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Why does my gundog struggle on retrieves?

He certainly doesn’t lack ability and I thought we were really making progress but when asked to work a good distance from me – and on new ground – he has suddenly started to ignore my commands.

When he is working more closely to me all seems okay. Any advice?

Jeremy Hunt says:
You have to go back to basics.

He should respond to any command that you give to him – provided he sees or hears it – no matter how far away from you he may be.

Many people seem to move their training on at a point when the stop whistle hasn’t been fully learned by the gun dog.

This is the all-essential braking system that ensures you can regain control of a situation – whatever that may be and no matter how near or far your gun dog is from you.

You need to make sure that your gun dog is 100 per cent steady to the stop whistle at all distances and will never falter from the spot once he hears it. Remember that gun dogs cannot take in two commands at the same time so don’t blow and wave a direction together.

Firstly you’ve got to ensure you are achieving an immediate response to the stop whistle at short distances – only then will you have the brakes you need to apply at longer distances.

You must make sure he is stopping every time you want his to at this stage of his training, even at short distances from you.

He must understand that any deviance from this will not be tolerated.

Once you are satisfied that you have re-instated this vital part of your training at close quarters you can begin to extend the distance. Do this slowly and always demand he reacts.

You then need to go back to basic left and right directions – always use a wall or fence directly behind the gun dog to make sure he goes straight to the left or the right.

Having seated the gun dog against the wall and moved away from him in preparation to throw the dummy I always blow the stop whistle and hold up a hand to re-iterate the ‘stop’ as the point from which he will then move left or right.

Work hard on your directions until you are satisfied he is not going to play fast and loose with you when he is 100 yards away and looking for a bird.

You also need to return to basics on your ‘get back’ command.

Again, do this in a confined area and keep the distance that the dummy is thrown behind the gun dog relatively shortly at first.

Sometimes simply place the dummy on the ground behind him rather than throwing it over his head.

Again, blow the stop whistle and give a hand signal first before you give the get back command.


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