important not to give any cooked bones as they can splinter. Beef bones are too tough.
For a good level of fitness, the dog’s breast bones should be clearly defined with a supple covering of skin.
Due to problems experienced and reports read, I stopped giving my dogs booster vaccinations and routine worm and flea treatments. The substances used are extremely powerful. They only have antibiotics and other medicine when it is really necessary. They have appeared more healthy and with better joints, but the sample is very small.
Regarding any form of amputation, it is worth noting that dogs have evolved over thousands of years with every part having a purpose. The argument is both moral and practical.
The dog’s tail is used for balance and it also helps to stabilise the skeletal structure. Pointing dogs hunt in a particular manner and I must say that I have never witnessed any need for removing a tail.
Dew claws, once routinely removed, help with grip.
The main claws are kept in perfect condition by normal exercise. They help the dog to get a good grip on the ground. They should not be trimmed, except for medical reasons, as this would put undue pressure on the delicate pads.
Regarding neutered dogs, I have observed that: they often give off a sexually arousing scent, which can cause problems with entire dogs; they have a tendency to mount; they can lose condition.
Dogs love challenges of many types.
The more challenging the physical exercise, the better it is for the brain. Dogs love to have change, variety and adventures. The most intellectually stimulating exercise for a dog is hunting; it is after all what it has evolved for and it will teach itself many skills.
A dog loves to be with its handler, do things with its handler, communicate and be understood, and trust its handler. Achieving these things leads to a happy dog and a happy handler; it is the most important area for achieving a close working relationship. Dogs love, and respond well to, affection, though this often will not be apparent at the time.
We have to work hard to read a dog’s body language and expressions; also, we have to learn to communicate with our body.
Dogs like being spoken to. It helps with bonding and increasing the dog’s vocabulary.
Dogs are highly sensitive and, no matter to what level we rise, they will always be ahead of us.