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Getting the Best from your Gundog
by Joe Law
25 November 2012

Martin Deeley, a gundog advisor to the Shooting Times, sums up a gundog in this way:

"Your dog should stop promptly on the ‘stop’ whistle wherever he is; look to you for a command; take directions; deal with obstacles; hunt the required area with enthusiasm and, once the retrieve has been found, return directly to you; he should deliver the bird with a high head carriage, allowing you to take it with one hand.  In addition, a gundog will make the best use of the wind and scenting conditions, sit promptly to flush and shot from the gun and wait until commanded to retrieve.  All this should be done without barking, whining or yipping."

Clearly, your dog does not come to you complete with this knowledge and those skills – this will be part of his education and training.  At best, a gundog that has been selectively bred from purebred lineage demonstrating these attributes will have the potential to achieve these high levels of excellence.  The challenge for you as a trainer is for you to enable your gundog to reach his potential.

BestGundog work needs to be seen as a team effort involving dog and handler and built on trust and respect.  Most dogs when raised correctly will know when their efforts are being appreciated and will respond by giving more of the same.  If your dog is acting incorrectly, it is more than likely that he does not yet understand what to do in order to be correct.  This becomes the challenge for the trainer; to know firstly when the dog is willing to please and then to know how to simplify the task being asked in order for success to follow.

Being able to accurately read the emotional response from your dog is always critical to his progress.  Praising and rewarding a dog for correct responses is good brain-training procedure.  However, praising and rewarding incorrect responses when the dog is really just trying it on will be as counter-productive as is expressing displeasure and affording correction when the dog in fact has no ideas how to respond correctly.

Over the past three years I have written several short articles for this magazine and have touched on most of the elements in Martin Deeley’s description of a good gundog.  I have also encouraged readers to become actively involved with their dogs in Retrieving Ability Tests as well as the more advanced forms of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs.  These activities conducted under Australian National Kennel Control (ANKC) rules can be rewarding experiences for both you and your gundog.

I will continue to give tips and encouragement in the hope that you will achieve something special for both you and your gundog.

Photo by Lara Sedgmen

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Dogs NSW magazine.

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