Mark Whitehouse says: As a professional gun dog trainer there is never a closed season for me.

When the shooting season and field trialling competitions come to an end I carry on training young gun dogs for the following season with summer gun dog training.

The older gun dogs that have been out working or competing will still be motivated and exercised through this rest period from April to July.

As they are already trained I will exercise them twice a week, running them at the side of my mountain bike, and twice a week I will walk them out and do some free hunting.

This is when I plant tennis balls in a large area of white grass and light shrubs and then cast my gun dogs off as a group, sometimes six or 10 at any one time, and let them sweep an area picking-up the tennis balls retrieving to hand.

This is a good way to motivate and stimulate spaniels as they will feel the competition from other gun dogs, and no spaniel likes to fail. So summer gun dog training as its benefits.

The working spaniel of today is a product of countless years of specialised breeding and as a result of this we have a gun dog with lots of flair and passion for hunting and retrieving.

Spaniels thrive when doing what they like to do best and that is hunting and flushing or finding game.

They are the most versatile of all working breeds and come the end of the shooting season to close the kennel door and expect them to wait for the following season would be a total crime and a waste.

I have been to kennels where gun dogs have been chasing shadows or their tails to keep them entertained. This is not fair on any gun dog and you should always make an effort.

A spaniel should be kept sharp in mind and fit in body.

If you struggle for facilities, most gun dog clubs will open their door to new members and they all have training days and working tests throughout the spring and summer months.

One of the main changes for my gun dog is that their diet will change slightly. I will reduce the amount of protein in their diet and also I will give them one large feed instead of two medium feeds, as they are not burning the same amount of calories between April and July as they will burn from August to January.

When the shooting season comes to an end it doesn’t mean the kennel door should be closed. The scurry and working test calendar then starts and it’s great fun for the whole family.

Get out there and do as much summer gun dog training as you can.

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