Training Can Be Intimidating for New Owners

By Todd Anderson
Owner and trainer at Anderson Gundogs in Olney Texas

Many times, when a dog is being dropped off for training at our facilities we hear the owner say, “We have done very little training with our dog because we did not want to mess things up and create problems for you to train him.” This scenario can make it more difficult to get a young gun dog started. Doing some pre-foundation fun training is essential.

There is some basic foundation training for pups or early pre-gun dog training that is the most important aspect of preparing your gundog for future training and making a great hunting dog.

Bring out the prey drive. If you’re going to make a bird dog, they’ve got to be bird crazy. You can make a pigeon pole by putting a clip wing pigeon on a pole and letting your bird dog chase it. Keep it short, just a couple of minutes and stop when they are bird crazy, don’t overdo it. Pointing dog owners, don’t worry about your dog pointing at first, that will come. First get them bird-chase crazy. If you don’t, it is hard to move your dog forward for gun conditioning and hunting cover.

After they are chasing, put a wing in an old sock, rolled up and start throwing short retrieves in the hallway at your house or a corridor, where they have to come back to you. Do three or four retrieves then pick them up, pet them and let the sock fall out of their mouth. Tease them with it after 3-4 retrieves and then put it away.

Teach them to go with you and turn when you turn. Start walking in the yard or field in one direction and once your dog gets out past you a little way, turn the opposite direction and say here or hey (use some excitement) to get your dog’s attention and turn in your direction. Again, once the dog has gotten out in front of you, turn them back the other direction.

Gun Shot is done when the gun dog is chasing birds and is quite far away from you. We start with poppers in our shotgun and then go to 20 gauge shot shells. Make sure to start far away and move closer until shooting over them. The dog should not care about the gunshot at first, since he does not know at this time that they will hear the gunshot when the bird falls. He has not gotten to this point yet, so the gunshot is just a distance noise at this time. If they pay too much attention to the gunshot or reactions are not good, back off some or move back farther away from the gunshot. Take your time, don’t rush this.

If you want your gun dog to swim, it is important to start introducing them to the water. Filling a small plastic pool with gradually more and more water in it will be a good start. Make sure they can walk in it at first. As they like it and become more confident, fill it with more water until they are swimming. As soon as they are swimming, you can begin throwing a play toy in the pool for them to retrieve.

In gun dog training, don’t be afraid of backing up if your dog is not catching on or some reaction was not what you wanted to see. Look for confidence in your dog as you move forward. Momentum in your dog during early training, while keeping personality and heart is crucial. Don’t get in a hurry and don’t overdo it, too long of sessions can make or break successful training. Most mistakes and issues with dog training happen when the owner/trainer either goes too long in a session and loses the dog’s concentration, or pushes too fast and puts too much pressure on the dog.

Your job is to learn to communicate with your dog. If they don’t understand what you want, they can’t respond properly. As they learn they will give you a better response. Controlled and calculated pressure is fine in dog training, but you must give your dog a way out of the pressure, which they will respond to.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to put your dog up and take a break. Think about what you’re doing. Make a plan then go back and implement it in the next training session or seek advice and get some coaching before moving forward. Finally, don’t let them get by with biting the kids or playing rough or you’ll end up with a monster on your hands. It does not take harsh discipline, but a little firm discipline will be important.

Keep it enjoyable and use common sense in addition to proven methods. Happy Bird Dog Training!