Training your griffon will probably not be easy. Scent hounds, compared to other types of dogs, simply take longer to train because of their powerful noses and their independent personalities. In your home they behave as model pets, but once you step outside with them, especially when your griffon is a rescued hunting dog, they are often ruled by their noses and may pull, crawl, jump, lurch, bay, howl and bark and become utterly oblivious to whom is on the other side of the leash… Your griffon needs training.
Three things are important to remember:
- Read as much as you can about training a scent dog to be well prepared. You may want to find a dog trainer or doggie school that can help you to start training as early as possible after your adopted griffon arrives.
- Start training as soon as you get your dog. It will be much easier if you get it right from the beginning.
- Be persistent and be prepared for a long process, but remember that a loving, playful and kind approach is more needed with a griffon than with any other dog!
An adopted Griffon usually has a history of being used as a trailing dog. Therefore, they are not used to walking neatly beside you on a leash, because are trained to follow a trail on leash – at which pulling is considered normal. So, chances are they will pull and follow their noses and they may bark and bay loudly if they see or smell something they want to investigate. They may not do it on their first walk in a new and strange environment, but chances are they will do it on their second walk or after a few days. In short, this is behaviour you do not want from your pet.
If your griffon is already a few years old, you will likely have to unlearn a lot of undesired behaviours and training will also progress slower. You may get to a point that you become desperate and think it is impossible. Yet, there are scent hounds that won obedience competitions, so keep that in mind. To train your griffon is never impossible!
Praise your dog for making eye contact so he learns you like it when he keeps an eye on you. Hold a cookie before your face, or his favourite toy. When there is eye contact, praise your dog. This is the most important step in teaching your griffon to first of all pay attention to you and follow you and your orders.
Also remember that you need a soft approach. Be kind, playful, patient and be loving towards your griffon, and they will respond really well to you and you can easily establish a strong bond with your griffie. If you use force, a harsh voice or punishment, your hound may cower or simply pretend you are not there – all contact lost.
Reward desired behaviour
Start training to walk on leash in a quiet distraction-free environment. This may be your living room or backyard. Use a clicker, or make a sound that means they will receive a treat. Put the leash on, take a few steps, stand still and click. The dog will look at you and you give them a treat. After a few times, they will start to make the link: clicking sound –> a goodie! Once you feel they get it, you go to another room, take a few steps out of the garden or out on the street, and click at every few steps and exchange a treat each time they do well. They will start to like this game! Slowly increase the distance you walk and slowly start adding distractions, like other animals, kids, cats, groves, etc., or take them to a different place where you find such distractions. You can teach them in the same way, with a clicker and treats to come to you, sit down next to you and lay down.
Another method is to simply walk back backwards every time they pull on the leash. This will make them turn around and give you a quick questioning look: reward them when they look at you. Do this until they get the point. This will also teach your hound that he or she should keep contact with you at all time.
Although griffons are hunting dogs, they are not pack dogs. They have their nose for a ‘tool’ and that makes them pretty individual hunters. In hunting they are usually used in a ‘pack’ of two, at most three dogs. And often it’s just the hunter and his dog: the hunter does not give orders, the dog tells the hunter where to go. This is what must be turned around. You as a griffon owner are the pack leader, and your griffie must learn to keep his eye on his pack – always.
Burn off energy before walks
Another thing you can do is make sure they burn off energy before you step outside, for example by playing ball, tug of war, or games they can do using their nose – such as a food hunt.
Always be gentle with your griffon. They are very sensible in spite of their fierce instincts and toughness. They may not take you as serious when you reprimand them too harsh.
Of course, there is a whole industry of harnesses, gentle leaders, e-collars, elastic leashes, choking collars etc. to make your doggie walk nicely beside you. A harness and elastic leash can be useful while you train your dog, but they won’t do the trick for you. You do. And the best way to train a dog still is to make them do what you want because the dog itself wants to do it.
Walking off leash and recall
Walking off leash is a whole other story. The safest is to let your griffon off leash only in a place where they cannot escape, such as a dog park or fenced terrain. Some griffons do well of leash and stick close to their owners. Yet many owners of a griffon or scent hound (such as bassets and beagles) just won’t let their doggy off leash because they will follow their noses and go off in the fields of forest for hours or even days on end and be deaf to their owner’s voices. And even if they have developed a good recall, chances are that they will come 9 times but on the 10th time decide to follow their noses and be off…
Start recall training in your home. Call your dog to come to you and reward it. Then put a long leash on and repeat. Next you take your griffon somewhere outside (like your garden) where there are no distractions, and call him back and reward him. Next you can take him to a play field on a quiet moment, and repeat. Then add distractions and start making short walks at a familiar park, etc.
Remember, there are many methods to train a dog. There is just no method that works for all dogs, or all types of dogs. What works for one dog, may not work for another. Then there is the choice how to reward your dog: with food, a clicker or with a vocal praise or a rub…
Nose Work & Scent Games: