I am new to the gundog world and am looking for a Labrador puppy.
Many people seem to have training problems and talk about gundogs being too “hot” or “hard going” or “soft”.
What do these terms mean? I need to avoid getting a Labrador puppy with these issues.
Jeremy Hunt says: Gundog jargon can certainly confuse the newcomer, but most gundogs eventually fall into a category in terms of how they respond to being trained or how their disposition (rather than temperament) copes.
A dog that is “hot” can earn the description for a number of reasons.
It may be because it is very fast in everything it does, but most often it is the term given to a dog that is always only just under control and could easily get out of control.
Gundogs who are hot are more difficult to handle but experienced gundog trainers and handlers know how to cope with them, whereas a novice owner would find the trait a considerable handicap.
Many gundogs who are regarded as “hot” are brilliant at their work, but some say a “hot” dog is a dog who works so fast – and even independently of its handler at times – it’s more likely to be viewed as a problem rather than a virtue.
The “hard going” dog is more complex.
It can refer to a dog who is very clever and accomplished in its work, but also one who can also be stubborn and is more likely to show a fierce streak of independence.
It can be a dog who is relentless and thorough, but will often ignore commands in the belief it knows best.
The “hard going” dog undoubtedly has an independent streak and can be a frustrating package for a novice.
Its brilliance can be overshadowed by its independence and tough determination – traits which often cannot be corrected easily but which can be harnessed to good effect by experienced trainers.
The “soft” dog is one who needs support and encouragement rather than chastisement when things go wrong.
It’s a trait some trainers can’t cope with, but I have no problem with it, provided the dog is willing to learn and is genuinely one who can be taught his trade accordingly by adopting a positive attitude.
Even the most biddable and focused Labrador puppy develops some kind of issue which requires attention.
Yell at the soft dog and it will do you no good at all; build on success rather than coming down heavy on failure.
The “soft” dog is often a real thinker and is unfairly given this tag.
For me this type of dog – once he is given the chance with the right sort of training – will spend his life working in unison with you rather than trying to meet his own agenda.
How you avoid these so-called problem traits is impossible to say, but if you are going about buying a Labrador puppy in the correct way you will already be talking to breeders who should be able to give you an insight.
Certain well-known stud gundogs all have reputations for their style of work and attitude, but the bitch producing the Labrador puppy will also have her input.
Talk to as many people as possible and check out the bitch as well as the sire.
A stud dog with a reputation for being a solid, dependable worker may have his reputation undermined when mated to a “hot” independent-minded bitch.
Don’t forget to factor in your own personality too. Are you an experienced handler?
Are you short-tempered or patient? Do you enjoy a challenge or prefer a less demanding experience?
There should be training classes for would-be owners before they get their gundogs.
It would at least let them get a feel for how they should handle their Labrador puppy later on, rather than the less successful learning on the job.