First of all, if I was you, I would take a deep breath and take a step back or two. You have a young pup that needs to get used to not only to you, but also her new environment. She will need to have her inoculations before she can go out into the big wide world. Provided you have chosen your pup from good working stock you should have all the genetics in place, but you still have a blank canvas to work on. She will need to grow not only physically but mentally, and you’ll need to constantly adjust your training programme depending on how she is coming along. Remember, with luck, you should have the dog as a shooting companion for many years to come, so take your time and ensure that each lesson is fully embedded before moving on. Gundog training is like building a house… get the foundations solid and the rest will last forever.
Far too many novice trainers rush to start “training” their young dogs. One of the most common mistakes that people make is to overdo any exercise, and the main one is retrieving. If you keep throwing balls or dummies for a young puppy it will soon get bored and that can manifest itself into all sorts of issues, ranging from burying the retrieve to running off – or even refusing to pick it up at all.
Trying to get a young pup to do something that it is not physically capable of managing can also have detrimental effects on its long-term training. For example, trying to get a puppy into water on a cold day or throwing retrieves into heavy cover, such as bramble, can quickly deter the dog from even attempting these tasks in the future.
By far the most common mistake that is made is that the early training
(basic obedience) is rushed and not fully ingrained in the dog. So, when moving onto more complex exercises, problems will manifest themselves and this will then lead to the trainer having to correct these issues before moving on… it can be a case of one step forward and two steps back!
It is a good idea to have a clear idea of what you want to do with your dog right from the start, this way you can set out a training programme that suits your needs. For example, if you only plan to use your dog in the beating line, you would concentrate more on the steadiness and keeping the dog hunting close to you. On the other hand if you want to only pick-up with the dog, you would encourage its retrieving and handling skills.
Graham Watkins runs Gamegoer Gundogs and has been training gundogs professionally for more than 35 years. He has competed in Field Trials and working tests, with several dogs achieving Champion and Winner titles.
genetics Provided you chose your pup from a good working stock, you should have all the genetics in place