Some gundogs are more suited to certain jobs on the shooting field compared to others, though the majority of us need a dog capable of various tasks. When it comes to training your puppy for the field, it helps to have an idea of the tasks you will want it to perform, but you shouldn’t start on a strict training programme right away. Focus on the basics and keeping them doing the right thing.
Establish a Bond Early
You need to establish a bond and partnership with your gundog puppy from an early age. Within the first five months, you want to create a close relationship just so the dog wants to be with you. In these first few months, start with teaching manners and responding to your commands; your dog needs to trust you and not be fearful.
Get Them Used to Leads
Only after building a bond is it best to put them on a lead. By this point, the heelwork should be more natural, as the puppy wants to follow. It won’t be easy from the start, but there will be less work needed if your puppy is happy to be with you. The bond also helps with retrieving, when you come to that stage. When you first put on the lead, let your dog run free, dragging it, so they get used to the feeling.
Do Interesting Heelwork
When you start training your puppy on heelwork, it is important you keep it interesting; walk in straight lines, figures of eight or alter the pace. This keeps them focussed on you and ensures they are prepared for real situations in the field. Keeping them entertained is essential in all aspects of training. Gundog breeds are typically intelligent, and their brains need to be stimulated as much as their body.
Don’t Overdo the Training
However, you don’t want to do too much too soon. If you race ahead with the training, you may find there are problems when you get on the field or that you will need to retrain them on basic commands. The perfect gundog takes time to train, and there will likely be years of great work from your gundog, so make sure the groundwork is done thoroughly.
Don’t Over Exercise
If your pup is active and excitable, the assumption is to give it lots to do to tire it out. However, for young puppies, this has the opposite effect, and they may ‘boil over’, so ensure you are keeping them disciplined and learning manners. You shouldn’t overdo the exercise when they are still under a year old, as this could affect the joints.
Make Your Commands Clear
When it comes to training your dog, or any animal, your commands and instructions need to be clear. This helps the dog follow the command without question, and if they don’t it is likely they do not understand the command rather than being disobedient. Some dogs are strong-willed and may take longer to learn. Keeping the commands and instructions simple and clear will lead to better results.
Use the Stop Whistle
You should start using the stop whistle early on. Though they are unlikely to drop immediately in response to the whistle, you can use it to attract its attention from a short distance, establishing control. Be patient with your gundog, and try not to confuse with quick commands following a whistle; give them time and stay calm if something goes wrong.
Start Early for Retrieving
Retrieving is often the biggest concern for puppy training. Implementing the rule that anything the puppy picks it must give back is a great way to start their understanding of retrieving as well as praising their actions for a good retrieve. You should also avoid scolding them when they pick items up indoors they should not have, such as shoes, as this can lead them to think retrieving objects is a bad thing.
Use Dummies Regularly
Using dummies for gundog training is hugely beneficial, and starting younger is key. You should teach your gundog puppy how to hold the dummy correctly in their mouth, and stop them from damaging the dummy too much. The stop whistle is needed for dummy training, as it will teach them to drop the dummy when they hear it, and use your hands to indicate they should keep their heads high, so the prey is not dragged on the floor.
Be Patient and Positive.
In every stage of training your gundog puppy, you need to give them time and be patient to adjust to the information and training you put on them. When they are starting to get it right, give them time to perfect their new skill before rushing onto the next stage when there are still wrinkles to iron out. Make sure you are rewarding good behaviour with treats and giving them positive feedback when they do something correctly.
Do you have any top tips you follow when training your gundog or puppy? If so, we’d love to hear about them! Take a look at the gundog accessories we have which can help in training, and read some of our previous guides on gundogs from how to prevent gundog theft and guides to spaniel gundogs.