Gundog expert and author Tony Jackson gives his must-haves
Whilst establishing a strong bond with your gundog is the first rule of gundog training, you’re still going to need to have some kit to do the job.
Shooting Times contributor David Tomlinson says: “My top three items for gundog training are; a whistle, a slip lead (read our list of best slip leads here) and a bag of treats. These apply to any sport of working dog, be it spaniel, retriever or HPR.”
So here’s my list of the best gundog training equipment that I regard as essential – a list gained from years of experience gained from preparing dogs for the field.
By the way, if you’re wondering when to start gundog training, you might like to read how should I start training my puppy to be a gundog?
Essential gundog training equipment
+ Made to order or universal sizes
+ Light and airy
I have always recommended Lintran as the dog transport box of choice because in my book they’re probably the best on the market. I’ve bought Lintran boxes for more years than I care to remember and while I’ve tried other makes they haven’t quite managed to match the other’s quality. They make a vast array of sizes and shapes to fit just about any vehicle you can think of. They even supply ultra sturdy dog trailers to the owner’s specification.
The Lintran K9 box was nominated in the best shooting accessory category in the Best Shooting Awards a few years ago too.
Vet Tony Buckwell and Shooting Times contributor advises: “The most appropriate option for working gundogs is to restrain them in a suitably robust and secure dog crate or transit box that you slot into the back of the vehicle. Not only are crates the most secure way for transporting dogs in cars, lockable boxes help to deter thieves and keep the car’s upholstery intact.”
Read more tips on transporting dogs in cars here.
+ Chew resistant
+ Non slip
+ Easy to clean
As far as I’m concerned you can never have too many drinking bowls around the place – just like socks they keep disappearing into thin air for no apparent reason. They also get chewed by puppies. Everyone needs a suitable water bowl to take to keep a dog hydrated during a car journey and suitable receptacles come in all shapes and sizes. However, a non-spill version is an absolute must in my book.
+ Designed and made in the UK
+Standard high pitch
+Without pea, solid tone, single frequency
+ Choice of colours
If you hadn’t already noticed there’s a vast array of dog whistles out there to choose ranging from the all-metal silent type through to stag horn jobbies finishing up with the large and loud plastic Thunderer. My choice of the lot is the ACME 211 1/2 without a pea.
It’s easy to blow and you can dribble into it like a baby – yet it always hits the same pitch regardless. You can lose it or bite the end of it in frustration when a dog ignores your commands but this whistle can be replaced easily with one of the same tone.
Best tip is to buy three or four whistles and spread them around the place – including your car – so that one’s always within reach.
+Available in multiple lengths
+ Softens with age
For every whistle you own you really need a lanyard to hang it from. You can take your pick from a simple lanyard made from boot lace right up to braided leather types – it all depends on your preference and budget.
+ Soft and durable
+ Adjustable slide loop
If, like me, you use a lead constantly then a harsh rope leash soon makes your hands uncomfortably sore. To avoid this I always use leashes made from soft climbing rope. Shop around for the best price and also think about buying slip leads in bright colours – they’re harder to lose if you drop them into grass. (See here for advice on using a slip lead.)
One of the best dummies for general training has got to be that sold by the Working Dog Company – it’s shaped like a rugby ball and comes in a range of sizes to suit the age, and breed, of dog. These cleverly designed balls are different not only in their shape but also in their feel, being softer than the traditional sawdust filled variety.
The way they roll and bounce when thrown also brings a number of advantages.
+ Whistle retainer
+Large bellow front pockets
+ Zipped valuables pocket
Dog training is made much easier if you wear a waistcoat sporting a large pocket in the back to hold the dummies. My favourite is the Musto Retriever Vest.
Veterinary treatment can prove hugely expensive, especially if surgery is required so it makes sense to get your dog covered with a suitable insurance policy, just in case. It may not be part of your gundog training equipment, but it is essential.
This piece was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.
A word on gundog toys by Elena Swift
Q: What sort of toys should I get for a working Labrador puppy? I don’t want to encourage him to be hard-mouthed. What can I get that won’t ruin any training going forward? I need to make sure I am buying the right sort of gundog training equipment.
A: As a puppy he will teethe as his adult teeth come in. He needs something to chew on so he doesn’t eat our furniture, shoes or even you. Allowing him to sooth his mouth by chewing on toys will not encourage him to be hard-mouthed at all. He will not be ruined either if you spoil him with a few toys. I discourage the use of squeaky toys – mostly because of the noise and not wanting them to learn that biting is fun. I allow my puppies to have toys when they are in their cages or in the house – milk cartons, old bottles and natural chews such as chicken feet.