Getting the most out of your gun dog-Part 3 How to approach the first hunting season
- Richie Cosgrove
So now your pup is six months old, the game bird season is only a month off and you’re keen to get into it.
Your pup is retrieving dummies to hand from 50 or more metres away, is walking at heel off the lead, sitting and staying on command and gets excited whenever you produce a gun.
You’ve carefully introduced her to retrieving dummies off and over water and she loves it, even if she hasn’t quite mastered the dog-paddle.
Brilliant, you’ve obviously been putting time into her training.
You should, by now, have introduced her to retrieving feathers.
Dead pigeons are useful for this. You might be able to get some cull birds from a pigeon breeder, or your nearest gundog club might supply you with several for a small charge.
This is a critical time, mouthing (chewing or crushing) game is a serious fault, so introduce birds gradually, without too much excitement.
Don’t overdo the birds and never let your dog play with them.
In these short articles it’s impossible for me to explain in detail how to fully train your pup.
There’s a lot of information available online about training gundogs and I suggest you spend some time checking this out.
Several professional trainers have useful websites. Mike Lardy and Bill Hillman are a couple and you can purchase training manuals off The Gundog Club UK’s website, which are very good value.
You will, however, need to sort out the things which are relevant to the type of hunting you intend to do.
You should also consider joining your local gundog club, even if you don’t intend to get involved in gundog trialing competitively.
The club may run regular training days, or you could team up with one of the experienced members for mutually beneficial training sessions.
Training on your own can be difficult, so you’d both find having someone to train with helpful.
A problem which people often create with gundogs involves a fundamental part of hunting and that’s gun-shyness.
Gun-shyness is easy to cause and very difficult to correct. I get more phone calls about gun-shy dogs than anything else.
I gradually introduce my pups to guns using shotgun cases loaded with a primer.
I start by letting them play some distance away with an older dog, then fire a shot in the opposite direction.
Your pup should only take a passing interest. Make a fuss of her.
Do this several times and, if it continues to go well, gradually, over time, reduce the distance between her and yourself.
Later, you should be able to throw her a dummy and fire a shot at the same time. Don’t be in too big a hurry to do this though.
A controversial tool in gundog training is the electric collar (e-collar).
Some trainers use them extensively, others are opposed to their use, preferring instead a praise and reward system.
If you do choose to use an e-collar make sure you know how to do so properly.
Seek qualified advice before starting, otherwise you might do more harm than good.
Don’t expect too much from your pup during the first hunting season, but don’t leave her at home.
Let her be part of the action. You’ll almost certainly have to tie her in your maimai, as she’s bound to get excited and forget most of your steadiness training.
Encourage her to retrieve any handy birds, getting out to help her if you need to. The odd bird missed because you’re busy with the pup will be well worthwhile in the long term.
As the season progresses and her confidence grows, she’ll start retrieving birds which you might otherwise have lost.
Next month I’ll write about advancing your training through the first couple of seasons.
John Stevens, President, Waimate Gundog Club.