Part Labrador, part springer ... what's the best way of readying them for the field?
Q: My eight-month-old springador is going to be my first gundog. I’m amazed at how quickly he is learning, but I am worried that I may be rushing his training because I am a novice. Can you offer any advice?
I am not a big fan of cross-bred gundogs because, in most cases, when you buy a pure-bred dog you know what to expect, but with a cross there is always that fusion of skills and abilities from two breeds that can be good but can also be challenging as far as training is concerned. So, as a novice, you may have set yourself quite a project but certainly one that you can cope with if you take things steadily.
You need to decide what you want the dog to do when he matures. Is he going to be a beating dog, a peg dog, a picking-up dog or just do some rough shooting with you?
Because these crosses are often pretty active and keen to get on with the job, it is hard not to overdo things and go at their pace in training. What you must avoid is information overload, which is easy to do when a dog is leading you in his training programme rather than leaving you to make the decisions. I suggest you take things slowly. Remember, just because he is doing everything at full speed and giving you every indication that he is learning each new skill very quickly doesn’t mean he really has learned it.
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Be steady and calm in the way you deal with him and don’t be in a rush to move through the skills list. Consolidate each stage of his training and even go back to the basics to strengthen his education.
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Q: Should I train my new crossbreed gundog as a Labrador or a springer? I bought her for pigeon shooting and roughshooting and am not sure which direction to take.
A: All basic foundation training is more or less the same, whatever the breed of gun dog.
You should get a good bond with the gundog and master heel work before progressing onto other specific areas of training, as you would do with either breed. If you decide to go down the spaniel line of training then the heel work will help your young gun dog to keep close when you start teaching hunting and quartering.
This will give you more control when you progress onto developing flushing ability.
If you decide to go down the retriever line of training you should be careful. If you over-develop the gundog’s long distance retrieving skills, which would be required of you and your gun dog on a picking-up day, it could seriously affect your control of the gundog when you expect him to quarter closely, which would be required for roughshooting.
It is possible that you will not get the best of both worlds. I would continuously assess the gun dog as he develops and make decisions from there.