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How do I get my gun dog interested in hunting?

Creating interest is of the utmost importance when training a gun dog to retrieve anything, and that holds true regardless of whether it’s a carpet slipper or a heavyweight goose dummy.

If any of my dogs get bored with straight canvas dummies I simply strap feathered wings to their usual retrieve with elastic bands.

This scent-heavy mouthful is normally enough to fire up the interest of the most jaded retriever, but if your dog still isn’t convinced, wrap the dummy with a fresh rabbit skin. Now watch it get its nose down and start hunting!

Wherever possible I recreate a real shooting situation in training which involves firing a gun at the same time as I throw the retrieve.

For this exercise a primed, but unloaded, airgun is sufficient for the job, but you can move gradually on to a .410, then a 12-bore. However, always start with the smallest gun you can and watch the dog’s reaction to the shot. Don’t move on to a bigger bang unless the dog is happy and confident with what you’re doing.

What I do recommend is that you also place one or two cold pheasants or partridge as blind retrieves on the dog’s usual training ground because they really will fire its enthusiasm for hunting.