Gun Dog Training Basics

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Published on: May. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

that remains in the leash, then turn and walk the opposite direction. This will give him an unpleasant jerk and force him to adjust to your new course. Repeat " HEEL" when he's at your side again. After a few repetitions, he will be heeling like a champ. The trick is to never say "HEEL" when he isn't heeling.

The Release Command:

To complete your repertoire of commands you need a release command, a word or phrase that tells your pup, "You're off duty." For this, I use, "OK."

To get this idea across to Guiness, I made her sit and stay, and then put a tidbit of her favorite food treat, boiled deer liver, on the ground in front of her. After she had waited a few seconds, I put the morsel in her mouth and in an upbeat tone said, "OK." I repeated this procedure, making her wait longer each time. After I established a connection between saying "OK" and her getting the treat, I left the liver on the ground and gave the release command. She snapped it right up.

I didn't have to teach her what "OK" meant when she was heeling. I gave the release command and she was off like a shot. She knew "OK" meant she was free to do what she wanted.

To teach Guiness to stand completely still, I have trained her to balance a liver treat on her nose until I release her. If she moves her head and the treat falls off, she doesn't get to eat it. The ability to sit perfectly still is very useful when a wary flock of mallards is circling low overhead. It's a neat parlor trick, too.


Your dog should bring retrieving dummies all the way to you. If he tends to drop dummies early, back away from him as he approaches so he has to follow you.

Never chase or wrestle with your dog to get a dummy. Instead, grab his collar and praise him a little, and then take the dummy, commanding "GIVE." If he resists, reach under his muzzle with one hand and put thumb and forefinger in the corners of his mouth, forcing it open. Be sure to deliver the command, "GIVE," just as he releases the dummy, not before.

A dog that gets used to retrieving every dummy you throw will have a hard time staying put when you shoot a bird but must delay the

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