Getting the most out of your gundog - Part 2: Bring home your pup home and how to start training
So, you’ve found someone with a suitable litter of pups, watched them grow to 8 weeks of age, and now they’re ready for you to bring your one home.
The breeder should advise you about what and how often to feed your pup and when it next needs to be vaccinated.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the breeder about anything you’re unsure of.
Get ready to bring your pup home well in advance.
You’ll need a pen or some other means of enclosing it, suitable bedding, a toy or two, the correct food and containers for food and water.
Remember that this will be the first time your pup has been separated from its mother and siblings so it will need comforting and reassuring for the first few nights.
Expect some broken sleep for a night or two. Don’t let barking or whining become a habit.
Get up and comfort your pup as often as you need to.
It will be time well spent in the long run.
You should decide what behavior you expect and start training for it immediately.
It is far easier to avoid a problem occurring than it is to correct it after it does.
No barking, where to relieve itself, no digging holes, keeping off the gardens, inside or not, the list goes on.
Be aware, however, that you should let your pup be a pup.
You may need to be prepared to make some lifestyle changes.
There are a couple of things you can start training for as soon as your pup has settled in.
These are, coming when called and simple retrieving.
Use his name and say ‘come’ when calling him.
Give him a treat and lots of praise when he responds well.
Later you should introduce a whistle.
If you’ve made the correct choice of breeder your pup should be exhibiting hunting and retrieving attributes at 8 weeks of age, so you can immediately start retrieving training.
To start retrieving training you’ll need a suitable object (a dummy).
Don’t use one of his toys. Get him used to wearing a small collar to which you can attach a cord.
Kneel on the ground and hold him sitting beside you.
Get him interested by shaking the dummy and drop it a short distance in front of him.
Say ‘fetch’ and let him go. He should rush to pick it up.
Say ‘come’ and gently pull him back to you, then say ‘give’ and take the dummy from him.
Don’t allow him time to drop it. As with all training, make it fun with lots of praise and treats when he does well.
Congratulations, you’ve just achieved your first retrieve. You can now start gradually increasing the distance you throw the dummy.
Once your pup is over 3 months of age and has had all his vaccinations, consider taking him to obedience classes.
There may be someone near you who runs these.
Ask your Vet, or local Councils Animal Control Officer, or contact the NZ Gundog Association at https://www.nzgta.co.nz/contact.html
They may be able to help, or know someone who can.
The person running the course should show you how to teach your dog to come when called, walk at heel, sit, down and stay.
Even if you’re confident you can do this yourself the socializing with people and other dogs will be invaluable. I strongly recommend it.
You may also find it helpful to check out the Gundog Associations Facebook Page, NZ Gundog Trialing, where you could make contact with others with an interest in training gundogs.
Next issue I’ll write about how to approach your first hunting season.
John Stevens, President, Waimate Gundog Club.
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