May 2012 Gundog Training

CommunicationBefore you venture out with your young gundog, be sure you are giving him the correct signals and instructions…The days are getting longer, the clocks have changed and it’s  time to get out there and put in some training time with our gundogs.  For newcomers to the sport there is  an abundance of advice, some of it contradictory and confusing.

The trainer said: “Establish the basics and make sure you teach your dog thoroughly.” You think: “Brilliant! So all I need to do is get out into the training field and explain to my dog just exactly what I want him to do. I wonder what language I should use; French? That bloke at  the Game Fair seemed to act and talk in a really dominant way towards his dogs… Now I come  to think about it there was a lot of talk, whistle blowing and loads of waving your arms around. One bloke was waving a hanky… Perfect, I can  do that!”

Training and working with a dog requires communication. There are lots of methods that we use to communicate — voice, hand signals, body language, eye contact and whistles are  the ones seen and used most. The UK gundog community has an established language and, while it is not compulsory or the only way, like most things that have been around for a while, they are done that way because they work. The signals we use when communicating with our gundogs are simple, practical, readily available and very effective if taught to the dog properly.

It might seem obvious but newcomers to dog training must study these early handler skills.  You need to be positive, consistent, clear and quiet when required. I probably say this in every article I write, but watching good handlers will  get you into good habits. It pays to contrast  this and watch a beginner; test yourself, see if you can spot the differences, then make sure  you understand how and why this will affect  the dog’s performance.Positioning: Positioning your dog is an element of training that is regularly overlooked. In the early stages  of training a retriever, teach your dog to sit alongside you in a ‘heel’ position. This needs  to be conditioned into the dog. If you stop it’s really helpful if his default behaviour is to immediately come and sit alongside you. It is from this position that he will be cast for most  of his retrieves, marked and blind. Learning  to position and line up your dog will help you  to communicate exactly where it is you want  him to go when given a line on a retrieve. Spaniels need to learn this same position but their work dictates that they have a second default, which is to be sat just in front of you while focussing on your face.To see and hear all of these commands being used, take a look at our new Sporting Shooter instructional videos on