First Time Advice on Gun Dog Training from a Struggling Novice
Beginning on the path of gun dog training is no small feat. It is a world of obstacles, failures, and defeat. But the challenge is worth the reward—and the companionship is worth a lifetime. Novice to novice, these are the five important things we should know before we start this exciting and timeless journey.
Start with a good dog and a breed that works for you
When it comes to getting a gun dog, we all have a check list on what we want to do or what we want the dog to do. Whether the focus is on waterfowl, pheasants, or grouse, we need to look at breeds that fit our vision. We must consider temperament, size, and anything else relevant to our home lifestyle. (Check out our Bird Hunting Dogs Breed Series) Gun dogs are a 24/7 commitment. When you’re ready, research the breeder you intend to get your dog from.
I recently spent some time training around another Wiredhaired Pointing Griffon. She would growl every time a person came near, which shocked me for a dog with a reputation for being soft. The dog feared just about everything: birds, guns, you name it. I had to ask the obvious question, “What happened?” The answer wasn’t what I expected. The behavior started with the breeder. Their line received a poor reputation for this overly fearful behavior, resulting in an occasionally aggressive showing. Add in some inexperienced gun dog training and this is what you get.
A good gun dog is more about us than them
If we went about choosing a gun dog the right way, the success or failure of that dog falls on our shoulders. You don’t need to take this too seriously, since this is an exciting learning experience. Often the issues that arise with gun dog training falls on the handler, not the dog. We teach them bad habits, slack on their training, act out because we did not give them the tools and opportunities they needed.
The question is not whether the dog is ready to be a gun dog. It is whether we are ready to be a good gun dog handler.
You get back what you put in
This probably isn’t the first time any of us have heard that. Yet if anything remains true about gun dog training, it’s that we get as much as we put in. A gun dog requires time and dedication to mold it into a top-notch bird dog. It’s worth considering when we look at the amount of time we have in our lives to spend. But jobs, family, hobbies—whatever it may be—there needs to be time allotted for our hunting companion.
Now, we’re not all looking for a top-notch field trial dog. But we at least want a decent meat dog. We should just put our expectations in line with what we actually put into our gun dogs.
Seek out experienced guidance in gun dog training
There is nothing wrong with having the guidance of a professional dog trainer. Whether we hire a trainer or join an organization like NAVHDA (The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association), the input of experienced trainers can sometimes make or break. Like us, they have failed and experienced the good and the bad along the road to a good gun dog. Of course we would like you to supplement that training with Gun Dog Confidential, but hands-on experience can help accelerate us to a good gun dog.
There is More than One Right Way to Train a Gun Dog
We should all take it as a major red flag when someone forcefully voices a single opinion (as the only fact) on an open-ended subject like gun dog training. It is an unfortunate by-product of many activities, but gun dog training just happens to exaggerate it. It is imperative that both novice and expert trainers recognize the importance of neutrality and non-judgmental environments. Fostering the future of gun dog culture relies, now more than ever, on us recognizing that we are all at different levels, seek different goals, and want to just plain feel welcomed.
We shouldn’t be unwilling to hear alternative methods or reasons, but we all have a responsibility to accept someone’s personal choices on the path of gun dog training.
This is a journey you will not regret.
Last modified: April 30, 2018