A reader has had a bad experience. Jeremy Hunt offers some advice.
Q: A friend recently sent away his young springer bitch for some basic training at a gundog boarding school. It was the first time he has done this —previously he has trained his shooting dogs himself. During the time the bitch was away, he heard little from the trainer and when he did, he was not very complimentary about her progress. When she returned home, it took her a long time to settle and she is still nervous around strangers. The trainer did not seem to have achieved what he said he would and blamed the bitch and her attitude for the standard he was able to reach. I had considered sending my young Labrador away for some basic training, but this has made me have second thoughts. What is your opinion?
Your friend has certainly had a bad experience. It’s galling to think he has wasted his money and that the experience may have adversely affected his bitch in the long-term. There certainly seems to be a surge of people now offering gundog training and, in a world where time is at a premium, sending a youngster away to benefit from the skills of a professional does seem appealing to many. But just how professional are some of these trainers in terms of their real experience?
Visit the gundog boarding school first
Without doubt, I would advise anyone who is considering sending a dog away for residential training to first visit the trainer before making a decision. A face-to-face meeting is essential. You need to see how and where your dog will be kept, you need to see the trainer at work with other clients’ dogs and his own, and you have to be assured that progress reports, including videos of your dog, will be provided. It must also be made clear precisely what you are expecting the trainer to achieve with your dog.
Ideally, you should only send a dog to a trainer if you have had a good recommendation from someone you know and trust. There are plenty of horror stories about dogs being sent away for training, but there are also many elated owners who have a dog returned that is happy, healthy and well trained up to the standard requested. Remember, the good trainers want you to come back for a further session, or for a refresher before the season begins, so getting it right at the start works both ways — for trainer and owner.