It's the question most often asked by the new owner of a gundog puppy

Training a puppy should start from the very first day it begins life with its new owner. Whereas formal gundog training puppies can start at around seven months – depending on the youngster of course.

The early days are crucial

You need to establish a partnership and rapport early on to create a strong bond between master/mistress and the puppy. Even before the first dummy is taken out of the bag.

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Don’t be tempted to do too much too soon

Racing ahead through the various stages of formal gundog training before a strong foundation between gundog and handler has been forged is usually the cause of many of the problems that confront first-time owner/trainers.

My mantra is ‘what’s the hurry?’. Ahead of you are years of devoted work from your gundog, so make sure you lay solid foundations on well prepared ground.

Your role is to make sure the pup learns how to execute its inherited gundog skills, but to do so under your control and guidance.

dogs good for your health

The first five months

Invest time during the first five or so months building up a close relationship with the pup so that all the animal wants to do is be with you. During this time it must learn good manners and be responsive to you; it must trust you implicitly and not be fearful of you, because when the time comes that it does feel under some pressure – and it’s inevitable that at some stage the wheels will fall off the gundog training wagon – your relationship will be strong enough to overcome the problem and enable you to continue positively with your programme.

teach a puppy to sit

When to start using a lead

I don’t put a lead on a pup until it is around six months old but when I do, the heelwork comes naturally because the pup just wants to follow. Of course it won’t be perfect to start with, but I won’t have to start jagging and yanking the pup into position.

The same applies with retrieving. Pups that have established a trusting relationship with the owner and are then given the opportunity to retrieve will usually return with great pride to present the prize. The puppy has returned to you because it is doing what it was bred to do and you are the reason it’s doing it.

Don’t let retrieving turn into a game of repeated “throw and fetch”; retrieving has to be honed into the skills of game finding, adept retrieving and delivering of the game, so don’t undermine the process you are ultimately aiming for.

My puppy is scared of people

Originally published June 2007 PETER BLATCH says: This type of behaviour is not uncommon among pups’ of this age –…

Active puppies

When first-time owners acquire a pup that is clearly “hot” and full of self-will, the assumption is to give it lots to do in the hope the activity and the “training” will calm it down. However in a very young dog it does the opposite and the hot pup boils over.

The really fast and active pups often turn into the most exciting machines to work as adult dogs, but to get the best out of them it’s essential their formative first few months – before any formal gundog training starts – allows a very close and steady bond to develop with the owner.

The aim must be not to overcook a brain that’s already showing signs of reaching boiling point without too much encouragement – which is what will happen if the pup is given too much to do too soon.


Make yourself clear when gundog training

Training any animal is about getting across a clear message of instruction that is so definite and clearly understood that it’s followed without question; when that doesn’t happen it’s because the dog simply hasn’t learned what you are asking it do.

Some dogs are more strong-willed than others and take longer to learn, but often this is down to simple information overload.

Gundog at stop whistle

Using the stop whistle

Brakes should be an essential part of early gundog training. I like to get a young dog to start showing response to the stop whistle fairly soon.

I don’t expect a youngster to drop like a stone 50 yards away when I blow the whistle, but I do like to be able to attract its attention from a short distance away by using the whistle. I am establishing my first stages of control and laying the foundation to regain control if things go wrong.

Teaching reaction to the stop whistle in a calm and precise way is a huge advantage. It enables control of the situation to be regained and provides time for the dog to stop what it’s doing, clear its mind of confusion and then, and only then, be given another command.

Give the dog time

In all your gundog training, give young gundogs time to assimilate information. Once they appear to be getting it right, allow them time to perfect that skill and to consolidate what they have learnt before rushing ahead to the next stage.

Don’t be in too much of a panic; your aim is to nurture the raw abilities in a young gundog to enable you to produce a skilled and effective working gundog on which you can rely. It’s something that demands patience and an ability to “read your gundog”. So one stage at a time.