When and how to start gun dog training your puppy

When and how to start gun dog training your puppy

Old vs Modern approach

For years gun dog training books like ‘Gundogs: Training and field trials by peter Moxon’ or ‘gundog training by Keith Erlandson’ have taught us the traditional approach to training. In effect 8 months old is the prime time to start your puppy on the gun dog training program. These approaches indicate that starting a puppy too early will have a negative impact later in the training process. As puppies tend to not have the highest attention span it is likely that you will have to retrain or reteach certain commands.

The modern approach takes the route of as soon you bring your puppy home you should start teaching them. This isn’t your que to get them ready for the first hunt, you should be teaching them basic manners and commands i.e., SIT and HERE but does this through play. The key to teaching a puppy is to not let them know they are being taught. Methods to achieving this are treat training, clicker training, positive reinforcement training and basic obedience training.

gundog training - black puppy on dry land

Timeline to training

It is important to note every puppy is different they each have their own personality so don’t rush it take it at a pace that feels comfortable to you and your puppy.

  • Step 1 – Puppy weaning. This is the stage where you teach him/her the basics, there name the commands HERE, SIT and NO. Also familiarise your puppy with the tone of your voice when he/she does something good
  • Step 2 – Early puppyhood. Continue to work on verbal commands but increase the number of commands being taught and start to support these commands with whistles and hand gestures.
  • Step 3 – 6 months. This is where you can start adding the retrieving and staying training it. The best way to do this is keep it fun. You don’t want to over do this step as you do not want your puppy to get bored of retrieving. *Top tip never chase your puppy to get the object off him/her
  • Step 4 – 8 months. 8 months is where you must start insisting on obedience.
  • Step 5 – 1st birthday. This is where full field training exercises can begin. Start introducing rabbit pen shot and game.
  • Step 6 – 18 months. This can be the first shooting season in the field the puppy can be involved in. Don’t let your puppy get too involved make sure you keep the pressure off him/her.
  • Step 7 - 2 years. This step is where your puppy has started to mature. You can increase fieldwork exercise.

The do’s and don’ts  

The most important thing to do and concentrate on with your puppy is creating a bond. You need your puppy to completely trust you.

The do’s

  • Ensure you give your puppy as much time as they require to understand and learn the commands.
  • One they have started getting a command right give them time to perfect the skill before rushing to the next command.
  • If your puppy is being raised in the family home, make sure the commands being taught are consistent. If you are teaching him HERE don’t have another member of the household use the command, COME for him/her to come to you this will confuse the puppy and therefore extending the time taking on training basic obedience.
  • Use food! Food will become your best friend. It works better if one person does the feeding. Keep food at waist height and wait for the puppy to sit before placing the bowl on the floor, he/she will learn to sit without any physical pressure.

The don’ts are equally as is important!

  • DON’T not teach them. Whether you are teaching them at home or taking them to a professional if the pup doesn’t have the basic training of obedience and manners it will take longer to train the pup.
  • Don’t let them jump up. Jumping up is about dominance rather than being cute.
  • Don’t play tug of war. They will develop a bad habit of wanting to do this with the game they collect ruining the bird.
  • Don’t let them bite or nip your hand this will cause bad behaviour later on in the training process.

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