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The Irish Water Spaniel takes to training easily, but he has just enough “Irish” in him to go completely stubborn if given harsh treatment in training. Be firm and patient and never abusive with your Irisher if you expect good results.

There is nothing more fulfilling than teaching a puppy and nothing more distressing than living with a dog that was not a well trained puppy.

Begin to accustom your puppy to walking on a lead as soon as he is three months old. A few minutes on the lead twice a day at the start are enough, and later increase the time to fifteen or twenty minutes.

Many obedience problems start with how to raise a puppy. Set ground rules for your puppy. They should be carved in stone and never changed; changing the rules causes confusion. When confusion sets in, other behaviourial problems are soon to follow. Stop and think about how big your puppy will be when full grown. Start training earlier rather than later.

If you do not plan to or cannot enforce a command DO NOT GIVE IT! The certainty and timing of a correction is more important than the severity. Use the same command in training so as not to confuse the dog. Respect your dog’s intelligence and do not abuse him either verbally or physically. Give the command only once then help or correct the dog if necessary. Use a release command to relax your dog after an exercise. Practice for shorter periods, more often. Ten minutes twice daily is better than 20 minutes all at once. Talk to your dog and encourage him when he is in the correct position. Let him know when you are pleased with his response. Training should be fun.


To prevent a dog from becoming shy of noise or guns, make plenty of noise in the kitchen when feeding by rattling pans and opening and closing doors and cupboards. We have found that a cap gun shot 3 times before setting down the food also helps to condition towards gun shots later in life. He may refuse to eat in all this confusion at first, but if you start with a few rattles and work up to a variety of noises, he will soon ignore them. When house noises no longer disturb him, start firing a cap pistol at meal times. At first don’t let him see the pistol as you fire it – hold it in back of you. As soon as he shows no alarm over this sound, feed him out of doors and fire a twenty-two rifle near him as he eats. Progress to a twenty – gauge shotgun and finally to a twelve gauge shotgun. Never fire any gun over a dog’s head or too close to him. Even when you are working with a grown dog, use the same system of pan rattling towards a twenty-two. If the grown dog has been force broken to retrieving, I would not shoot a gun near him until he was retrieving or doing something he enjoyed. All of this takes time and patience, but the results are worthwhile.

When training to retrieve, try to associate a shot with retrieving as soon as the dog shows he really enjoys retrieving. When he is sent out to retrieve a dummy, have someone near you fire a shot, as the dummy is thrown. Most Irish Water Spaniels like the water and there is no reason why they cannot go in when they are three or four months old, provided the water is warm and they will dry off before night. Never force them to go in! We usually start a pup by walking through a marsh where there is shallow water and letting the pup follow along. As soon as he splashes through these shallow places without hesitancy, he should be guided to a spot deep enough to require him to swim for a few seconds before finding his next foothold. Once in a while you will get a pup who becomes so panicky he forgets he has any hind feet, and he will churn the water so excitedly with his forelegs that his rear sinks and the water splashes in his eyes and nose adding to his alarm. In a case like this, you can support the dog’s body underneath with your hands holding him level. And he will soon learn to use his hind legs.

Give your dog a simple name and use it when giving your commands so he will never confuse your commands with those of someone else directing his dog. Don’t forget to be generous with praise when he does well. Be consistent in your training, and when you start, never miss a day, but keep the training periods fairly brief. You will find your Irish Water Spaniel an eager and willing pupil.


The crate is a large plastic, wire or fiberglass enclosure that was originally designed for use by airlines to transport animals. Today, however, the crate has many practical uses. Make sure the crate is big enough for when your dog is fully-grown. There should be enough room inside the crate for the adult dog to stand up and turn around before lying down. If you choose a wire crate, make sure that is has a sturdy solid pan in the bottom to avoid hurting his feet.

When placing the puppy in the crate for the first time, make sure that there is a padded area for him to sleep on, a doggy chew toy and fresh water. As you put the puppy in each time, give the command, "House ”, and then praise your puppy. In the beginning, feed the dog inside the crate so that he wants to go into the crate. During the early stages give him a small treat each time you crate him and NEVER crate him as punishment. The idea is to keep a positive environment, establishing the crate as a safe haven for him. Crate the puppy when you can not actively watch him.

The puppy should sleep in the crate. When you get up in the morning, take the puppy outside so the he can relieve himself before you do the same for yourself. Praise him while he is doing it, and then bring him back inside and crate him.

Whenever you take your puppy out of his crate, take him outside first to go to the bathroom. Then bring him back inside. Let him run inside the house only under direct supervision and take him outside before crating him again.

At first there may be some messes in the crate to clean up but these will soon stop. Accidents in the crate usually result from leaving the puppy in there too long. Try not to let the puppy watch you clean up the mess he makes. Some dogs will consider it a game.

A puppy must be protected from its environment, and vice versa. The crate can prevent destruction by the dog in the house. Preventing problems is critical to the puppy’s development because problems do turn into bad habits. You should continue crating your dog until he has his full adult teeth. Once he has reached this stage, leave the door open so he may come and go as he pleases. In the meantime, try to teach him what he may or may not chew on.

Once a dog is crate-trained, he will willingly go in and out of the crate on his own. When guests arrive, your dog can greet them. Then send him to his crate. He may be allowed out after he has settled down. If the guest is scared of dogs, crate the dog for the entire visit. Your dog will not mind this, and will just curl up and take a nap.


Play training is an upbeat approach to introducing obedience commands though play and interaction. Play training combines playtime, praise, encouragement, positive motivation and obedience training. Starting between 8 – 16 weeks of age, and continuing on through life, play training is a perfect tool. The result is a puppy that not only learns faster, but also enjoys learning at every step.

Puppies enjoy obedience work if it is made fun for the owner and the dog. Here are some of the basic obedience commands that can be taught to puppies between three and seven months of age using the play training approach.

Take It
Leave It
Get It
Go Find
Thank You/Drop It/Give
Go Say Hello
Give Paw/Leg
Go Find!
Let’s Go

Always end your sessions on a positive not. Let your puppy’s last memory of each training session be a pleasant on, a session where he can succeed in doing something right.

Here are some general training guidelines for play training:

1) Set reasonable training goals.
2) Be clear, consistent, concise and calm when giving your puppy commands.
3) Make sure that your dog really understands what you want from him. Make sure he knows how to do what you are asking – before you correct him for not listening to you.
4) Give you dog positive feedback for a job well done.
5) Watch what you do while training and handling your dog, as well as what your dog is doing.
6) Avoid giving mixed signals or mixed messages to your dog.
7) Listen to what your dog is trying to say to you. In other words, be tuned in to your dog’s thoughts.
8) Know your dog’s comfortable limits.
9) Never work a dog that is tired, ill or over-stressed.

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