Owning a Good Gun Dog
begins training at three to four months old, it may be a competent hunting companion by its first birthday. Even after a careful training program, most gun dogs don't really blossom until they have two or three hunting seasons behind them, and only then if they've spent a lot of time hunting.
Though training a gun dog takes time, the time it takes each day to train is actually very little. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day represents a solid training session for an adult dog. Puppies have shorter attention spans. A good training session for a pup may be five minutes or less. The key is being consistent with commands and pursuing an effective training plan.
Regardless of its training, every dog will try its owner. If allowed to disobey a command, a trained gun dog will quickly "forget" what it has been conditioned to do. A gun dog owner must know how to enforce commands. Every hunting trip is a training session in which a dog must respond to a learned command. If the dog responds incorrectly, the dog must be corrected. Disobedience, if allowed, will ruin a trained dog in short order.
Keeping a dog sharp requires year-round training. Many trainers keep live birds with which to train their dogs. Gun dog enthusiasts don't consider the extra work an inconvenience. For them, watching a well-trained gun dog work is as much a part of the hunt as the whistling wings of waterfowl and the cackling flush of a pheasant.
Gaining specific knowledge concerning gun dog training involves reading and research. A number of excellent books are available. Best Way to Train Your Gun Dog: The Delmar Smith Method, by the late Bill Tarrant, is an excellent general reference on training gun dogs, as is Gun Dog, by Richard Wolters. Tarrant wrote two books for learning how to train retrievers. Hey Pup, Fetch It Up! The Complete Retriever Training Book and Training the Versatile Retriever to Hunt Upland Birds are both excellent sources of information.
The Internet is a great source for gun dog training and handling tips. Type in "training gun dogs," hit "search" and you'll find thousands of howto listings.You will also find listings of pro trainers who will e-mail answers to your questions. It's exciting to get direct responses from some of the world's top breeders and handlers of gun dogs. Type in "literature training gun dogs" for complete listings of books and periodicals.