When it comes to training, there is a plethora of information and different approaches out there, but guest contributor Natasha Roberts of Wildnook Gundogs is passionate about is confidence and character building with her dogs and here, she shares some of her tips on achieving just this.
One of the most common issues I encounter with my training clients is a “flat” gundog; A dog that has to be persuaded to do what should come naturally to them. And why does this happen? In my opinion it seems to be that what a lot of us focus on first, especially in the beginning of our dog training, is the brake before we have any form of acceleration. We also seem to be bringing our expectations forward age wise. We rush them through their stages before they’re mentally, and sometimes physically, ready.
As a puppy we of course want to teach our dog manners, there’s no doubt about it. General manners (eg; sit command and waiting for dinner etc) are of course a given but when it comes to their natural gundog ability, I don’t harness it until I’ve built their confidence in it first.
We also need our dogs to develop their character and personality before we know how we are going to train them. Dogs are not a one size fits all, no matter what their breed and predicted biddability. We need to allow our dogs to develop their own mentality before we manipulate it. It is so important to learn how your dog ticks before any formal training is given and they need time to develop this. The best thing you can do in the early stages of a dogs life is allow them to see and experience everything possible and watch how they tackle it.
Take them out with you as many places as possible and let them meet different people and different dogs, let them see places and various environments. We regularly have our dogs in the pet friendly restaurants developing their manners and social skills – you’ll be surprised how much of these ability’s are then taken with them on to a shoot day. Reading your dog through all these opportunities will allow you to develop your way of training to suit your dog; how much pressure can they take? Do they huff when they’re corrected? Are they independent? Are they overly excitable? I always say ‘A dog will work for you the majority of their life, the least you can give them is their puppyhood’.
When it comes to how we start their gundog training it all needs to be super encouraging and exciting. Your dog should be encouraged to learn from day one that the biggest reward in life comes from working and more importantly, working for you.
When we start off with any form of retrieving or hunting initially it is pretty informal and messy – it can be tidied up later. It’s so much easier to have a confident dog that is rearing to go that you need to steady up then a bored dog that you need to try to motivate and push on. This is why it is so important to not rush those early days. I personally do not ask for any formal training from my puppies until they are 8/9 months old.