Steadiness: The Basis of All Gundog Work
by Joe Law
21 January 2011
in a gundog is a vital component, not just in his genetic make up but
also in the way in which he is trained. In the Rules for the Conduct of
Retrieving Trials for Gundogs it states: “The function of a retriever
is to seek fallen game when ordered to do so. It should sit quietly in
the hide, walk at heel, or assume any station designated by the handler
until sent to retrieve. When ordered to do so a dog should retrieve
quickly and briskly without unduly disturbing too much ground.”
means the dog does not move, nor make a sound when the game is shot at
and does not move nor make a sound when the game falls. This will not
need repeated commands from the handler; in fact a great gundog needs
no command at all to be steady!! Consider if you will, you’re out
hunting with a couple of guys when a rabbit is flushed offering a clear
shot. Now just about the last thing you want to see when you’re aiming
your shotgun at that rabbit is the dog’s ears appearing in your
peripheral vision. Putting it plainly steadiness is vital for the
safety of a dog under real hunting conditions. Also, for those
competing in Gundog Trials where multiple articles may be cast it is
very important that the dog remains steady while concentrating on the
fall and only retrieves the articles in the correct order when sent by
Teaching your dog to be steady begins early and is
a simple extension of a stay command. Begin with the dog beside you on
lead and on a sit, give the stay command and then have someone throw a
dummy. If the dog attempts to break it won’t get far as it is on lead.
Put it back into the sit position and then when the dog is sitting
calmly send the dog for the retrieve. Repeat this process several times
over a few days and you should start to see your dog waiting for the
command to retrieve. Don’t rush to off lead work, because if the dog
gets the reward of getting the retrieve it has just been rewarded for
breaking. When you think you are ready for off lead work instruct your
thrower assistant to be prepared to pick up the dummy if the dog breaks.
to the flush is a simple extension of your whistle stop. Again it is
preferable that the dog is on lead just to make sure that chasing of
the game does not reward the dog. When game is flushed, blow your
whistle stop, if the dog stops reward with lavish praise and then hunt
on. If the dog is listening to the whistle, you can have someone else
shoot at the game, this allows you to concentrate totally on your dog.
Please remember a dog is not a machine and it is very exciting when
game flushes and this can trigger a natural chase response from your
dog. It’s your job to clearly show the dog that chasing is not allowed.
final part of steadiness is steady to shot. A previous article dealt
with the introduction of your dog to shot and this process will now
need to be revised and combined with the above exercises. Remember,
steadiness is essential in a gundog and is the basis of all gundog
work. Furthermore, as steadiness is part training and part genetics
both breeders and trainers of gundogs should realise the importance of
steadiness and have it as an objective in their programs.
Photo by Lara Sedgmen
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Dogs NSW magazine, September 2010.
page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc.
(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)