Cherwell Gundog Club
Cherwell Gundog Club 

Training Tips

1. Are you reducing your training because of the lack of daylight?

Look at it another way:

  • Use the dark mornings and nights to your advantage
  • Working in the dark will encourage your dog to use its nose
  • Learning to mark retrieves by sound can be a useful tool in woods etc


2. Does your dog run around you, having fun, rather than bringing back the retrieve straight to your hand?

  • Use a heavy retrieve (6lb Hare Dummy works well – you can borrow the Club one if you want but it is worth buying one if you expect to continue having dogs)
    • Because it is heavy, they are less inclined to run off as they concentrate on holding the dummy and bringing it to you. This also encourages the dog to hold the dummy in the middle as it is better balanced in its mouth.
    • Your aim is to take away any concerns in your dogs mind about giving it to you so that he thinks delivering the retrieve to you is the most rewarding option so:
      • You don’t step forward for it – he could think it is the start of a game or you are ‘pressuring’ him for it
      • Turn to one side and squat down for it or actually walk away, taking it from your dog 'on the move'.

3. Do you have a new puppy which seems so keen to learn that you are getting on and teaching it heel, recall, retrieves, sit, stay and other obedience things? CARE – there is another side to its learning which is critical now

  • Your puppy will indeed, typically, be a keen learner but there are certain things which it sets into its instinctive reactions now and prove very difficult to change later as it matures.
  • Your focus should at least as much be on:
    • Getting your dog to trust you and feel safe with you
      • Don’t tease it or ‘baby’ it – be kind, confident and friendly/loving
      • Don’t put it in situations where it feels unsafe
      • Do let it investigate its environment at its own pace (this way it builds self confidence) rather than speeding off into, what for it is, the unknown
      • Do be choosey about the temperament of dogs you initially let it meet so that it learns how to be ‘polite’.
      • When meeting all ages of people, again, manage this so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
    • Observe its personality as it emerges.
      • If it is feisty and seems to want to take on other dogs/people, this is most likely a nervous dog with a developing fight not flight way of dealing with anxiety.
        • If it lunges at people/dogs, don’t let that become its habit. Set situations up regularly (with trusted people or well behaved dogs it doesn’t initially know) where it does its lunge but people ignore it, turn away so that it learns they (person or dog) are not going away and, actually, there was nothing to be scared of.
      • If it seems to want to avoid strangers (so it has an emerging flight way of dealing with anxiety) do the same as above and, in its own time, it will start to use its nose and come out of its shell
    • Be fun for your dog so that it wants to be with you and readily comes back to you when called. Don’t keep taking its favourite thing of the moment (leaf/stick/ball) off it without there being a fair exchange – you give it something it likes in exchange (a treat for instance)

4.Does your dog keep running away from you and not want to come back when in fields?

  • Dogs like to travel with their ‘pack’ and will instinctively want to be moving in the same direction as you
    • If you run after it, you are going its way and it will probably become a game
    • Turn and go the other way, not fast necessarily (although speed is exciting and so could work) but with purpose
    • Alternatively, you could bend down and earnestly inspect some object/piece of grass on the floor so it wants to come and see what it is for itself. You’ll see dogs do this when another dog is showing interest in something
    • Don’t get cross and drop your voice/give off negative body language (why would it come to you if it thinks it will be in trouble), lift your voice and be exciting/inviting – if it initially ignores you, be even more excited (embarrassing but its much more likely to work than the alternative)

5. How to build your dogs resilience to ‘running in’

  • Get the dog used to the ‘down’ command as meaning nothing is happening. Call him to a sit position and/or walk off at heel a few paces before sending him. This will help him relax when ‘down’
  • The aim is to keep the dog in a cognitive state so it listens and is calm – avoid over stimulation as the more it is excited, the more it acts instinctively/impulsively. Slowly increase the time it has to wait before you send it to build patience.
  • Turn and walk away from a ‘seen’ retrieve a little way before turning and sending it so the dog gets used to something else happening before it is sent. Also builds the dogs memory. 
  • Throw some things from time to time which it does not get to retrieve, you go and pick them up
  • Train with other dog handlers so your dog learns to watch other dogs retrieve
  • Train your dog to ‘stop to shot’ as well as the stop whistle. This then helps disconnect the power of the gun so the dog can’t so easily put the jigsaw together
  • Be with a picker up, back, away from the guns, when on a shoot so the dog is ‘extra' to proceedings and you can choose what you do without feeling any pressure to do a retrieve.
  • Don’t send it for a runner until the quarry has found cover and then after the drive is over

6. My dog has started pouncing on retrieves and damaging the item rather than picking it up nicely. What should I do?

  • This is usually where the dog is acting excitedly (using instinct) rather than thoughtfully. All dogs are prone to it, especially ones with a strong prey drive 
    • Set the retrieves up so that they can’t actually see the retrieve as they near it and so must use their nose.
      • In short grass, use small items at shortish distances (sections of a red rubber ring for instance – these rings have quite a lot of smell but, being red and lying flat, are difficult for a dog to see)
      • In longer grass, you can extend the distance as you can use larger retrieves. Mainly use dull colours/red rather than yellows and whites which contrast more and can be seen more easily
      • To reduce the dogs excitement (and improve its memory), having thrown a retrieve, turn it around/walk away before sending the dog so that it starts to expect an intermediate action before the retrieve and has chance to calm down
      • 'Read' its body language (ears/panting etc) and aim not send the dog until it appears calm


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Gundog training in Oxfordshire Gundog Club near Bicester, Banbury and Oxford. Copyright of Cherwell Gundog Club