I have a very boisterous young labrador who is kennelled for part of the day with my older dog. The pup will be the first that I have trained. Is there an ideal time to begin training a puppy?
JEREMY HUNT SAYS: Training has no specific start time – it is an ongoing process.
Too many people get hung up about the word ‘training’ as they assume it signifies the time when a puppy is started on a regime of gun dog work.
Before any of that can begin it’s essential to build up a bond with your puppy so that he is listening to you, watching you and starting to build a relationship of understanding.
This will ultimately achieve the best possible grounding for his formal gun dog work.
If your gun dog is very outgoing he needs to spend at least some time each day in a kennel on his own – preferably prior to you taking him out for some one-to-one.
At four months old this should be in an environment that he will enjoy feeling free in, but also one that gives you control over where he can go.
Use this time constructively and while the puppy (off the lead) may appear to be bouncing around and paying no attention he will, in fact, be keeping a close eye on you.
Keep calling him back and praising him; make him sit by your side, even if just for a few seconds, and speak calmly to him.
Try getting him to follow you and use your hands to encourage him to walk just a few paces by your side (without the lead).
It’s very important that a puppy learns to watch your hands from an early stage.
Use your voice as much as you can to encourage and keep a connection with him.
These early sessions even preclude lead training and are about making your gun dog listen to you, watch you and want to be with you.
This is informal training that forms the transition between allowing your puppy out simply to “play around” and the start of more serious work.
Very informal retrieving, preferably in a situation like a passageway or enclosed space, can be started but not overdone at this stage.
Encouraging him to hunt for a puppy dummy thrown into long grass is all part of this early work, but keep it light-hearted and don’t overdo it.
The serious stuff, including more formal obedience work, will come later.