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Dog or bitch? Which is easiest to train?

A reader is looking for a new Labrador puppy and needs advice.

male or female dog

Q: I have been looking for 
a yellow Labrador bitch puppy for some time but I always seem to miss out on the bitches and there are only dogs left. This will be my first gundog and I was advised to get a bitch as they are easier to train. Is this correct?  I have also had conflicting advice telling me 
to get a dog, because a bitch will come into season twice a year 
and I wouldn’t be able to take 
it shooting then.

Male or female dog

A: I do not believe that either sex 
is easier to train than the other, 
but some trainers may get better results with one particular sex. You will not find that out until you try.

Most litters will contain both and if you were able 
to compare all the siblings during training that would be the only way 
of making an informed decision as 
to which was the easier. I suspect there would be little difference between the sexes.

I have trained many different breeds and have no reason to suggest that a bitch is easier than a dog. Some handlers at trials always seem to favour a particular sex, but as a rule they are 
in the minority and perhaps have males for a different reason. Males do not come into season and in that respect they can be used all year round, whereas a bitch will obviously be out 
of action for three or four weeks, twice 
a year, unless veterinary intervention has been sought.


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Choosing a puppy

The most important thing when choosing a puppy is that you must like what you buy, which makes it easier for you to bond with it during its early months. So if you have really set your heart on a yellow bitch, stick to your guns when you go to see available litters — don’t let a good salesman change 
your mind and at the last minute get 
a different colour or different sex.

gundog handler

Gundog jargon


  • 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. The “soft” dog is often a real thinker and is unfairly given this tag. 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.