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Interview with Gundog Trainer, Jason Mayhew

Jason Mayhew is a leading gundog trainer based between Hampshire and West Sussex near the South Downs. He has been training his own gundogs for nearly 20 years, starting in 2000, and was taking part in challenges and competitions by 2003. Jason has qualified for the IGL (International Gundog League) Retriever Championship twice and won his first field trial with his Labrador in 2004, only a few years after he started training gundogs.

Jason Mayhew with an award

Last year, Jason represented England in the Anglesey International working test and he continues to compete with his dogs in working tests and field trials and has judged in both the UK and Europe in addition to working his dogs on game shoots.

1) How many dogs to your currently train?

Three which are mine, two which are client’s permanent residence, two or three that come in monthly for top up training.

2) What inspired you to become a gundog trainer?

I retired from being a professional athlete and found my way into game keeping. This is when my step mum gave me my first dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever. I knew what I didn’t want, which was an unruly dog that is seen at most shoots. So, I began training with the help of books and a trainer called Jeremy Organ. I loved it and was hooked!! Over 20 years later and a few jobs later, I retired from the fire service and was unsure what to do. My Dad said use your talent and passion. So, four years ago I set up in West Sussex and haven’t looked back.

3) What do you find is your most successful training technique?

Patience, understanding the dog and consistency. I was told once that I see “the devil in the detail”. So most folk rush training. When I walk off the training ground, I always want to make it better; it’s never good enough.

4) What advice would you give to those training gundog puppies?

K.I.S.S... which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. After a bit of socialising, don’t go to puppy classes. The poor puppy sits in a training session for anywhere from one to two hours! They can only concentrate for 20 mins. Far better to get a one on one with a proven trainer, who knows how to take the steps slow and can recognise when the dog has had enough. Quality not quantity!!!

5) Do you have a favourite breed to train?

I tend to use Labradors. I’ve had a lot of success with them. But I still love the Chesapeake. From time to time I take my partner’s English Springer Spaniel out for training, which I enjoy.

Jason Mayhew training gundogs

6) Do you have a go-to trick or tip you use?

Basics and make sure you have good eye contact. This means right from the start heeling is the most important thing you can do for retrievers. Whilst at heel does your dog look forward then back at you every 3-5 secs? They should as this is the cornerstone to creating a partnership.

7) What would you consider to be a common training mistake?

Rushing training, to many mark (seen) retrieves and over facing the dog when it’s struggling.

8) What would be your advice on kennelling a gundog?

They don’t need a huge run, Keith Erlandson always said that dogs sleep and walk about and sleep. But have good beds, heating, air flow and drainage. Bedding changed or washed regularly with fresh water daily helps.

9) What other country pursuits do you enjoy?

Country pubs and every now and again you may see me in Cornwall on my long board surfing. But recently I have been getting into polo at Cowdray estate amongst the TV appearances with James Martin.

10) What is your favourite part about training gundogs?

I get a sense of happiness seeing dogs come on. But I get quite emotional when my clients have success in training and especially when they compete in working tests or trials and win.

You can find more information about Jason Mayhew and the gundog training he offers on his website here. If you are working on training your own gundog, be sure to take a look at the range of dog accessories we have available on our online shop, from training dummies to cosy dog beds. You might also want to check out our gun shop for a new personalised cartridge bag, which are of a decent size to hold other items when you are not using them outside of the shooting season.