The problem started late last season and seems to be getting worse the more I train her.
I can’t get her to go long distances from me without her starting to hunt after she’s gone a short way.
She often swerves off to the right after about 20 yards even though I want her to run straight.
What can I do to train a gundog this skill?
Jeremy Hunt says: Running straight is a habit the youngster should develop almost unknowingly from the earliest days of its training.
I like to start early retrieving in an area that’s going to give me a degree of control to train my gundog, and also to impress an element of structure to the exercise in the pup’s mind.
Any straight edge – be that a hedge, a wall or a fence – can become an aid to keeping the dog straight as it goes out and as it returns in those formative stages.
This should lay a foundation for straight out-runs when moving on to unseen retrieving as training progresses.
Therefore, attempt all future remedial training in an area that will help train a gundog to keep straight or has a feature to help you achieve that.
It’s easy for someone new to training to become impressed with longer and longer distances over which marked retrieves can be executed, but all too often these are undertaken while not spending enough time on unseen retrieves.
Do not assume that just because a young dog will go a good way for a mark it will be equally adept at an unseen at the same distance.
A dog that goes a certain distance and then hunts or swerves off in totally the wrong direction suggests it simply hasn’t been allowed to build up its confidence in you and in itself.
It is short-circuiting and going into hunting mode too quickly because it wrongly believes that the sooner it starts to hunt the sooner it will find the dummy/bird.
It is a consequence of the old problem of starting to put the roof on before the house foundations are laid – so go back to basics.
Work in an area that accentuates the need for straight lines without opportunities for diversions and begin with a few marked retrieves.
You will probably need a helper for this so that once the marked retrieving is satisfactory you can progress to unseens over the same distance in the same place.
This formula should provide the basic structure for progress and once you feel confident you can begin to extend the distance – but always begin the lesson with a mark at this stage.
Don’t rush things when you train a gundog; this is confidence building for you and the dog.
The idea is that the dog always believes if it runs straight – and keeps running – it will find what it has been sent for.
When you feel the dog is starting to wholeheartedly trust you, and believe that when you send it and it runs straight it will find the dummy, you can move into a more open or varied location – but stick to it.
It’s important you regularly repeat this second stage on the same piece of ground, over the same distance to re-enforce the exercise.