A lot of novice handlers seem to have problems with gundog training because the gundogs are “hot headed”. I have seen some severe correction methods used when I have been out shooting but I don’t want to base my own gundog training on this approach. Do you have any advice?

Jeremy Hunt says: The way working labradors have been bred over the last 50 years has created gundogs with a lot more drive and speed than they used to possess. Some of these animals undoubtedly present a greater challenge to novice handlers. It’s no secret that in order to turn them into working gundogs that are responsive to commands and remain “on the button” – despite the fact that they are reckoned to be “hot” – the methods recommended by some trainers are severe. I do not agree with these techniques.

It is also no secret that this approach, often openly applied, is attracting increasing concern – particularly among the new generation of those involved in training working labradors. The labrador retriever is renowned for its wonderful temperament and biddability, as well as its skill as a gundog. However, we are in danger of losing the appeal of the breed to those wanting to train their first labrador if the end result can only be achieved by a battle of wills.

Spend time looking for a pup and visit working tests this summer – and even field trials next winter – to try to identify gundogs that demonstrate natural ability, aren’t too mechanical or “hot” in the way they work and are being respectfully handled. Check out the breeding of these gundogs and talk to the breeders and those who are handling them in the hope you will end up with a gundog that works with you and not simply for you.

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